TRUE GRIT OR GOOD CITIZENS?
|13 August, 2018||Filled under Forthcoming Events, Uncategorized||
Date: Friday 2 November 7 pm.
Venue: The Unitarian church hall, 57, Ullet Road/ York Road, Liverpool L17
Should schools teach character? Activities aimed at building resilience, raising self-esteem and mental wellbeing, and developing citizenship skills have become priorities in many British schools, often placed on a par with the achievement of good academic grades. While previously associated with ‘softer’ pursuits like volunteering in the community or taking part in arts and cultural activities, there has been a shift towards more rigorous approaches to building character and ‘grit’. Defined in terms of teaching young people to understand what is ethically important in difficult situations and how to act accordingly, character education is becoming a central part of the curriculum in US, Australian and British schools. While enjoying widespread support among teachers, parents and politicians from all parties, some criticise the narrow focus on personal ethics and individual success, which replaced an earlier emphasis on civic engagement and citizenship.
Perhaps in recognition of these concerns, the government recently pledged almost £10million for projects aimed at teaching ‘fundamental British values…of democracy, the rule of law, liberty, respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs’. Just under £5million has been directed towards projects aimed at ‘instilling a military ethos’ of self-reliance, shared responsibility and determination. Schools can now enlist veterans from across the armed forces offering mentoring and classroom support to teachers, to help build strength of character and foster empathy, self-awareness and teamwork among pupils. Across the Channel, the French president, Emmanuel Macron recently announced a new-style ‘Universal National Service’, aimed at encouraging young French citizens to take part in the life of the nation and involving an element of service in areas linked to defence and security.
‘Character education’ and ‘citizenship education’ are based on a perceived decline in social cohesion, active citizenship and standards of discipline in schools. But are pupils today really any less robust, resilient, civic minded or well behaved than previous generations? If that is the case, who should be taking a lead on developing self-respect, good manners and social responsibility? Should building character be part of the national curriculum or is it a distraction from acquiring knowledge?
Mo Lovatt is a writer and researcher specialising in Arts & Culture. Prior to her academic career, Mo worked for 20 years in the arts sector producing and managing a range of participatory arts projects, particularly for children and young people in both a school and a community setting. She is currently undertaking a PhD examining the impact of cultural activities upon children and their families in areas of economic disadvantage and deprivation. Mo is an associate lecturer at the University of Northumbria where she teaches on the Master’s Degree programme in Creative & Cultural Industries Management. Mo enjoys discussion and debate and is the Co-Chair of The Great Debate, a regular judge at the Debating Matters competition for sixth formers, and a regular guest on Sky News’s All Out Politics and Sunrise programmes where she reviews the morning papers.
Bernie Draper After qualifying as a pharmacist in 1973, Bernie became involved with poverty and development issues actively campaigning with the World Development Movement and Oxfam Campaigns culminating in a life changing trip to Zimbabwe coming face to face with the effects of western trade and debt policies on poverty in the developing world. On return Bernie founded the Liverpool branch of World Development (now Global Justice Now) actively campaigning with MPs and public stalls and drama sketches in the street and public halls. More recently, having rejoined the Quakers, Bernie has become an active member of Merseyside Peace Network with CND and Pax Christi members, organising peaceful protests and silent vigils at Armed Forces events and street stalls. And more recently, working with local organisations in combating gun crime in Liverpool.