Moving in the wrong direction: A critical history of citizenship education in England from the early twentieth century to the present day

Abstract

This article critically explores the development of citizenship education in England from the early twentieth century to the present day. Using Westheimer and Kahne’s (2004) citizenship education framework as a lens, it is argued that citizenship education in England, from the early twentieth century to the present day, has failed to move beyond education for personal responsibility and civic participation, towards a more justice-orientated conceptualisation. It is maintained that citizenship education during much of the twentieth century was framed around personal responsibility, deference and patriotism. However, with the election of the New Labour government in 1997 and the introduction of citizenship education as a statutory secondary school subject in 2002, there was a move towards the development of participatory dispositions and the enhancement of political literacy in young people. From 2010, however, there has been a retrograde shift towards citizenship education for personal responsibility and character education (Kisby, 2017; Starkey, 2018; Weinberg and Flinders, 2018), as well as an increased focus on Fundamental British Values. The article concludes by considering the recommendations from the House of Lords’ (2018) report on citizenship education and argues that, while they may help reposition citizenship education within a participatory framework, they still fail to move towards a justice-orientated conceptualisation of citizenship education which focuses on the solidarity of the global community and how best to take actions that benefit all of humankind.

Egan-Simon, D. (2021) Moving in the wrong direction: A critical history of citizenship education in England from the early twentieth century to the present day. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 12(1). Available at: https://educationstudies.org.uk/?p=16045 [Accessed 23 Jan, 2022].