Literature Review

Although calls for “Citizenship” to be part of the school curriculum have been made since at least the 1930s, this subject has only become formalised in British schools since the introduction of the Citizenship cross-curricular National Curriculum ‘theme’ in 1990 and, above all, since “Citizenship became a Foundation Subject of the National Curriculum at key stages 3 and 4” in 2002 (Beck, 2003, p. 159). Although there continues to be some debate about what Citizenship should be – “is it a conglomeration of facts about the democratic system of government in the UK which are to be learned, or an opportunity to participate in the democratic process, or a mixture of both…?” (Brandom, 2007, p. 275) – programmes of study now exist for the subject (QCA, 2007), and it is a statutory requirement for schools to teach Citizenship to their pupils. As noted by Brandom (2007, p. 269), “the model of citizenship education put forward in the Orders emphasizes the need for pupils to have knowledge, skills and understanding of their role in society in order that they might better understand what participation in a variety of arenas might actually look like.”

Beck (2003) has observed the extent to which the current Citizenship programmes of study have their roots in the conception of citizenship first proposed by Marshall in 1950. Marshall saw citizenship as comprising three distinct but interwoven strands: civic rights, political rights, and social rights. The range and content of Citizenship to be covered at Key Stages 3 and 4 (QCA, 2007) includes each of Marshall’s strands, but the programme also emphasises that Citizenship is not merely a subject to be taught: students should also learn by participating in “citizenship activities” and in “individual and collective action.” For citizenship education to be effective, it is suggested, it needs to go beyond the teaching of facts: “pupils need to own the process of democracy, not just be taught about it” (Brandom, 2007, p. 277).

Although the “content” of Citizenship is thus clearly defined by the National Curriculum, the way in which that content is to be delivered is left very much for individual schools to decide. Some schools teach Citizenship in designated timetable slots – whether a regular (‘weekly’) slot or else, as with the school in which I carried out this research, on less frequent, special ‘citizenship days’. But it is also possible for Citizenship education to be delivered through other subjects; indeed, the programme of work makes it clear that a school’s Citizenship curriculum should “make links between citizenship and work in other subjects and areas of the curriculum” (QCA, 2007). As Classics teachers have been quick to realise, theirs is an excellent subject for addressing areas of Citizenship.

Although as long ago as the 1930s Classics was seen to be just as suitable for the teaching of Citizenship as History and Politics (see AEC, 1935), the recent formalisation of Citizenship in schools has prompted much work by Classicists to see how their subject can contribute to the teaching of Citizenship. Sometimes, such work serves a double purpose, by seeking also to justify the place of Classics in schools at all. As Lister (2007, p. 159) notes,

Overcoming misconceptions about classics is an important first step in persuading staffroom doubters that classics has a right to be included in the curriculum; and if…the classics department is seen also to make a significant contribution to the teaching of citizenship, classics is all the more likely to gain acceptance with colleagues.

Nevertheless, it would be hard to deny that “in its history and literature…Classics has something distinctive to offer Citizenship” (Copson, 2006, p. 4). Quite apart from the fact that many modern political and legal structures have their origins in antiquity, meaningful comparisons can be made between modern citizens and the inhabitants of ancient Greece and Rome and their experiences of government. Although “Citizenship can give to Classics the chance to show that its content is both topical and timeless” (Copson, 2006), thoughtful teaching by Classicists in return may provide many opportunities for the teaching of Citizenship.

Some of those opportunities have been identified by the Cambridge School Classics Project (CSCP) in a document which suggests how the CLC may be used to teach Citizenship (CSCP, date unknown). It notes that “much of the political vocabulary used today…is derived from Latin, and students can learn this difficult terminology through Latin” and that “the highly-politicised Roman society, with its degrees of citizenship and belonging, is an appropriate basis for the examination of citizenship issues in today’s world” (CSCP, date unknown, p. 1). The document also identifies certain stages from the first two books of the CLC – including Stage 11 – “which provide particular opportunities for stimulating discussion of citizenship” (CSCP, date unknown, p. 1).

It is important, however, for Classicists to recognise that if a contribution from Classics is to be officially classified as part of a school’s citizenship curriculum, the element of a lesson which is to do with citizenship must be pronounced – it is not sufficient merely to identify the common elements of Classics and citizenship; the links between what is being taught in Classics and the Citizenship curriculum must be clear. (Copson, 2006, p. 4)

More bluntly, Classicists wanting to teach Citizenship as well as their own subject need to think carefully about how to ensure that students will leave such lessons informed about modern times as well as antiquity. How to engage students in the issues of Citizenship – which, as noted above, they should learn about through participation as much as through the acquisition of new facts – is an important question for Classicists (and others) to address.

In this context, investigations into increasing student engagement and motivation should be considered. Brewster and Fager (2000), through research in a number of schools in the United States, indicated the benefits for students who have ‘intrinsic motivation’ – students who are motivated not by the expectation of a reward (or threat of a punishment), but from “within”; such benefits include the attainment of higher grades and longer retention of information. The researchers go on to suggest how such ‘intrinsic motivation’ may be encouraged by making schoolwork more engaging. They note that “students are more engaged in activities when they can build on prior knowledge and draw clear connections between what they are learning and the world they live in”, and suggest that teachers should “arouse students’ curiosity about the topic being studied…[by] giving students an opportunity to direct inquiry and ‘discover for themselves’” (Brewster & Fager, 2000, pp. 14-15). They also observe that “active parent involvement has been associated with numerous benefits for students, including increasing student motivation and engagement in school” (Brewster & Fager, 2000, p. 22). In the learning of Citizenship, parents – full citizens in a way their children are not – may have a peculiarly important role to play. Overall, as some of the content of Citizenship might appear somewhat ‘dry’ to students, suggestions for how to generate intrinsic motivation within pupils is certainly apposite.

Brewster and Fager’s recommendation that the curiosity of students needs to be aroused can be linked to another area of recent research – the potential role of storytelling to promote effective learning. Bage (1999, p. 1) has argued that “stories and histories are practical methods to teach through.” For those seeking to enthuse students, his observation that “reading or hearing history stories can be more authentic and accurate than working through textbooks” (Bage, 1999, p. 23) is pertinent. Such research has illuminated why narratives are so good to teach with. Bage (1999, p. 24) cites the comment of Perera that “the facts conveyed incidentally in stories are often more memorable than those deliberately set out in textbooks”, whilst he himself notes (citing Fines) “that storytelling brings motivational suspense to teaching by treating ‘history as a forward moving development…rather than a backward-looking analysis or explanation’” (1999, p. 26). Back in 1993, the National Curriculum Council advocated the use of story at Key Stage 1 as it “appeals to children’s curiosity, emotions and imagination. It is an effective way of extending vocabulary, introducing new knowledge and addressing moral issues” (NCC, 1993, p. 33). Couched in those terms, it can readily be seen how the use of a story narrative might be able to contribute both to the teaching of citizenship and the engenderment of intrinsic motivation amongst students.

Here, again, Classicists – who have recently been made aware of the benefits of storytelling for stimulating pupil interest and promoting long-term retention of information through the successful use of the audio-story “War with Troy” in primary schools (Lister, 2007) – may be especially well-placed to contribute to Citizenship education. The CLC – the Latin textbook used in the majority of those schools which teach Latin today – is story-based, and the potential benefits of its narrative approach for the teaching of Citizenship (as well as for Classics) should now be recognised. Although CSCP, when identifying the way in which the CLC could be used to teach Citizenship, did not emphasise the potential of using its story format, the research of Bage (1999), together with that of Brewster and Fager (2000), should make us realise still further what a valuable resource for teaching Citizenship most Classics teachers already possess.

Ironically, though, the story contained within Stage 11 of the CLC – the stage which is the focus of my research, and one of those identified by CSCP as highly relevant for citizenship education – tends to be criticised or abridged. Whether because of its subject matter (local elections) or because two of the stories do not feature any of Book 1’s main characters, Stage 11 has a reputation amongst Classics teachers for being ‘dull’. Furthermore, CSCP itself gives the impression that one of the stories, “Lucius Spurius Pomponianus”, is unimportant; the teacher’s guide remarks that “If time is short, [it] can be omitted or postponed until a Friday afternoon…” (CSCP, 1999, p. 81).

Reading through Stage 11, however, it becomes clear that the stories in the stage have been carefully constructed to introduce much of the material that subsequently receives treatment in the ‘background information’ section at the end of the Stage. In the ‘model sentences’, we are introduced to the way in which candidates for local office in Pompeii were supported by particular factions of the community; in “Marcus et Quartus”, we read several different reasons why a candidate might gain support and find out about the electoral slogans that were daubed onto the walls of Pompeii’s houses – a concept further developed in “Sulla”. Then, in “Lucius Spurius Pomponianus”, we find that this election involved bribery and violence, see campaigning in action, and discover who was, and who was not, allowed to vote in Pompeii. Given the value assigned to storytelling above, the realisation that much of the ‘civilisation’ content of Stage 11 can actually be raised just by reading the Latin stories suggests that the omitting of “Lucius Spurius Pomponianus” may be unwise, and was another motivating factor behind my research.

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