|Editor||A. Ross, Teaching Citizenship|
Current reform of the Irish senior cycle education system (post compulsory school age education) has opened the possibility for the development of wholly new subject areas. One such area is that of social and political education. This paper is derived from a curriculum framework proposal entitled ‘Citizenship Studies’ which has been presented by a national independent curriculum body, the Curriculum Development Unit (Dublin). It was my task, as a consultant with a background in both academic social sciences and in civic education projects, to develop a framework through a consultative and deliberative process. What emerged (Ward 2002) was a somewhat distinct subject area that is neither a customary Politics, Sociology or Philosophy curriculum nor an approach that could be considered a form of citizenship education, although it locates the idea of citizenship at its heart. As yet, no decision has been made by the national curriculum body (the National Council for Curriculum Assessment) as to what, if any, curriculum will be provided. This paper serves two purposes. First, to present the framework as a contribution to wider debate on citizenship education here. I will be arguing for the centring of ideas about human flourishing and democratic deliberation1 and against the adoption of a functional standpoint in relation to education about citizenship as best fitting the democratic and multi-cultural states which reflect our reality today. I would like to suggest that a commitment to democracy must translate into a commitment to core democratic principles in the classroom, particularly a classroom which is learning about citizenship. This means accepting the moral agency of the student. I do not wish to extend these remarks to citizenship education for younger students (below compulsory school-age) as I believe different ethical issues arise here to do with the moral development of the child and the role of the school in socialising its very young citizens. Second, I would like to use this paper as an opportunity to reflect on some of the challenges of developing such a curriculum. As all participants here know, any form of values education is characterised by contestation bounded by deep-seated ideological differences towards, for example, the role and nature of the state and the role of faith-based morality or ethics in public life.