How We Teach Citizenship

How We Teach Citizenship

Editor’s Note: Laura Faunce graduated from the House of Education in 1899. “Trained by Miss Mason herself, she made her principles her own and her lessons were delightful and appreciated by her pupils, as were the addresses which she gave from time to time to PNEU audiences.” One of those addresses we share today: our fourth in the “How We Teach” series from the 17th annual PNEU Conference.

After leaving the House of Education, Faunce did some “private teaching” before founding a PNEU school in 1906. She diligently served at that school for the next 41 years, and “Several of her old pupils have become writers, and one may say that through her enthusiasm for the good books of the Parents’ Union School she created in all a delight in studies.”

The PNEU was stunned by Faunce’s untimely death in 1947. But she had left a legacy behind. One parent wrote in her memory, “I shall always be grateful for all that the school has done for my two, and trust that the good foundations laid in their most impressionable years may endure throughout their lives.”

But Faunce did not only touch the hearts of the students in her school. She also touched the hearts of all the teachers who read her “Training of Citizens,” which the PNEU published as a pamphlet. Her views on how to teach citizenship were immortalized in those printed pages. Now we immortalize them on the World Wide Web. May they bless your home and school too.

Source: “In Memoriam,” in The Parent’s Review volume 58, p. 134.

By Miss L. Faunce
The Parents’ Review, 1913, pp. 508-513

There is, I suppose, at the present day, an ever-growing recognition of the importance of training in children a sense of the duties and responsibilities of the individual towards the state: of awakening in each child a consciousness that he, too, is a citizen: and of revealing to him something of what that term implies; what rights and privileges he will share, and what, in consequence, he will owe in energy and thought, as his contribution to the well-being of the community. The child of to-day is the citizen of the future: may be, perhaps, the statesman of the future, one who will help to control his country and direct its laws. Surely, in realizing this we cannot exaggerate the importance of treating this subject as an integral part of education. Grave and serious, indeed, is the responsibility for those, be they parents or teachers, upon whom lies this task.

In its widest meaning, citizenship embraces so large a scope that I will only indicate its different branches, and offer suggestions as to how this training may be carried out. In the first place, we must try to help the child establish for himself those relationships in life which must, sooner or later, become part of our conscious selves, and on the building up of which depend character and personality—relationships towards Self, to the Race, and to God. These three form so complete a cycle that it seems to me we cannot attach a greater importance to any one in particular above the others; for how can we recognize the values of the things belonging to God, unless we can realize the values of those which concern our higher selves? And is not this accomplished through service to our fellow men? The exercise of self-control; the ennobling of the victory over that which is petty or sinful; the realization of how we are degraded by a low (or rather an undeveloped) standard; the sense of proportion; the courage to be true to ourselves: these react upon our sense of what is due to others: justice and toleration, and make for consideration of their requirements and their opinions. And are not these in turn influenced and brought to attainment by the guarding within us of that flame, kindled by the Breath of God, which purifies motives, and creates the desire to express ourselves in service to Him through our relationship to our fellow men? Does not Browning say:—

Why ever make man’s good distinct from God?
Or, finding they are one, why dare mistrust?

This is, if I may so express it, the spiritual and moral aspect of the training in Citizenship, on which depends the more direct lessons on the subject, and without which they lose their value.

Now as to the methods employed in the P.U.S., in applying this training. Except in those lessons dealing expressly with the government of countries and the more obvious facts of economics, the teaching should be indirect. The most valuable help we can give towards the establishment of relationships, and the perfecting of the factors which go to make up a citizen of the highest type, is by presenting to the imagination living ideas embodying self-control, self-sacrifice, recognition of the Highest by consideration of the welfare of others: such ideas as will help to enable the child (when he shall come to man’s estate), to identify himself with social and national life, to be a good patriot, a careful guardian of his country’s honour and of her justice (should not the two, indeed, be one?) to have a reasoning and  balanced judgment, to gain a wide outlook on social and political problems; and, above all, to exercise a large toleration, quick to appreciate the rights and opinions of others.

The subject, then, for the most part should be taught incidentally as the occasion arises: and it will arise, again and again, in the ordinary school curriculum; in history, in biography, in the fairy tale and in poetry. The teacher should be ever on the watch for opportunity to direct the attention, to guide the perception, towards those points bearing on the conduct of affairs and men in relation to the people and the state. This direction, this guidance (of perception, not of opinion—I cannot too strongly urge against any attempt to force opinion), requires tact and judgment.

Constant direction of the attention to the subject serves to arouse feelings of aggression and even of distaste. The method of treatment should be as varied and as arresting as possible, and the occasion should prove to the child a delightful and treasured side-issue, which is permitted to be enjoyed for a few minutes during the study of the set subject then being handled. I think I need scarcely say in these times of more reasoned sympathy that moralizing should be avoided; indeed, I feel I ought rather to apologize for having alluded to it, but that “Citizenship” in certain of its aspects invites—even tempts—towards the fault. And what of the means for carrying out this teaching?

There is in the scheme of work offered by Miss Mason much opportunity for the development of this training in a careful and sequent gradation. In the lower classes the teaching is, naturally, incidental only; in the higher classes it is studied both incidentally, as opportunity occurs in the different lessons; and expressly by the use of certain books dealing with “every day morals” and economics.

In Classes Ia. and Ib. scope is offered, and occasion used, in such subjects as History, lessons on places in connection with current events, in the reading aloud of such books as Mrs. Freeman Lord’s Tales from St. Paul’s Cathedral, from which the children learn to appreciate the real value of the great men who have worked and fought for the country and the Empire; in the reading of fairy tales and in poetry. Poetry, indeed, achieves of itself; its beauty, its influence on the imagination, its elevating character creating ideals and a sense of aspiration.

In Classes II. and III., the subject is treated more expressly, and a larger scope is offered in which to give suggestions. Not only have we History, Current Events, and Poetry to deal with, but Citizenship is set as a distinct lesson and worked out in a two-fold scheme. Principles of conduct and of government are studied, in the first place by the use of two elementary books written for school—The Citizen Reader, and Laws of Everyday Life, both by H. O. Arnold Forster; and secondly, by hearing read the lives of the Greek and Roman patriots, soldiers and statesmen, written by Plutarch. These Plutarch’s Lives are an essential feature of the P.U.S. programme, and it is difficult to over-estimate their value. As language, as literature, as biography, as history, they present in themselves a wide field of education; but their chief educational value is the sphere they offer for training in citizenship. Think of the range given for illustration and application in such lives as that of Julius Cæsar (which we studied last term), of Cato, of Demosthenes, of Alexander, and of Aristides the Just.

Also in Class III., the subject is still further developed by the introduction of a book dealing with local patriotism (at present we are using Besant’s History of London), and by the study of elementary ethics. This last, which touches on the relationship to self, is a most difficult and delicate branch with which to deal in training young children. The book used is Ourselves, by Miss Mason, and it is so full of suggestion, so direct, so deeply sympathetic that I think it is wisest to read it with the children, leaving them to make their own points, and volunteer their own questions and comments; only giving all that is best of ourselves in sympathy and encouragement—ever ready to help out the thought difficult to express, to explain that, which because it is so new and strange, seems difficult to grasp. There should be an atmosphere of mutual trust, in which reserve is for the time laid aside,—that barrier so formidable to the utterance of our deeper thoughts, especially in questions dealing with spiritual and moral desires.

In Class IV., the whole trend of the syllabus, in biography, in literature, in geography, and in history, general and particular, should cause the pupil (in whom this sense of citizenship has been carefully and gradually developed) to reflect on patriotism, on statecraft, on citizenship—its grants and its demands. This sense is still further encouraged by the setting of special reading as of Mazzini, Carlyle, Boethius; and by the study of a few simple books dealing with questions of social and political economy, and on Imperialism. For the coming term, the programme arranged for Class IV. includes:—

(1) The Citizen and State, by J. St. Loe Strachey.
(2) The Rights and Duties of the English Citizen, by H. E. Malden.
(3) The Education of the Young in the Republic of Plato, translated by Bernd Bosanquet.
(4) Heroes and Hero Worship, by Thos. Carlyle.
(5) The Making of Western Europe, by C. R. L. Fletcher.
(6) The Expansion of England, by Sir J. Seeley.
(7) Greater Britain, by Sir Ch. Dilke. And others.

Those who have read the papers entitled “The Basis of National Strength,” which appeared in the Times Educational Supplement during the Spring of last year, will recognize how Miss Mason carries out the theories she presented in them, in the programme of work set for use in the P.U.S. She provides that the child shall acquire knowledge and training in citizenship from the right sources—that is from the personal contact with and the study of the books which go to make up our literature. And may we not see in such a training a promise of that future ideal, for which surely we all wait in hope, when the country shall no longer be ruled by party politics, but every citizen shall contribute his or her share in promoting the national good, and the directors of the State shall be actuated by the purest motives for the advancement and growth of the nation in righteousness and integrity.

Throughout the Classes, the best results, I think, are gained by discussion—discussion discreetly guided and wisely controlled. By this means opinions are invited as well as given; ideas are circulated; and a feeling of co-operation created, which animates the child with a sense of dignity that his personal thought has been attentively received and criticized with kindly interest. And the spirit of comradeship—of sharing as citizens—is thus set up and will of itself convey the initial impression of forming one of a community.

Again, children do so much enjoy an opening towards a speculative train of thought, and opportunity should be provided by the teacher, for, in spite of the many errors in reasoning and the odd flights of fancy due to the lack of experience, reflection is thus encouraged, and occasion offered for training in reasoning, in restraint, and in balance.

Then, too, there should be a strong endeavour to inculcate a passion for justice, and to guard against sweeping condemnations. Surely these two—justice and toleration—form the basic requirements of private, social and national life?

We should exact caution (as well as exercise it!), in expressing opinions. How careful a watch, then, must the teacher keep upon herself and upon her attitude towards the subject under discussion. She must try to give as many aspects and to quote as many opinions as possible, pointing out that all have a right to think as they choose, provided that they have thought carefully, deeply, and for themselves.

Children are so receptive, so ready to assimilate, so keenly impressionable that I consider the manner in which the subject is conducted, and the attitude of the teacher towards the questions raised, are of importance in the carrying out of this training, and again I would urge the serious responsibility incurred and the careful guard required in the treatment.

May I, in conclusion, read you a few answers to questions set in the examinations—illustrating the various points I have mentioned in my paper and the manner in which the pupils have responded to this teaching.

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