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Citizenship Education More Important Now Than Ever - So Why Is It Disappearing?

09/12/2015 10:54 GMT | Updated 07/12/2016 10:12 GMT

The attacks in Paris will leave a shadow over Europe and a lasting fear in the minds of many.

Retribution will take many forms over the coming months, if not years, but the military option I was half expecting. What troubles me now is the political fallout and how that could shape our society.

From trolling through the tsunami of news coverage following the attacks in Paris and the commencement of retaliatory airstrikes, I came across a fantastic article written by Swaha Pattanaik, a journalist for Reuters, on how our reaction can 'unify' and 'cleave' Europe apart.

The article covered a lot of what others have said on how the attacks will shape debates about security and cultural integration as well as the hysteria regarding border controls. But there was one sentence that had a profound impact on me. Pattanaik wrote that in the aftermath of the attacks, 'minds as well as borders might start closing.'

Over the weekend, France's National Front, edged towards historic gains, with right-wing parties building momentum across the continent. Many propose restricting migration, increasing surveillance and heightening security measures and although I agree action needs to be taken to curb future atrocities, I fear for the mindsets of younger Europeans.

Isolationism is a terrifying prospect for a continent celebrated for being open, transparent and accessible. It's critical that during these times, even if we limit constructive dialogue and access to those from other parts of the world, we keep the minds of our youngest open. And this is where Citizenship education can play a major role.

Citizenship education teaches knowledge, understanding about politics, the law and the economy and skills to participate effectively and responsibly in public and democratic life. It informs our young people about the social and political world; increases their social and moral awareness; gives them an understanding as to their rights and responsibilities as citizens and makes them active in their communities. Crucially, at a time like this, Citizenship gives young people mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith.

The problem is, the study of Citizenship is diminishing across Europe and even though the numbers of students achieving an A level in Citizenship have held up well in the UK, the qualification is being allowed to disappear after 2018. If the situation does not change it will leave Citizenship as the only National Curriculum subject without an A level qualification. More worryingly, Citizenship is the only subject in the national curriculum that teaches about the way democracy, politics, the economy and the law work.

I can't stop the fallout from the attacks or how they'll shape our society in years to come. But what I would implore our leaders to do, is regardless of their reaction, actively invest in the study of Citizenship to maintain our democratic culture. You can help by signing this petition to keep Citizenship an A level subject after 2018.

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