Civics, citizenship and patriotism

Civics, citizenship and patriotism –
the experience of the London
County Council, 1918-1939
Jenny Keating, History in Education Project, Institute of Historical
Research, University of London
“Among countries of the first rank, indeed, England seems to be the
only one which has not yet realised the importance of regulating,
from the very first, the noble, but dangerous, passion of patriotism.
We leave it to grow up in a haphazard and unenlightened manner, to
be the sport of Jingo newspapers and of frantic mob-orators, to be
divorced from all knowledge of the true nature of England’s greatness,
and to be associated with a blind contempt for other nations”.
EE Kellett, ‘The Teaching of Patriotism’, The Journal of Education, March 1900,
“Comparisons between the present and the past will frequently suggest
themselves, and it is by this method of comparison rather than by set
lessons or direct instruction that the foundations of intelligent citizenship
can best be laid. Any attempt to deal elaborately with such matters as the
parts of the British constitution, the local government of the country, or the
administration of justice, is wearisome, and must be largely unintelligible to
Board of Education, ‘Suggestions for the Consideration of Teachers and others concerned in the
work of the Public Elementary Schools’, (London, HMSO 1918), p95
“The reason why Germany has fought this magnificent fight,
the reason why she has kept together as she has done is not
because of her training and knowledge but because the
children have been taught from the earliest infancy to
subordinate themselves to something which is greater than
themselves – to the ideals of the nation”. He went on, “Of
course we cannot do that. We do not want to do it in the
sense which Germany has done it. Democracy does not want
to do it, but I venture to say that if a democracy is not
permeated by ideals that democracy will be no more
successful than any other form of government”.
LMA – LCC/EO/PS/02/003 ‘Citizenship and Civics’ – Reference Paper by Dr TB
Napier, ‘Civic and national responsibility and ideals, 22/2/1918
The “difficult and delicate issues – ideals”. The big questions of: “on
the one hand what society in its corporate capacity should do for its
citizens and on the other what should be the corresponding return
of the citizen for his share in the common weal”. Which, as he
warned, “approach the forbidden ground of party politics and
religious opinion”.
“apparently we need a second law-giver who will formulate a
second set of Commandments. So broad and so simply expressed
as to secure common consent...Until his advent, teaching of ideals
had better be incidental. There are many disadvantages; but in a
multitude of counsellors there is wisdom, and possibly safely”.
LMA – LCC/EO/PS/02/003 ‘Citizenship and Civics’ – ‘Civic and national responsibility
and ideals – Supplementary Report by the Education Officer, Sir Robert Blair,
“..I should say first that the problem is so to present the history of
Britain as to attract and win the sympathy and rouse the sense of
duty of the child, without at the same time giving him the notion
that England has always been right, and is by nature evidently
superior in all things to all other nations. We must make him
understand that he ought to love his country and try to serve her
simply because God has put him here, but we must at the same
time show him that his country and heroes are worthy to be
LMA – LCC/EO/PS/02/003 ‘Citizenship and Civics’ – ‘Civic and national
responsibility and ideals – Memorandum by Dr TB Napier, 31/1/1919, p2.
Its field of enquiry was to look at Civics :
“1) in the sense of some rudimentary knowledge of the structure and
functions of our Government, national and local and
2) to the promotion of a healthy and reasonable patriotism whether by
direct teaching or through the medium of subjects already universally
LMA – LCC/EO/PS/02/003 ‘Citizenship and Civics’ – Report of Committee on Civics,
29/7/1925, p1.
“Employers…sometimes complain… that boys cannot do long tots, or
compound practice, or cannot spell. They do not complain that
children know too little about De Montfort’s Parliament or the
achievements of Sir George Grey”.
“ has generally failed, and failed chiefly because of its dullness....In
general it is sufficient to remark that school time may be better spent
than in endeavouring to teach girls and boys under fourteen the
constitution and functions of the Board of Trade. And it is into this
sort of thing that the teaching of Civics as a separate subject too
frequently degenerates”.
LMA – LCC/EO/PS/02/003 ‘Citizenship and Civics’ – Report of Committee on Civics,
29/7/1925, pp1-2.
“There are talks at morning assemblies…Current events are used by very
many teachers to call children’s attention to the conduct of public affairs.
Educational visits are paid very commonly to places of national and local
interest. The League of Nations has a part of one kind or another in the life of
most schools. ‘Mock’ elections are held. The prefect system, club
organisations, committees and other devices for introducing into the school
some form of self-government or government by consent, in varying degrees
of completeness and of scope, are used to accustom the children to the task
of government and to interest them in it…School debates are used, and
occasional talks by the head or other teachers are devoted to topics
connected with government”.
LMA – LCC/EO/PS/02/003 ‘Citizenship and Civics’. Report by the chief inspector, 24/10/1933, ‘The
Teaching of Citizenship’,p1.
Courtesy of Enid Deeble, born 1929. Empire Day 1938
“an attempt to arouse in children a right sense of their heritage as
inhabitants of a politically free and democratic country, and a sense of
decent patriotism or pride, or, at least, interest in their local environment”.
“an attempt to instruct children in the constitution and the powers of
the central and the local government under which they live”
LMA – LCC/EO/PS/02/003 ‘Citizenship and Civics’. LCC: Memorandum by the Chief
Inspector on the Teaching of Citizenship, 14/12/1933.
“When I saw that question I smiled because that’s a question for a
modern school boy. It has got no relevance at all to a school boy
in the 1930s. We were proud. Everyone was patriotic. It’s only –
we were aware of our nationality. Today it’s different, and that
question is relevant, but it wasn’t relevant in 1935, the thought
never occurred to us.”
History in Education Project, KK/P23/HiE8, Kenneth Kelsey, interviewed 24/3/2010.