Letter: Citizens can't be created in a classroom

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The Independent Online
Is it teaching about, or experiencing processes of, democracy that will make the difference between switched-on and switched-off citizens? ("Good citizens from little children grow", 26 March, Education+). I shudder to think what either enforced lessons in civics or enforced community service (isn't that what we dole out as punishment for minor criminal offences?) might do for the next generation of young voters.

All of us who work with young people need to look at how we can enfranchise their voice. We have a responsibility to enable young people to develop an awareness of how they can shape their communities.

As part of that responsibility, in Birmingham we are holding a Young People's Summit to coincide with the G8 summit in the city in May. Young people from all the G8 countries, together with a delegation representing the European Union, will hold their own summit on their own agenda, which already includes issues such as child labour and exploitation of young people, human rights, environmental issues, Third World debt, nuclear disarmament and drugs and related crime. Within the UK we have a network of young people in schools debating these issues. There is a website for international links, supplemented by the use of e-mail and video conferencing.

Phil Grierson

Young People's Summit, project manager. web address - http://www.campus.bt.com/ CampusWorld/pub/ypp