Active citizens needed for a better society: Sir Bernard Crick
1 May 2007
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Citizens need to be encouraged to actively participate in modern democracies in order for them to work, political theorist and author Sir Bernard Crick said last night at Sydney Ideas,the University of Sydney's international public lecture series.
"Citizenship has to be learnt and practised among groups in a civil society," said the UK-based author of Essays on Citizenship and Democracy: A very short book and In Defence of Politics. "Politics is too important to be left to the politicians."
Citing the 2005 general election in Britain, where "a bare 51 per cent of Britons were engaged enough to vote," Sir Bernard Crick said citizens in modern democracies were now losing the desire to actively participate as citizens.
"Too few of us are willing to stir our stumps to be active citizens to work at least for a better society," he told the Sydney Ideas audience. "We leave professional politicians to do that for us, or simply want them to leave us alone to get on with what is oddly called the quiet and private life of competitive individualism."
Sir Bernard Crick is a leading proponent of citizenship education in schools and a former advisor to the Blair Government on the issue. He has also been actively involved in the formation of a new citizenship test, sat by all people naturalising as British citizens. Last night he discussed the Australian Government's push to introduce "citizenship tests" and Government's attempt to establish what "Australian values" are.
Sir Bernard Crick questioned whether countries such as Britain and Australia were moving towards true active citizenship, which he summed up as "people combining together effectively to change or resist change."
Sir Bernard Crick is Emeritus Professor of Politics at Birkbeck College at the University of London and a frequent commentator on citizenship as well as the integration of new immigrants. He was citizenship adviser to the Department for Education from 1998 to 2001 and was first chair of the Advisory Board for Naturalisation and Integration. He is also the author of George Orwell: A Life and is currently writing a book on the history of the United Kingdom as a multinational state and multicultural society.
This Sydney Ideas event was co-presented with the University of Sydney's Research Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, where Sir Bernard is a visiting scholar.
Up next: Michael Otterman at Sydney Ideas
Michael Otterman, journalist and author of American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib will discuss "The Truth about American Torture" at Sydney Ideas on Tuesday, 5 June, 2007.
Otterman is an award-winning freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker and was recently a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. This lecture is the first in a national speaking tour hosted by Amnesty International Australia as part of its Human Rights and Security Campaign.
What: "The Truth about American Torture": Michael Otterman at Sydney Ideas, the University of Sydney's international public lecture series.
When: 6.30pm, Tuesday, 5 June, 2007.
Where: The Seymour Theatre Centre, Cnr Cleveland St and City Rd, The University of Sydney.
Cost: $20/$15 concession. A limited number of free tickets are available for Sydney University staff and students. Contact the Seymour Centre box office for availability.
Bookings: (02) 9351 7940
For more information: http://www.usyd.edu.au/sydneyideas
Contact: Katrina O'Brien
Phone: 02 9036 7842