Aristotle, Camus and Teaching and Learning about Citizenship

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Harvard Library]On: 06 October 2014, At: 20:44Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Aristotle, Camus and Teaching andLearning about CitizenshipChris Spurgeon aa Hartshill Grant Maintained SchoolPublished online: 01 Nov 2006.

    To cite this article: Chris Spurgeon (1995) Aristotle, Camus and Teaching and Learning aboutCitizenship, Westminster Studies in Education, 18:1, 15-26

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  • Westminster Studies in Education, Vol. 18, 1995 15

    Aristotle, Camus and Teaching and Learning aboutCitizenship

    CHRIS SPURGEON, Hartshill Grant Maintained School

    Introduction

    The role of many subjects in contributing to students' moral development has beenhighlighted by the National Curriculum Council's (NCC) (1993) discussion paperSpiritual and Moral Development. This article describes how one core National Curricu-lum subject can contribute to an Education for Citizenship which may or may notresemble that envisaged by the writers of the above paper and those of CurriculumGuidance 8: education for citizenship (NCC, 1990). By describing the teaching of AlbertCamus' The Outsider to two Year 10 GCSE English groups in a Middle Englandcomprehensive school, it suggests some possibilities and problems involved in teachingabout the nature of citizenship using literary texts. The module described forms part ofan action research project (1990-1994) which has also considered teaching about othercitizenship issues such as racism (Spurgeon, 1992, 1993a), teaching about other types ofsociety using texts by Orwell and Swindells (Spurgeon, 1993b) and teaching abouthuman rights in association with James Watson's Talking in Whispers (1983). In thecases of all the citizenship issues thus researched, the consideration of the citizenshipissue has been infused into the scheme of work for the text which also meets thedemands of GCSE/Key Stage 4 English syllabi.

    The complexities of teaching about society's values and rules are discussed in relationto Curriculum Guidance 8, The Outsider and Aristotle's The Politics. Aristotle's politicalphilosophy as elaborated in The Politics is used to justify the study of The Outsider fromthe perspective of what constitutes citizenship. Camus' seminal exploration of existen-tialism poses many questions which relate to the moral order of society and, to a lesserextent, to the political order. The novel deals with the moral conduct of the novel'snarrator and his discovery that he does not act in a moral vacuum. By consideringAristotle's view of the citizen, this paper shows that the Greek notion of citizenship asmoral enterprise can help students to identify those factors which render Meursault anoutsider and lead to his eventual confrontation with the guillotine in a public place in thename of the French people.

    0140-6728/95/010015-12 1995 Carfax Publishing Ltd

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  • 16 C. Spurgeon

    Aristotle, Meursault and Citizenship

    It is important to establish the major outlines of the Macedonian's conception ofcitizenship. For Aristotle, the state is prior to the individual and its purpose is thehappiness of its citizens. It is only as part of the state that an individual can achieve'eudaimonia', the good life. The state offers the context for the development andexpression of one's capacities as a moral agent. A recent edition of The Politics(Everson, 1988) provides a clear account of Aristotle's view of man as being designedfor the practice of politics:

    the power of speech is intended to set forth the expedient and the inexpedient,and therefore likewise, the just and unjust. And it is a characteristic of man thathe alone has any sense of good and evil, of just and unjust, and the like andthe association of living beings who have this sense makes a family and a state(p. 3)

    In Aristotelian terms, Meursault is an example of one who is bad or above humanity, forhe fails to act as a typical political animal:

    Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is bynature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident iswithout a state, is either a bad man or above humanity; he is like the Tribeless,lawless, hearthless one' whom Homer denouncesthe natural outcast isforthwith a lover of war; he may be compared to an isolated piece at draughts,(p. 3)

    Aristotle sets high standards. While he realises that citizens have varying qualities andcapacities, he demands certain standards of them all. All citizens are in the same boatand have a common object:

    Like the sailor, the citizen is a member of a community. Now sailors havedifferent functions, for one of them is a rower, another a pilot, and a third alook-out man, a fourth is described by some similar term; and while the precisedefinition of each individual's excellence applies exclusively to him, there is,at the same time, a common definition applicable to them all. For they haveall of them a common object, which is safety in navigation, (p. 55)

    Aristotle sees happiness as deriving from moral and political excellence and true citizensas devoted to the salvation of the community:

    One citizen differs from another, but the salvation of the community is thecommon business of them all.. . (p. 55)

    Furthermore, citizens are expected to participate in the polity:

    The good citizen ought to know how to govern like a freeman, and how toobey like a free man ...

    When it comes to Meursault, we shall find him unprepared to take decisions and that thenotion of obedience is foreign to him.

    In The Outsider we are presented with a story narrated by literature's most completeembodiment of an existentialist philosophy. Meursault is a celebration of living for themoment, of being true to one's feelings. Through him we are offered the recording ofa consciousness presented without an intervening moral filter.

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  • Aristotle, Camus and Citizenship 17

    The Outsider, Curriculum Guidance 8 and Citizenship Issues

    Curriculum Guidance 8 lists positive attitudes which it asserts should be promoted byteachers in schools. They include:

    a sense of fair play, including respect for the processes of law and rights of others respect for different ways of life, beliefs and opinions a willingness to respect the legitimate interests of others respect for rational argument and non-violent ways of resolving conflict a constructive interest in community affairs an active concern for human rights.

    The novel will be assessed in how it contributes to the development of such attitudes andhow it relates to personal moral codes. To assist the development of such codes the NCCrecommended the provision of opportunities for students to:

    discuss and consider moral dilemmas, personal and social appreciate that distinguishing between right and wrong is not always straight-

    forward examine evidence and opinions and form conclusions.

    It will be shown that the module of work described below offers opportunities forCitizenship learning in addition to meeting the requirements of National CurriculumEnglish (DES, 1990). The novel forces the reader to consider his or her own values inrelation to those expressed and acted out by Meursault.

    A key issue is the relationship in theory and practice between the rights of theindividual and those of society. In Curriculum Guidance 8 this is encompassed in the'Being a Citizen' component of citizenship. The balance between individual freedom andsocial constraint is indeed one area suggested for study. A related issue concerns thedistinction between written and unwritten laws and conventions. For example, while onecannot be made to express grief at a relative's funeral, if one's character is beingscrutinised in a murder trial the theoretical right of freedom of expression is renderednull and void or, at least, Meursault is free to condemn himself to death through notfulfilling society's expectations. The novel thus offers students an insight into the reallimits of individual expression. It confirms what we all know about the variety of factorsthat influence judicial decisions beyond the merely legally stated factors.

    The novel poses questions about the individual's responsibilities to his fellow citizens.This is where the perspective of Aristotle helps us to see some of Meursault'sdeficiencies as a citizen. Too often, Meursault fails to display that moral excellence seenby Aristotle to be the hallmark of the citizen. It is not that he himself does anythingparticularly lamentable (apart from the killing of the Arab, where there were extenuatingcircumstances), it is more in his failure to condemn the immoral and objectionableactions of his friends. His refusal to take a moral stance when Raymond wants his helpin a shabby plot to humiliate one of the women for whom he pimps is one example ofhighly questionable moral conduct. His attitude seems to be that the chosen behaviourof others is absolutely none of his business, and he is prepared to help his friends despitetheir unpleasant behaviour. Meursault's view of society, at least until his trial, is that ofindividuals going their separate ways, occasionally mingling for work, food or sex butgenerally ploughing their individual courses. This is the converse of Aristotle's image ofthe sailors working as a team engaged upon a common enterprise. It is also a viewremoved from that of the NCC who phrase their introduction to 'Being a citizen' thus:

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  • 18 C. Spurgeon

    Rights are accompanied by duties and responsibilities. This componenthelps pupils to recognise and understand the nature of their duties andresponsibilities, both present and future, (p. 6)

    Reflecting on The Outsider, it was felt, would contribute to the development of students'moral codes through the presentation of a particular and challenging world view. Bydefault, it addresses the responsibilities of citizenship which may often be unstated or atleast not prescribed, but which, in practice, are felt to be real enough.

    The Scheme of Work and the Curricular Context

    In France, this novel, or extracts from it, are studied in Year 9. The novel's difficultyis not linguistic, rather it involves underlying philosophical premisses and that degree ofmaturity of outlook which it demands of its readers. A nine-week module was devotedto the text. The module was taught to two Year 10 groups concurrently and encompasseda variety of approaches chosen to satisfy the three principal Attainment Targets in thestudy of English (Speaking and Listening, Reading, and Writing).

    Preliminary work focused on some basic research into Camus' life, Algeria and thekey concepts of existentialism. Next, the first part of the novel was read in class. Thetask which followed involved the students writing, producing and filming the episode inwhich Meursault shoots an Arab on the beach. They also answered structured questionsdesigned to establish their response to the lifestyle and attitudes displayed by Meursault.The group then read the second part of the novel witnessing the narrator's celebrationof life, his refusal to placate others by asking God for forgiveness and his progressiveenlightenment to the workings of society and the legal system.

    Students' Reaction to the Text

    The students were moved to react to the narrator's unconventional behaviour and his lifeof the senses. It is worth emphasising that, unlike so many texts read in GCSE Englishclasses, there is, in Camus, ambiguity and ambivalence about moral truths and anabsence of obvious heroes, heroines, victims and villains. Due to this, the students hadto think more or, at least, think differently about their attitudes to the characters andevents of the story.

    Students' Examination of Evidence and Formation of Conclusions

    The first section of the students' writing involved an examination of attitudes toMeursault's behaviour at his mother's funeral. While most believed that you should notdisplay emotion just to conform, they found Meursault rather heartless. Indeed as areader, you find yourself becoming an almost unwitting and indeed probably ratherunwilling judge of another's behaviour. We noted how students were comparing valuesand beliefs held by themselves and others and examining evidence and formingconclusions as required by the NCC:

    Meursault doesn't like the funeral because in contrast to his life it is astructured organisation. We do hear much about the actual funeral, Meursaultconcentrates on the oppressively hot weather and a detailed physical descrip-tion of the other mourners. The funeral is not a significant occasion and there

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  • Aristotle, Camus and Citizenship 19

    is also no feeling of life after death. It also seems that Meursault is thinkingabout the absurdity of death. (Johanna).

    It was like saying that his mother was not worth that. When Meursault doessee his mother's body he seems more interested in describing the caretakerthan looking at his mother's body ... Next, Meursault wants to smoke but, hedoes not know if he should do so in front of his mother's body. In the end, hesees no harm in it. {Neil)

    He played his part and yet he didn't participate personally. He showed no griefand was more interested in the appearance of his fellow mourners. (Helen)

    Below we find a particularly sophisticated reaction which displays that type of moralmaturity and sophistication sought by the NCC:

    The hot and heavy weather is often used to excuse himself from variousactions such as falling asleep and getting distracted. He describes it as'inhospitable and depressing' but I would have thought of him feeling this wayalready due to the nature of his visit... After the funeral he says 'and my joywhenever the bus entered the nest of lights which was Algiers and I knew Iwas going to go to bed and sleep for a whole twelve hours.' Considering thecircumstances most would have possibly replaced the word 'joy' with 'reliefor 'alleviation'. He showed little respect to the woman who had brought himinto the world and his crime was sending her to a home and hardly ever goingto visit her... Society says that this attitude is disrespectful but Meursault'sfeelings are practically acceptable and in theory it should not really matter howoften he did/did not visit his mother. But morally it is wrong not to want tosee your mother when she is old and frail. (Shee Fun)

    These representative comments reveal that awareness of the moral dilemmas sought bythe writers of the curriculum guidance. In terms of citizenship, and in particular in termsof Curriculum Guidance 8, we note the difficulties the writers of the document facedwhen trying to decide which and whose values they wished to promote and how to framethem in phrases and sentences. Meursault, as many of the students recognise, hasdeveloped his own moral code, be it a rather amoral moral code. He shows a trulyindependent turn of mind and, in his own terms, bases his thoughts and feelings on adefensible, broadly existentialist conception of the human condition. To a degree, heconforms by attending the funeral, but there his desire not to antagonise others ends. Thissaid, it is we, the readers, who are more explicitly aware of his straying thoughts and hisdesire to return to the normality of his life in Algiers. The other characters witness hisbehaviour, but are not, in general, privy to his thoughts. Obviously not even the mostardent advocate of 'Education for Citizenship' would propose a module on how upsetyou should feel at a near relation's funeral, but beyond flippancy there are someimportant questions about the promotion of desirable qualities. We judge Meursault andso do the novel's characters yet, in fact, we lack a great deal of evidence and knowledgeof the mother/son relationship. Perhaps, above all, we find his behaviour challengingbecause of its implications such as the fact that, in many senses, nothing does changewhen somebody dies, and funerals can be boring or curious, and the Mediterranean suncan lead one's thoughts astray. In discussion, the students acknowledged that theirreactions in similar circumstances would depend upon a variety of variables such as thenature of the relationship and the protagonists' life experience.

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  • 20 C. Spurgeon

    Students' Comparison of Values and Beliefs Held by Themselves and Others

    The subsequent question explored the ways in which Meursault was a conformist. Bothof these Year 10 groups had previously studied S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders (1967) sowe had discussed aspects of the topic before, be it in a very different culture. Whenconsidering Meursault's behaviour it is noticeable that he is a good citizen in some termsbut not in others. Remembering the recommendations of Curriculum Guidance 8 we notethat he has a strong work ethic, that he seems efficient and enterprising in his work andmanages to get on with some people. (These are some of the positive Citizenshipattitudes enumerated in the Guidance. In the particular milieu of mid-twentieth-centurycolonial Algeria he is, at least apparently, a not unreasonable citizen in a relaxed,pleasure-loving Mediterranean culture. Here are some representative comments display-ing a spectrum of moral and social sophistication. Many students enumerated his goodpoints citing supporting evidence:

    He has a steady job, a flat, a girlfriendMarieand enjoys simple pleasuressuch as food, wine and spending time on the beach. I think Meursault is quiteclever and successful at work because his employer offered him a job in a newbranch of the company in Paris. {Fiona)

    Meursault is not a typical outsider because his behaviour is very good. He doesnot sleep rough or do bad things. He is, in my mind, a normal citizen of thecommunity. This is because I consider normal citizens to obey the law,possibly have a job, have a family and act as caring human beings. {Mark)

    He is also sensitive to his employer. An example of this was when he foundhimself apologising to the employer because it meant he had to miss a fewdays of work to attend the funeral. {Helen)

    The most intelligent students noted some of the subtleties of Meursault's character andbehaviour:

    A typical outsider is someone who doesn't fit into society's physical ideal,someone without money, friends or, a stable home. His friends, daily acquain-tances and people from work talk to him although most do seem to be awareof his candid nature. Meursault's daily activities, although sometimes tactlessare kept within the boundaries of order, until he is involved in the murder ofthe Arab. {Shee Fun)

    Meursault's comments about other people don't necessarily make him anoutsider. He isn't openly critical of other people. He may think they are strangeor odd but he doesn't publicly criticise them. The only reason why he doesn'tcriticise them is that he believes they have a right to behave or be how theywant to be. {Ben)

    Compared to S.E. Hinton's teenage rebels, the students found more factors that madeMeursault an insider. He does not seek to be deliberately different in his behaviour andthoughts unlike the counter culture we meet in S.E. Hinton's novel. As the moreperceptive students acknowledged, his outsiderness, at least until the murder scene, ismore in his thoughts than in his actions.

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  • Aristotle, Camus and Citizenship 21

    A Man with No Concept of Citizenship

    Having given their views on his conformist or at least conforming tendencies, thestudents then had to define his outsiderness. In doing so, many made implicit or explicitmoral judgements of Camus' narrator. Their views varied from the sympathetic to theuncomprehending and affronted. The student below took a very definite moral lessonfrom her encounter with the shipping clerk:

    To me, Meursault sounds weird, and I don't like the sound of him. He strikesme as a man that watches you ... I think he is a typical murderer because hekeeps himself to himself too much. (Jolene)

    For some, he was different to 'people like us'. We may not all agree with the descriptionof normal people:

    Meursault is different to people like us, that's what makes him an outsider. Hebelieves in himself, he does what he thinks, he uses his own mind andimagination and doesn't copy other people. (Jane)

    Quite a number of students saw the complexities of Meursault's character and the limitsof his honesty:

    In the courtroom he does not lie to save himself. He is sincere and true tohimself by telling the truth even though his fate will be death. In this way, heis honest. He refuses to make claims beyond what he really feels or under-stands although he understands that his rigorous honesty can have a disturbingeffect on others and he does not wish to hurt them e.g. Raymond asks him tolie to get him out of trouble and as he does it this shows that he can bedishonest. (Sally)

    The Development of Students' Moral Codes

    How we judge people is discussed below. The complex matrix of factors whichinform our views of people is considered and the important but limited role of thelaw is mentioned. How we treat our fellow citizens must, of course, be based on farmore than what one can get away with. Literature is particularly adept at promptingsuch wide reflections. The student below displays a variety of types and levels ofreasoning:

    Although conforming with some standards, he does not comply with them allby any means. He murdered an Arab, treated the death of his mother lightly,both his friends are social outcasts and he broke the law by lying to the policeon Raymond's behalf. Conformity involves more than the law, it is yourbehaviour, views and attitudes ... Meursault's amoral behaviour makes him anoutsider... Raymond is a pimp and Salamano beats and swears at his dog.Meursault is oblivious to society's wagging finger. However, although Meur-sault doesn't appear moral, in some of his actions he does conform. Forinstance, he says to Raymond before Raymond gives him the gun in theshooting incident 'He hasn't said anything to you yet, it would be unfair toshoot just like that.' (Fiona)

    Another insightful comment suggested the importance of reciprocity in civilisedrelationships:

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  • 22 C. Spurgeon

    It seems like he can know what a person is thinking yet when it comes torelating to people and having a relatively normal conversation with them, heseems unable to cope ... and finds it a nuisance when people ask himquestions. (Sarah)

    This student also pointed to the problems caused by people who do not think throughtheir actions and points to the limits of an often advocated culture of spontaneity:

    Meursault seems to believe in taking each day as it comes. He never once inthe book thinks forward to what could happen ... As long as he in himself ishappy that he is doing the right thing, then he isn't bothered.

    Some of the students noted that he rarely judges, and the passage below offers us thephilosophical justification of his approach to life and, in a sense, explains his resistanceto making simplistic judgements about right and wrong and about good lives and badlives from moral or material standpoints:

    He listens to what people have to say and doesn't immediately judge them.That is, he makes observations but not judgements. There is one instancewhere his boss asks him if he would like to go to Paris, which would changehis life. Meursault replies that you can never change your life, you are still thesame person wherever you are. (Johanna)

    The most perceptive students noted Meursault's perceived 'moral' crime, his failure tobehave as others expect him to. With our extra knowledge we have to decide whetheror not we concur with the general verdict:

    Meursault is seen as an outsider, and of course the people who view him thisway cannot like the readers of the book see the reasoning behind his strangeways, so they view him as strange, even stupid. This can be seen in the courtwhen the prosecutor said that Meursault had not got a soul and that he had noaccess to any humanity nor to any of the moral principles which protect thehuman heart ... Meursault got the death sentence for the murder. One of thereasons I feel he got such a harsh sentence was because he was an outsider.For example, the caretaker from his mother's home tells the court thatMeursault had drunk white coffee at his mother's death. To Meursault, thereis nothing wrong with this but to the court it is very wrong. (Neil)

    Meursault's Deficiencies as a Citizen

    Attractive as elements of Meursault's character are, there are significant examples ofbehaviour that are far from any defensible standard of citizenship:

    Raymond told Meursault that he needed help, because he suspected hisgirlfriend (an Algerian Arab) was seeing another man. Raymond's plan topunish her was to write her a letter, 'a real stinker'. Then, when she came backhe would go to bed with her and then spit in her face and throw her out of thehouse ... Meursault agreed to write the letter, rather than get involved in anargument. (Helen)

    Meursault's unquestioning and rather spineless loyalty to his dubious friends revealsperhaps his major character defect. The nature of Meursault's friends caused one studentto muse:

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  • Aristotle, Camus and Citizenship 23

    Perhaps he has so few friends because of his insensitivity, hurting peopleunintentionally by the things he says. For instance, when Marie his girlfriendasked if he would like to marry her. his reply was 'I don't mind.' {Paul)

    Is Ignorance an Excuse when it Comes to Citizenship?

    The degree of Meursault's moral responsibility was addressed by many students, as washis limited perception of what is a matter of morality:

    If someone proposes an idea to Meursault he will do it if he sees no reason notto. Referring to Raymond Sintes he comments: 'I find him interesting, besidesI've got no reason not to talk to him.' (Shee Fun)

    The same student related this to Meursault's ignorance of society's moresat least untilhis trial:

    Meursault does not purposely rebel against society's rules, in fact I don'tbelieve he knows that most of them exist. (Shee Fun)

    It is almost as if Meursault does not want to know society's views. The existentialistelement of the protagonist's character accounted for much of his behaviour in theopinion of another student:

    Meursault seems to believe that his actions now will not change his future life.He thinks that his life is sorted out... He says what he is, he refuses to hidehis feelings and for that, society, feels threatened. (Ben)

    Another little-mentioned aspect of his personality is the particular nature of his vision.While he can produce some thorough descriptions there are many areas of experienceabout which he is almost unaccountably vague. Whether this is morally wrong is arelated issue and, in a sense, Camus poses the question. For Aristotle, Meursault wouldbe ignoring his duties as a citizen:

    Meursault is different because he does not take much notice of what ishappening around him. He describes the unimportant things, like the screws onhis mother's coffin, rather than facing up to the more important aspects. (Julie)

    Meursault, the Reader and the Death of the Arab

    The fulcrum of the novel is the shooting of the Arab on a beach outside Algiers in theheat of the sun. What pre-occupies most analyses of the events is not so muchMeursault's fatal shooting of the Arab but the shots he subsequently fires into the deadbody. The students were asked to produce an account of the shooting and to decide onthe nature and extent of Meursault's responsibility. They were asked to considermitigating circumstances such as the possible provocation experienced by Meursault andthe factor that Meursault himself points to, namely, the sun. They were also asked toconsider whether the actions of Meursault, the killer, fitted in with the actions ofMeursault, the pleasure-loving young man in a seaside city. The students' ideas arepresented in Table I.Many of the students were sympathetic to Meursault's own presentation of the event inwhich he hints at the climate being the ultimate factor that precipitated the shooting,whilst acknowledging that earlier in the sequence of events he realised he had a choice.

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  • 24 C. Spurgeon

    TABLE I. Reasons for shooting the Arab

    List of reasons offered

    Revenge

    AngerUpset at mother's deathSun, reminding him of mother's funeralEasing the heat and stress of the daySo as not to let down his friendsOne of them was going to dieTo see what murder would be likeNo control of his bodyThe climatePain from the piercing, knife-like sunFrustration and angerThe Arab had disturbed the peace of the day

    The extent of his guilt was debated at length, with the majority of the students believingthat he was acting in self-defence. However, a significant proportion, while noting theprovocation, felt that he was conscious of what he was doing:

    He thought about the power installed in him ... He realised that he couldchange people's destiny in a fraction of a second ... (Ben) .

    The students noted that he shows no obvious guilt. He seems most annoyed about havingdestroyed the perfect balance of the day on the beach where he had been happy. Theconclusion below represents a general consensus which, while displaying some sympa-thy, cannot avoid the fact that the hero of the novel killed the Arab, taking upon himselfthe role of judge, jury and executioner:

    However you feel due to anger, jealousy or guilt... you are not given the rightto determine whether a person lives or dies ... and especially because ofsomething so minor as the weather. (Brett)

    Even Camus' artistic success in building up to the murder scene creating an atmosphereof great tension using simile and metaphor cannot lead us to ignore the ultimate questionof Meursault's rights and those of his Arab victim.

    The Video

    This production of a 5- to 10-minute video of the scenes preceding and including theshooting was a purposely different activity from our close reading of the novel and thestructured written assignment. The two English sets were both divided into threemixed-ability groups. The students were told that they would be filmed 2 weeks after thestart of their preparations. In fact, the planning of the video took far longer thanexpected. The students learned some important lessons about group work. They discov-ered that they could not act with Meursault-like independence and found that they hadto work with students with whom they were not necessarily friendly or like-minded.

    The videos produced were entertaining rather than masterpieces in the'genre but the

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  • Aristotle, Camus and Citizenship 25

    intention had been to focus their minds on the novel rather than to develop acting skills.In fact, the writing of the script led many students to re-read the relevant sections in greatdetail and abridge it where necessary. They also discovered how little material infor-mation is offered about the Arabs or even about Raymond Sintes and Monsieur Masson.

    Part Two of the novel was read with greater understanding, having explored theshooting scene at length through the videos. In reading about the trial of Meursault, thestudents learned about the French legal system existing in Algeria at that time. They sawhow advocates make cases, marshalling evidence and making apparently innocuousactions such as the drinking of white coffee events of great importance.

    Conclusion

    Students perceived both the attractiveness and the limitations of an existentialistphilosophy. They had the opportunity to investigate their response to both illegal actsand actions which contravened generally accepted moral codes. They were exposed toa culture with a different moral and legal culture to our own. In terms of learningoutcomes, they learned that 'outsiderness' may not be* limited to ethnic, class or gendergroups. The Middle England high school students managed to understand Meursault, asearlier in the course they had felt able to relate to groups rendered 'outsiders' by theirrace (M. D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder) or their social background (S. E. Hinton's TheOutsiders). While understanding Meursault, most of them obviously regretted some ofhis attitudes and actions and saw room for improvement, just as they believed that S. E.Hinton's teenage rebels should smarten themselves up and enter gainful employment.The other major learning outcome involved the appreciation of the difficulty of somedecisions adults have to take. Texts such as this give students an insight into thecomplexities of adult morality, where the boundary between right and wrong may beblurred and where there is often no one else to help you to make the right decision. (Areality noted by Curriculum Guidance 8.)

    The students claimed to have enjoyed the book. Their reasons included their percep-tion of its strangeness, a perception of its classic status and the opportunities it offeredto make a video. Such a text explores citizenship issues with greater force than moreabstract discussions, and the quotations from the students evidence the overall quality oftheir response to the novel. It is certainly a novel that cannot help but affect a student'sawareness of his/her own moral code and those of others. It promotes many of theattitudes and values described in Curriculum Guidance 8, particularly those requiringrigorous thought and a recognition of moral complexity. Lack of space prevents adetailed discussion of the relationship between the teaching of the novel and Spiritualand Moral Development (NCC, 1993) but it is clear that The Outsider's overall impacthelps to facilitate the development of morally educated school leavers. As with the otherissues studied in this project, literary texts have proved a powerful vehicle for introduc-ing complex, value-laden topics which are not beyond the grasp of students taught inall-ability groups in comprehensive schools.

    Correspondence: Chris Spurgeon, Hartshill Grant Maintained School, Church Road,Hartshill, Nuneaton CV10 0NA, UK.

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    REFERENCES

    ARISTOTLE (Ed. P. Everson, 1988) The Politics (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).CAMUS, A. (1981) The Outsider (Harmondsworth, Penguin).DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION (1990) English in the National Curriculum (London, DES).HINTON, S.E. (1967) The Outsiders (London, Macmillan).NATIONAL CURRICULUM COUNCIL (1990) Curriculum Guidance 8: education for citizenship (York, NCC).NATIONAL CURRICULUM COUNCIL (1993) Spiritual and Moral Development--A discussion paper (York, NCC).SPURGEON, C. (1992) Teaching about a Citizenship Issue through Literature: M. D. Taylor's Roll of Thunder,

    Hear My Cry in Citizenship 2/1 (London, Citizenship Foundation).SPURGEON, C. (1993a) Reteaching Roll of Thunder alongside Poetry by Black American Women in Multicultu-

    ral teaching 11/2 (Stoke-on-Trent, Trentham).SPURGEON, C. (1993b) Reteaching Animal Farm in a Post-Communist World in Citizenship (London,

    Citizenship Foundation).SWINDELLS, R. (1984) Brother in the Land (Oxford, Oxford University Press).TAYLOR, M.D. (1987) Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (London, Heinemann).WATSON, J. (1983) Talking in Whispers (London, Collins).

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