Written by Eve Benfield
In a scarily scant few months, 18-22 year olds will be able to vote in their first General Election. For the non-politicised amongst them, this is probably a daunting – or worse, irrelevant – prospect. With political education limited to the Daily Mail’s objectification of Theresa May, much of the youth vote could be wasted on ‘who my parents say’s alright’, UKIP (‘it’s a protest vote!!!’), or not even used at all. It’s crucial that all young people are empowered to make their own informed choice in the polling station; how can we remove wide-spread political apathy without education?
Independent of personal opinions, it cannot be doubted that Russell’s own Brand of politicising is engaging young people. Much like starting University and feeling giddy when faced with such considerable political enthusiasm and ire, for many this is their first experience of accessible, popularised politics. It’s a poor tale if the nearest resemblance to a Politics lesson that young people can access is the televisual word-vomit of a comedian. Obviously, there is a wealth of other information waiting to be waded through and analysed, but the point is that many young people need impetus to do so: there is currently very little that can be accessed to provoke such an inclination.
For an introduction of Politics into the National Curriculum to be effective, it must be inclusive. Restricting Politics to a GCSE option would be pointless; an early interest must be encouraged within everyone in order to make further study desirable. Implementing Politics into PSHE lessons (the crux of which being personal and social education, for goodness’ sake) would be a logical start, while Music, Art and English lessons, for example, would be greatly enriched by its presence.
A standardised curriculum won’t fire out Aneurin Bevans left, right and centre (or rather left, left and left), nor restrict lessons to a set of facts. Discussion and debate should be encouraged, giving students the opportunity to formulate opinions and be confident enough to justify their beliefs based on more substantial gambits than ‘Communism being something about sharing’. Effective political education would result in a better-equipped electorate, truer democracy and many more rounded, thoughtful assets to society. Who knows, we may even get a few representative MPs out of it too.
Politics is not for ‘grown ups’. Politics is for us all, especially with the very real threat of UKIP looming large. A failure to expand young peoples’ political horizons is counter-productive: we can’t take previous generations’ illiberal tendencies into the future with us.
If nothing else, positive politicising should avoid a repeat of remarks like ‘I’m not into Politics but I really like Boris Johnson’ becoming classroom mainstays. And that can only be a good thing.