It’s no shock that young people in Britain are politically disengaged; there’s statistic upon statistic to prove it. For example, in the 2015 General Election only 43% of 18-24 year olds cast their vote according to Ipsos Mori. According to The Independent, only 36% of this age group turned out to vote in the EU referendum (that’ll be the last mention of Brexit, I promise). So why is it that the nation’s young adults are so disengaged with politics?
In my opinion, there’s a few suggestions that can be made for such a great level of disengagement. Personally, I think a lack of understanding is one of the main explanations. In relation to this, it would be fair to say that a lot of young people are put off by the language that politicians use. For a lot of people – not just young adults – the jargon that politicians use is complete nonsense and the language creates a barrier between the elite and the ordinary people. After all, if the public don’t know the political basics, how are they supposed to get to grips with political jargon? By saying that I am not insulting the intelligence of the British people, which brings me nicely onto the main point of this post. How are the young people of Britain expected to be involved in politics and understand politics when they haven’t been taught the basics?
Years ago, party affiliation ran in the family and you were raised to support the party that your family supported, a bit like football teams nowadays. However, since the 70s, party affiliation has declined and there are now more swing voters (these are voters that do not identify with a political party and they may vote for a different party at each election as political and personal circumstances change). Thus, it is so important nowadays that our young people have a political opinion and feel educated enough, politically, to make well-informed choices.
I am not suggesting that by teaching the basics of politics within schools we shape the political views and opinions of our future generations because that is for them to discover and establish themselves. I am suggesting though that the fundamentals of politics should be taught in the school curriculum (perhaps in PSHE lessons) so that young people have a foundation of knowledge to build their own personal views on. The public should at least understand the difference in left-wing and right-wing, how elections and voting systems work and the role of parties and MPs for instance. That way they have some understanding of why their vote and their opinion matters and they can form their own views based on their own established political stance. After all, with the extra youth vote and a greater turnout, this has the potential to shape political outcomes and decisions even further. Perhaps if there was a greater youth turnout in the EU referendum the result may have been different.
Introducing this into the curriculum may not solve all of the issues linked to political disengagement but it is a good and logical attempt at creating a basic understanding of national politics and breaking down the barrier between politicians and the ordinary people that is created by the language they use. By providing this basic, unbiased political education, it may even encourage our younger generations to study Politics at a higher level.
Of course though, if the politicians are not willing to provide this political education then the divide will only continue to widen. Chomsky has argued that the possibility of drastic social change is most likely to be brought about by the student movement. Here then, we must ask: are politicians reluctant to educate our young people about politics because they fear a political movement or an attempted revolution? As well as this, a possibility for the absence of political education may be because politicians recognise it is easier to manipulate the public if they do not fully understand the British political system.
Despite all this, it only seems unfair to me that the education system does not provide a basic political education for our young people. We are denying them the chance to formulate their own views and political opinions which seems so important nowadays. It’s all well and good to tell them to read and watch the views but if they can’t understand the political language that’s being used then what good is that? The foundation of knowledge must be provided before they begin to build on it with their own political views. A change must be made to give our young people the best chance at understanding and participating in politics.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – do you agree? What’s your experience with political education? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know!
Facts and statistics were taken from the following posts: