In the build up to the 2017 general election, among all the noise surrounding Brexit and Theresa May’s possible downfall, there was plenty of chatter about getting young people registered to vote. The Labour Party held rallies at student unions across the country, and Jeremy Corbyn even met with grime artist JME in an attempt to gain young people’s backing.
If you look at the number of eighteen to 18-24 year olds who registered to vote on the final day they could do so, then these methods appear to have worked. However, the question still stands: why was this needed in the first place?
There is a noticeable lack of political education in schools across the United Kingdom. The national curriculum requires that citizenship is taught to pupils in Key Stage 3 to Key Stage 4. This only scratches the surface of the political knowledge that young people need in order to actively engage with modern politics.
If you want young people to be involved in politics, then start teaching them about the political parties they may end up voting for.
Understandably, teaching about the views of various political parties does come with the risk of being biased in the favour of the teacher’s political opinions, but, in reality, politics is all about opinions and debate. Obviously teachers shouldn’t portray their political views as 'correct', but they should use them to stimulate friendly debate in the classroom. Opinions are formed when you have a starting point to either agree or disagree with. We shouldn’t be afraid to bring political discussion in to the classroom in a way that’s fair and informative about all the major political parties.
For example, students could be given a fact sheet with each of the main parties political aims and encouraged to go and research the parties themselves in more detail. Young people are more likely to engage with a topic if they can learn it on their terms, and if they’re engaged in the classroom they will, in turn, be engaged in elections. If the government allowed the views of the main political parties to be taught and debated among Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 students, by the time they're eligible to vote, they will be considerably more engaged with modern politics than their predecessors.
Whether young people realise it or not, politics affects so many aspects of their lives. Yet, they are taught Pythagoras' theorem for longer and in more depth than about the political parties which could one day be leading their country.
With the actions of our government affecting all our lives, now more than ever, the youth of this country need to be taught that politics matters. Start young, get them interested, and in the next general election no party will need the help of grime music artists to get 18-24 year olds registered to vote.