When I turned 18, I remember being most ecstatic about being an “adult.” To “adult” meant being now able to drink (legally anyway), drive and exercise my voter’s right. But six months later, the 2013 May local election would swiftly come along and I’ve find myself dumfounded, having not even the slightest of clues. I spent so much time anticipating and not enough time thoroughly doing my research. Long story short, like many 18-year-olds for years to come, I didn’t vote — or learn to drive either. There are many factors that led to the fatal demise. Some may blame my parents for not properly educating me, some may blame me for not properly educating myself, and some (like me) blame the educational system.
We live in a system where to be educated is to learn your abcs, your 123s and even the effects of moving tectonic plates. But when it boils down to learning about how the manifestos of political parties have an effect on absolutely everyone and everything around us, the educational system is perfectly content with leaving young people in the dark. Not only this, but subjects that may prepare a child for understanding the basic concepts of political subjects, such as history, geography, english literature (not language) and economics, are also not completely compulsory. Hence, one can find these emerging new adults desperately clawing for information from fake news and conspiracy theory filled friends and grandparents.
With the 1996 Education Act in place, it is understandable why schools may steer away from educating their students on current politics. Unless within the walls of Eton, where within an £18.2 million debate hall the potential leaders of tomorrow will be trained for life at Westminster, teachers are afraid. The fear of being accused of unfairly influencing their pupils, outweighs the indirect benefit of actually educating them on it. But with philosophy and religious studies being taught without any bias, who is to say this is not possible?
The advantages of a political education is far greater than the disadvantages. Look at Jeremy Corbyn for example. Most political parties’ manifestos steer away from their younger audience privileging the older generation as, with any campaign, one favours their current and potential audience over a group that when it is crunch time will shrug and say “nah, politics, it’s boring. Not for me,” or the age old “it’s going to have little impact anyway, so f**k it.” However, this year it is reported that 66.4% of young people voted, a massive change from the last general election in 2015, which saw only 43% of people aged 18 – 24 voting. But the question that needs to be asked is, what was different? The main difference was that Jeremy Corbyn had tapped into a political agenda that most steer away from.
Not only did Corbyn draw in the young, but he forced them to be political engaged by being present in the multifaceted platforms that millennials participate in. You like music? he’s on it. You like art? he’s there. Wanna protest? He’ll catch you outside. This left many who previously had no interest in politics wondering who this guy was and why he was in a video awkwardly posing with JME while Grime wilfully played in the background. Not long after, the #Grime4Corbyn hashtag would be splashed all over the internet.
What Jeremy Corbyn highlighted was that with a young manifesto and keen eye for urban culture anything is (almost) possible. Even though Corbyn may not have won, as Bobby Duffy, managing director of Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, highlights to the New Statesman, “All of the academic work does show that voting is partly habitual. That once you start voting, you tend to continue voting. We have had three big political events in two years, with the referendum reaching people who don’t normally vote. So the chances of that continuing are increased.” So not only has Corbyn drawn young people in, but he has quite possibly kept them as voters to the Conservative’s dismay.
Now, imagine if every politician felt the burning pressure to appeal to both the younger and older generations in the way Corbyn did? Low wages, high university fees, housing problems wouldn’t be an issue that is merely swept under the carpet moments after a sweaty bolding well to-do mentions it through gritted teeth with the hope we’ll forget. Each generation cannot wait for an off-kilter politician who’s “down with the kids” and proficient in emotive speeches to break into the limelight. The voters must run the elections. The way to do this is for young people to be involved from the get-go.
To get young voters involved is to start from the source of their knowledge. This unusual institution we call school. The grey walls and developing brains are a haven for the unpolitical aware minds to be nourished. Not only will it ensure that they know the difference between conservative and labour but also the difference between a media personality and the real deal. It can’t be denied that Corbyn had a strong manifesto. Nonetheless, his grasp on the media meant that he was able to shape himself to fit the mould in which he aspired. In some cases, this could be risky.
Without the proper knowledge of the basics of politics, young voters can be swayed by merely what they see on Facebook, pressure from friends, and what they are told outside the gates of their various institutions. By bringing politics into schools, it ensures that they have a fair and varied political education, enabling them to weed out the nonsense. Furthermore, this will breed citizens who are able to clearly and rationally argue why they do or do not like a party or leader, and inevitably realise that every voice is something to be heard.