We are living in strange times. On the one hand we have members’ of Parliament stating we need more young people in politics. We have the media calling young people uninterested, selfish and unengaged… As a 24 year old I can say we are interested and we are asking for the right tools and knowledge necessary to engage!
Currently, we assume that once we hit 18 years of age we suddenly become enlightened with all the political knowledge one needs to vote and engage. Of course, this not the case, it needs to be taught and understood in school as a compulsory subject. We treat English and Maths in very high regard as two of the most important subjects, as they should be. However, the one subject that allows us to be who we want to be, gives us a voice and creates a society we wish to live in, we give no time to in schools.
I believe, Political Literacy would give us, the next generation, a clear understanding of what politics is, how our society works and why voting is relevant and important. There have been some incredible initiatives recently by the UK government around voter registration and getting young people to vote. Yet, screaming at us to vote without telling us why or how society and politics works seems a little premature. Like asking someone to run a marathon before being able to walk. You can’t get an entire generation mobilized without first giving them the instruments to understand the system they are supposed to be influencing…
Maybe it’s time we look at the issue seriously, rather than just around elections and referendums. The issue is not apathy itself, it’s why apathy happens. Apathy amongst young people happens because the system has become so complex, that people no longer understand it and so get frustrated by it. Young people do care and are interested in politics, just not Politics… they are interested in single issues like climate change, human rights and racism. They just don’t see the connection between those issues and Politics. Only issue is of course, that if one doesn’t eventually engage with the system, nothing will ever change.
We must give schools the tools necessary to deal with this issue because no matter how many times you scream at someone to vote, if that person does not understand the system or how important it is to vote, he or she will never be engaged in the long run, even though they may vote the one time you asked them to.
At a time when democracy is being threatened and all that we have achieved is questioned by growing populist and nationalist sentiment, Political Literacy is needed now more than ever to ensure that this generation has the tools needed to create a world we want to live in, that is inclusive, free and tolerant.
Written by Matteo Bergamini, Founder and Director of Shout Out UK. Matteo will be hosting a Youth Hackathon workshop at Creative Collisions and will also chair The Big Debate.