To Educate is to Empower

Many of my peers who fall into the 18-24 category will (albeit embarrassedly) admit that they have little to no knowledge about politics. As we have gotten older some have ventured to educate themselves through reading the newspaper or watching the news, but they lack a fundamental understanding of our political system. 

The few of us that were interested in politics from a young age ventured to do A-Level Politics, but this was a handful of people from over a hundred students in my year.

 Statistics point towards a trend of political apathy in the younger generation too.  Voting in the EU Referendum itself showed that whilst 90% of over 65s came out to vote, only 64% of 18-24 year olds voted. In the general election, just 46% of millennials came out to vote. These statistics point to a worrying trend that needs to be rectified in order to have meaningful elections which genuinely represent the wishes of the public in the future.

 How do people educate themselves on politics currently? Ignoring those who study politics themselves optionally, the main source of information for the public will be from the media. However, newspapers, political magazines and news channels all have some form of political bias in the way they present information and facts. A clear example of media bias is with the most widely read newspaper, the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail is notorious for being extremely right wing and The Sun, another right wing newspaper, is the most popular for under 35s. If we view our education of politics through such a biased media lens, our opinions will be shaped by this which will give an unfair advantage to certain parties.

 There is a simple solution: compulsory education in politics during secondary school. This may seem a drastic approach, but it is an important one too. When decisions like leaving the EU are left to the general public, which will have the biggest impact on the younger generation, it has become imperative to take this step. An education of politics should include how our political system operates, what role MPs and Lords have, the basic ideologies of each political party and beyond this an education in international politics and how much it influences our own policies for the better and worse.

 Politics has and is increasingly becoming incredibly important in our lives. From childcare provisions to pension, from tax to whether we invade another country, these are issues shape our lives and future. Without arming ourselves with unbiased and in-depth information through political education from a young age, we cannot claim to have a true democracy. In an increasingly globalized world, we need to understand the implications of international politics to battle the current trend globally, where fear of the unknown is leading to isolationism leaving the right-wing parties triumphant.

 Informing us will empower us. Our votes will mean more if we base them on deeper, unbiased knowledge rather than being influenced by which paper we read or whom our families have traditionally voted for. More people may go to council meetings if they know what the local authorities can do for them. Some may even feel inspired enough to run for government positions. Knowledge will give us the power to hold the government to account but also to vote for people we truly believe in. Compulsory education of politics at secondary school will empower generations of people by giving them substantive knowledge to challenge and engage with our political system, which will only change it for the better.

 Najaf Raza is a Young Fabians Member. Follow her on Twitter at @najafx

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