This week I’ve been thinking about how to engage children and young people with politics, at what age should we start talking to them about it and to what level? I remember mentally yawning at secondary school if someone mentioned anything to do with politics. It wasn’t until (ironically) I started my International Relations and Politics degree several years later that I realised what a dynamic, involving and relevant subject it really was. Politics permeates every facet of our lives but I think to young people it can often seem confusing and not particularly important. My 18 year old sister brought this home when she spoke to me about the upcoming EU referendum and commented that none of her friends were particularly bothered about talking around the issue. She said they needed people to explain it to them. The choice of whether we should remain in the European Union or not is a weighty one indeed, with long lasting (and in my opinion, dire) implications if the vote is to leave. It is important that the younger generation fully understand what they’re voting for or against.
But perhaps if we started broaching the subject with people when they are still children, they wouldn’t feel so disconnected from it when they reach voting age. Some might argue that it’s too complex but I maintain that you could start giving a simplified explanation of what government is, of the party system and what decisions they make that affect us from as early as Year 1 or 2. Kids deserve much more credit than we give them. Last year as we approached the General Election, Dan and I explained to Sophia what was happening, what it meant and our personal views on who we were planning to vote for and why. She soaked it up and initiated conversations on it at a later date which seemed to show that she understood what we’d told her.
I think it is so incredibly important for our young people to be able to engage, to be able to make informed decisions at the polling booth. The average age of our political party membership is skewed massively towards the older generations and the average age of our MP’s is 50. Whilst there is an argument to be made that experience is vital in this role, there is a counter that in order to represent society in an effective manner in parliament, you should have politicians falling across the age spectrum. Politics shouldn’t be seen as a dusty old relic, something just for ‘old fogies’ but in order to have a system that truly works and represents the electorate, I believe that it is of utmost importance that young people get interested, get informed and get involved.