THE BLOG

Education About Politics Should Start at Primary School

05/04/2015 20:26 BST | Updated 05/06/2015 10:59 BST

The problem of disengagement with politics is widespread, but it is the young who are routinely vilified for their apathy. It is true that voter turnout in the 18-24 age group has been consistently low, and changes to the registration process to vote in this election mean that the figures could be even worse this May, but it would be a mistake to assume this was down to laziness.

For me, the biggest problem is education. Certainly from my own experience, Citizenship lessons at secondary school were both demeaning and unhelpful - so far removed from anything that would help us make sense of what was being talked about in the papers that I would go as far as to say they had the opposite of the intended effect. If this is the only insight schools can offer young people into the world of politics then our education system is breeding apathy.

That young people only become politically active when they reach university is an unfortunate reality. Of course, Miliband's £6,000 tuition fees and Cameron's postgraduate funding reforms will attract the attention of many a student, but what about those who don't go to university? Many eligible voters won't have even reached university age yet and may not be interested in going at all. The truth is, politicians aren't offering much to the young, and damage to trust following Clegg's broken promise on tuition fees is yet to heal.

It's a vicious circle. Young people are increasingly depressed by their dwindling life prospects and they simply don't trust politicians. Meanwhile, their low voter turnout gives politicians little reason to gear significant pledges towards their prosperity.

Politics as it stands does not serve the young and its language needs to change. Young people need to be engaged much earlier in a way that speaks to them and locates their understandings in the real world. It needs to be presented as something that everyone needs to be involved in, not just done by other people on the news.

Why not start in primary school? There's no reason the conversation shouldn't be started about how to make a change in the world at the very beginning. We need to encourage young people from all backgrounds to stand up for what they believe in and to be leaders who won't leave it up to the entitled toffs who currently dominate Westminster.

Democracy will continue to suffer until young people are involved in political discourse and demonising us will only prolong it.