The Blog

For a Democracy to Survive and Prosper We Need to Start Teaching Our Children Politics at School

We know people aged 18-24 years old voted to remain in the EU and we know there was only a 31% turnout in this age group.

On the 23rd June 2016 a day that will no doubt be remembered in history books, I travelled for over one hour to make sure I could exercise my privilege to vote. When I told my mum this news she proceeded to tell me this was nothing to be proud of - voting is a duty and I am lucky to be able to vote at all, people all over the world walk for days to exercise their right to vote.

I felt ashamed to be a British youth after hearing about the low turnout of my generation in the election. Why did so many of my age group fail to exercise their right, their privilege to vote? Perhaps they could not be bothered (thinking their vote would make little difference) or perhaps they dislike our political system and wanted to rebel against it, but I think the vast majority of young people didn't vote because they did not know who to vote for. They were not educated about the implications of such decisions and did not want to vote blindly. Older people were not educated either but they have had time to learn and develop their political opinions.

Whether or not you think the 'Brexit' decision was the best or worst thing that has ever happened to this country it is clear that if we are to have referendums on decisions with such profound implications then the people making those decisions must be educated to understand the implications. I am not saying that only uneducated people voted. I am instead saying referendums should only take place in countries where people are educated about politics. Perhaps if the nation had been given politics lessons at school the vote would have been even more in favor of Brexit. We simply do not know. But if we had compulsory politics classes I would have more faith in referendums.

This disappointment with my generation's lack of voting contrasts with what I saw since the actual results came out; I have never seen social media filled with more political posts ever before voicing their opinion on the Brexit result. And I couldn't be prouder of my generation now being politically active. Some may say social media is not the place for political opinions to be voiced and maybe it's not but nonetheless at least it appears young people are engaging in politics and that is exactly what we need. But does my newly found political Facebook feed mean young people are finally engaging with politics and educating themselves?

Maybe people will educate themselves more before referendums and even before elections as a result of the supposed shock of our nations Brexit decision. But democracy is not a game and should not be left to a maybe. People must be educated for the system to work. We do not leave children to find out about sexual education online to prevent STI's and teenage pregnancies - we have compulsory sexual education to teach our children about such important topics. Political education is just as necessary as sexual education (perhaps even more so because the information will be inherently bias). Without political education we do not truly have a democracy because people are voting blind and the issues they are voting about are too big to do this.

According to research from Opinium about 7% of Brexit voters and 3% of Remain voters regret their vote. Although we cannot know for sure whether or not another referendum would change the country's Brexit decision it is clear that too many people regret their decision (many no doubt due to a lack of education pre referendum as well as false promises by politicians). Furthermore the day after the referendum the most searched thing on Google was "what is the EU?" further proving the point that too many people did not understand the implications of voting Remain or Leave. I do not think the referendum can be repeated but we must learn from our mistakes so that next time we have another big referendum we will be educated and the nation will be ready so that there is no one (or at least fewer people) left regretting their vote because they didn't understand the implications of their way of voting.

We must therefore make political education a mandatory part of the British education system. I understand teachers are stretched as it is but it is simply too important to ignore. I think politics lessons should be mandatory in any democracy and my position is only confirmed by the referendum. The current situation is not good enough. I have campaigned before to put something on the national curriculum and that was mental health education. This is now being realized. I did not expect to make a habit out of lobbying for things to be put on the national curriculum. But I think it is a mistake for politics to not to be mandatory and I therefore see it as my duty to attempt to change this.

We are fortunate to be in a democracy and that means each and every one of us has the power to change public policy. Tell our government that we want mandatory political education by signing this petition If it reaches over 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament. So if you support this campaign please join me in using the hash tag #wearenoteducated.