Turnout for the EU Referendum was a record-breaking 72%. It has divided a nation and caused politics to become a regular subject in pubs and bars. Yet, despite the hype one thing was clear: there was a lack of understanding surrounding the vote and an absence of solid facts during the campaign. A healthy society not only offers the freedom and ability for ordinary citizens to be engaged and involved in the governing process, but it also tells people about the process, how it works and how one can get involved. We do not.
If politics is non-existent in schools or isn't considered academic or employment worthy, why would any student bother?
In our schools we hold English and Maths in great esteem, as they are very important subjects and arguably, the foundation of any good education. Yet, the one thing that allows us to speak our mind and creates a society in which we live, work, study and enjoy is not in any real way considered in schools. This sets a precedent of non-importance in our democracy and citizenship. From a 21st century student viewpoint, you are constantly demanded to work harder, think of your career and the importance of university. Considering this, it becomes painfully clear that a students mind will only be geared towards the subjects and interests that will assist in getting into higher education and/or employment. So, if politics is non-existent in schools or if it is, isn't considered academic or employment worthy, why would any student bother?
Political Literacy is the understanding of what we as a society do, how we can govern ourselves and why we must all stay involved. Understanding this as a member of a democracy is as vital as being literate in English! It allows us to conduct group decisions with all the information we need to make that decision. Without this knowledge, it would be like asking someone who can't speak English to dive headlong into a debate with an Oxford graduate.
Politics, whether we like it or not, dictates and decides how we live our lives in the most basic and complex sense
Put simply, if one looks at the referendum, regardless of how you voted, you must agree that both campaigns were the most vial and disgusting form of campaigning ever to befall British politics.
Both camps played on people’s fears and gave little in way of information. This led a lot of people into being unsure as to what they are voting for, or with little understanding of what the EU is and what effect it would have if we left. The result, once we did leave, is a lot of people not having a clue as to what would happen next, among other confusions.
Politics, whether we like it or not, dictates and decides how we live our lives in the most basic and complex sense. It interferes and fixes society, it is in everything we do and not knowing about it does not make you immune from it.
At Shout Out UK, in collaboration with AQA, we have been developing a Political Literacy Course, launched this year in January. The course aims to get more young people interested and engaged in Politics, by teaching them about the processes in Politics, public speaking and debating. The young people we have already taught were more engaged and passionate about politics because they had become politically literate from the course, as they know have the basics to become interested and explore politics for themselves.