Support my campaign to see the Citizenship curriculum reformed

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It is my belief that young people are overlooked, under-appreciated and yet necessary actors who must be engaged in order to achieve any meaningful political development. Yet in the 2010 general election, only 44% of people aged 18-24 cast their vote. In contrast, over 76% of voters aged 65+ voted. Is it any wonder then that young people have been ignored by the policies of the coalition?

Yet we cannot blame the politicians for not working on behalf of non-voters. Their careers and positions are maintained by serving the will of the people as they hear it through the medium of election results. Conversely, a widespread lack of interest amongst young voters is not to blame either, as the recent success of the Bite the Ballot campaign demonstrates. Between the 2nd and 8th of February 2015, an incredible 441,500 people registered to vote, including 166,000 on National Voter Registration Day alone. Instead, I believe the problem lies in a lack of knowledge/awareness, not only about how a new voter gets themselves registered, but also about what our political parties stand for, and how their policies connect with the opinions of students and other first-time voters. To rectify this, I am proposing a reformation of the Citizenship curriculum in secondary schools, to move away from its current passive, politically apathetic form – simply teaching the definitions of key buzz-words and instead to engage them meaningfully in political conversations. With students now required to stay on until the age of 18, there has never been a better chance to halt youth disillusionment and disengagement with politics.

I want to see students given the chance to explore their own politics, and examine where on the political spectrum they fall. Along with the policies, the leadership of each key political party should be identified, so that students can put names to faces (and vice versa) of the men and women they see and hear about on the news. Students should be given the chance to argue key issues, both from their own point of view and the opposition (to broaden appreciation of different political viewpoints and encourage debate rather than simple confrontation). Most important of all however, is a greater emphasis being placed on teaching the value of an individual vote. The current curriculum makes no mention of such a thing, instead teaching students “the different electoral systems used in and beyond the United Kingdom and actions citizens can take in democratic and electoral processes to influence decisions locally, nationally and beyond” from a purely apolitical perspective, of and yet, in my own opinion, instilling a desire to vote is perhaps the most crucial part of any lesson claiming to teach students what it means to be a citizen of this country. Distinctions between spoiling your ballot to display dissatisfaction and wasting your vote (by not voting) must be drawn so that first-time voters understand that they have options even if none of the parties in Westminster appeal to them. All cast votes matter, even if they are spoilt, votes which are not cast have no weight at all.

The political landscape in this country has shifted dramatically in the past 50 years, Labour and Conservative no longer dominate the political scene as they once did. The rise of the Liberal Democrats and smaller, more issue-focused parties such as the Greens and UKIP has seen the British voter granted more choice than ever before when it comes to casting their ballot. Hence we have also seen a dramatic shift in voting habits. It is only right that we amend our education system accordingly to permit the next generation of voters to make better sense of exactly how to vote, who they should vote for (based on their own values and ideals), and why it is imperative that they exercise their right to do so.

With elections on the 7th of May looming I am hoping to gather a list of signatures and names of people who feel like I do – that students who are of the age to start families and pay taxes, should be granted the education they need to ensure they have their voice heard in deciding our country’s political future. Then, after the election, I shall lobby the Education Secretary to hear our concerns and push for reform of the Citizenship curriculum, away from an apolitical list of buzz-words, and towards a system which ignites a desire to vote, and get involved in politics, in younger voters.

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