Feb 252010

I return to my theme of today’s youth with the news that the new generation has obviously imbibed wholesale the baby-boomers’ intractable conviction that everything which is ‘good’ should be compulsory, and everything which is ‘bad’ should be banned. This rigid dichotomy has found its way into the state-school interns at the Times (and really, with all of that black-and-white ideology fed to pupils in state schools, what else did we expect?).

Make politics lessons compulsory, says sixth former,’ and he means it. Why?

By the time a student leaves sixth form/college, they are of voting age. They have the power in their hands to shape the form of their next government. This gives them the power to shape their own future and bring about change. The right to vote is incredibly important, as I am sure will be seen in the coming months as the General Election approaches.

But how well does school prepare the next generation about the UK political system?

Answer: Astonishingly poorly. Nowhere in my school career have I discussed UK politics, the parties and their policies, the voting system or the way the government works. So when most of us leave school, 18 years old, we have not even learnt about what each party represents or why it is important to vote.

I highly doubt this is true. My own anecdotal experience suggests that even students as young as 12 are aware of the parties, their leaders and policies, and generally how the government works. But that’s neither here nor there. A widely-acknowledged democratic deficit exists in this country; you’re not going to repair it by force-feeding teenagers propaganda that denies this reality.

Pupils do have the chance to choose government and politics or economics at A level, but those who are already interested will be the ones choosing these subjects. The question is, how can young people get the opportunity to learn about, generate interest and engagement in and discuss these issues without having to have a qualification in it?

Schools should have compulsory lessons, from the beginning of secondary education about the different parties, their policies, about ideologies like capitalism and communism. Current affairs should be discussed and taught about in schools to help pupils learn about the injustices and problems that face this world. It would teach the younger generation that change and reform are possible, and they can be at the forefront of it.

Much as I enjoy the idea of teaching such a class, I’m sorry, but no. Quite apart from the obvious problem that it would be nearly impossible to avoid bias in this context, there’s no reason whatsoever to make the ridiculous claim that voting ought to be based upon knowledge of ideologies, injustices, and world problems. The thought-police are not quite yet standing at the ballot box to make sure you’re voting for the right reasons (‘THE GREATER GOOOOOOOOD’) rather than because you quite fancy a particular candidate, or because a particular party has promised to give advantage to your faction. Voters are not required to adjust their motivations to satisfy the trite concerns of people who blog for the Times.

Would it be nice if voters were, in general, better informed? Certainly. Would that stop them voting for assholes? Hmm…

I believe that there are great problems with education system as well – inequalities which bring advantage to some, but disadvantage many more.

Different students learn in different ways, and this need is not currently addressed across the curriculum.

Standard cant. Actually, I’m with the kid here. Inequalities have brought advantage to him by getting his colourless rambling into the Times, which is totally unfair. Every student in the country should get a piece in the Times. Equality of outcome, my friends, equality of outcome.

Sarcasm aside, the education system is really quite shambolic. But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that, unlike Pridesh Raichura, most of his peers have twigged their powerlessness and couldn’t care less about politics. Presumably these peers will go on to do something useful with themselves. Pridesh Raichura, on the other hand, has a bright future ahead of him in the Establishment.

A lot of the time, lessons involve sitting in front of the interactive board and the teacher lectures away expecting students to take in all the facts. Occasionally, they may throw in a video to watch, or if you are lucky, you may get to discuss something in pairs!

However, some people simply do not learn that way. A more hands-on approach to teaching is needed and teachers must start thinking outside of the classroom.

Many lessons are spoon-feeding sessions, where facts are shoved to the pupils, who are expected to memorise them and regurgitate the answers come exam time. There is very little teaching where teachers make the students think creatively and try to solve the problem or work out the facts for themselves.

Especially at GCSEs and A levels, where teachers have to teach from the set syllabus – they just spill out all of the information related to the syllabus, and expect students to absorb.

WORD. But here’s the problem: teachers teach this way because compulsory teacher training teaches them to teach this way. Some of the best lessons I’ve ever taught have been literally outside the classroom. When working on a unit about Greek and Roman education, I used to take the students outside and stroll around with them in the open air, inviting controversial discussion topics and critiquing their arguments. They always seemed to enjoy it. But government has provided a list of things students must know, and ‘talking with my elders about interesting stuff’ ain’t on that list. The list is actually quite huge, however, and Pridesh would have us add to it with compulsory politics lessons, so that’ll leave even less time for Socratic debate in the classroom.

The piece finishes in much the same vein – which means, as you’ll notice, that our sixth-form friend hasn’t really made much of a case for forcing the youth to study the political system that systematically disempowers them. ‘Ooh, people might not vote, and if they do they might vote weird’ is not much of an argument for inflicting yet another pointless but compulsory subject on 11-18-year-olds.

However, lobbying the state for another control order is much easier, and much more likely to succeed, than lobbying it to reform the electoral system, present real alternatives to voters, or recover the people’s sovereignty from the EU.

But it’s all right, everything is all right. You see, Pridesh has won the victory over himself. He loves… well. You fill in the blank.

  11 Responses to “Youth today are far too free”

  1. You should email this essay of yours to Pridesh and show him how it’s done.

    • Are you kidding? I’d probably get done for harassment, bullying, and being mean to a kid. Them’s jailing offences.

  2. Depressing me again, though since some time later this year I will be forced to vote the same way I’m forced to pay tax – under threat of state violence – any talk of compulsion or anyone thinking it’s a good idea depresses me. Normally that soon gives way to an inclination to twat some sense into them with a cricket bat.

  3. You’re right; it’s not true. There’s already a compulsory citizenship requirement in secondary schools, and whilst it doesn’t do all the things this writer wants, it does do a lot of ’em.

    As someone who teaches about the social/political world, I’ve obviously got a vested interest in lots and lots of people turning up to my lessons. However, I would rather they came to me out of curiosity rather than compulsion. How would I make that happen? Observe:

    Especially at GCSEs and A levels, where teachers have to teach from the set syllabus – they just spill out all of the information related to the syllabus, and expect students to absorb.

    Do away with this bit. My life gets easier, the students get more lessons made solely of awesome and suddenly lots more young kids are getting interested in studying social/poltical/civic life. Same goal, but using liberal means. Simple. Oh, and lowering the voting age wouldn’t hurt.

    • God, how I would love to do away with state syllabi. Even in Latin, where you’d think it wouldn’t matter that much, I don’t have the time or the admin support to explore tangets that the students themselves want to explore. We go on a lot these days about pupil-driven learning, but we don’t really allow it because they don’t get to choose the topics. They only get to teach set topics to themselves, which is a bit useless.

      • A recent example: “Sir, can we have a lesson on the BNP?”

        Brilliant. A student who wants to learn about something. Alas, if it ain’t in the syllabus…

        I would argue though, that regardless of the content of his opinion, this is one talented and promising young man, and I’d definitely commend him for his belief in civic engagement, even if I don’t share his specific recommendation.

        Seriously, if you’d read some of the stuff i believed in when I was that age, I would not be on your blogroll. I’m not sure even the Young Fabians would’ve had me 😉

        • Hey, at least you believed in stuff when you were that age. My first experience with political engagement was the Clinton sex scandal.

          But then again, American politics is really goddamn boring, no joke. Possibly because Americans tend to be really earnest, as I discovered when I rocked up in Britain with my earnestness for all to see. We lack the lovely dry cynicism of the British electorate, though I like to think I’m doing a decent job at acculturating in that respect. 😉

          • Also there is a phenomenon in America that would warm any libertarian’s heart: most people don’t give a shit about politics. I mean, not even enough to be cynical. Luckily, most facets of American society is state-free. For libertarians here, the battle is to preserve that. Sadly, the government is gaining ground quickly.

          • *Oops. I mean “most facets are”.

  4. Oh my. As a fellow member of the youth of today, this sickens me.

  5. Tedious CV-polishing half-smart little oik. Probably wants to go into politics; he already duckspeaks the doublethink in the accepted style.

    Next week: turkey advocates mandatory Christmas.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.