While I was at school I was not interested in the way our country is governed whatsoever. Very few people in my year group were and if they were it was down to the influence of their parents and they tended to support their parents’ party. All I knew in the way of politics (and this was only due to studying GCSE History) was wings – Left-wing supporters were Communists and the Right-wing supporters were Capitalists. I had a very vague idea what the three main parties ahead of the 2010 General Election were and that was only due to watching the news with my parents during dinner.
With the Green Party and others suggesting the voting age should be lowered to 16 this slightly concerns me. When I was 16 and at school, my year group got a massive telling off because some people thought it was funny to say they were going to vote for the BNP in the future and we got told that they were racist but received no background information into any form of politics. I thought it was funny to add my local MP on Facebook without even knowing what an MP was. This makes me incredibly concerned about the voting age because no way was I mature enough to vote.
Some subjects are compulsory at school: English, Maths and Science. We had ICT, P.E. and R.E. as compulsory subjects too as I went to a Church of England ICT specialist school. A lot of people failed R.E. due to their lack of interest in religion. Even during PSHE (Personal, social and health education for those of you who also forgot what it stood for) we didn’t learn anything political whatsoever.
We had to choose our GCSE subjects in year 8 (and even if it was an option I know I would not have chosen it) which I think is fairly young, considering this sometimes has an impact on career choices. They’ve changed the system and curriculums a lot since I left school three years ago but politics is still not a subject.
Why is it not a subject?
The main reason really is simply politics!
There is a fear that if politics was taught as a subject that the teacher may try to teach students that the party they are voting for are the best or despite trying to be neutral, are still biased towards their party. We should have the freedom to vote for the party whose ideologies we most support, not because we have had it drilled into our heads that UKIP, Tories or Labour are who we should vote for. Politics deals with a lot of controversial subjects (as do compulsory subjects like Science) so the Education Authority may fear that school students are too young. Politics is a heavy subject which could also be seen as too difficult for people aged 16 and under to learn.
But at the same time, I would love to have learnt politics at school rather than entering a Public Affairs class aged 18 with so little knowledge I was embarrassed. This lead to me frantically searching the internet to find out how our Parliament is built up. I found some basic information on the UK parties and their background just so I felt less stupid in class. This time last year I wouldn’t have even contemplated voting in the General Election. Now, having passed an exam based on Politics, I finally feel mature enough to say I will be voting. But the sad truth is, many people the same age as me are not ready to vote because they aren’t interested or just don’t understand enough about Politics.