Yesterday afternoon the National Citizenship Service (NCS) hosted a panel discussion completely orientated and run by young people where one of the primary topics was Political Education!

 

Apart from the initial NCS PR, it was a fantastic event that showed how a service like the NCS can help build confidence, build emotional resilience and connect young people with civic society. It seems like an incredible service for our young people.

The NCS has put over 400,000 young people through its service in what it calls ‘waves’ and it has clearly had an impact. Lauren Clark, an NCS graduate said she ‘wouldn’t change it for the world!’

Politics is 4 life: NCS Graduates Call for Political Education at Conservative Party ConferenceOne of the aspects of the NCS is the social action element (a 2-week campaign). The project aims to engage young people in social issues and teach them political engagement. All of the panel mentioned this aspect of the NCS programme with huge passion.

It’s fantastic news to see young people actively wanting to engage with politics, dispelling the myth that we are not interested.

We currently live in a society where most people gain their political information from their parents. They, for their part, vote Labour or Conservative because of their out-of-date belief in what the parties stood for years ago, and the media. They also vote due to vague social customs. Politics, unfortunately, has remained the playground of the financially better off, and while the sons and daughters of the higher echelons of society are educated in politics, the rest of us are not. The result is that a clear division exists, which can be seen when looking at the background of MPs and the ever-expanding Oxbridge bubble in Parliament.

For the NCS to include an element of political engagement is certainly a step in the right direction; however, if you consider what politics is, there is a clear argument that it’s not enough. We must cement political literacy in our curriculum or in the NCS programme to ensure we all enter adult life with the skills needed to engage in all aspects of our democracy, not just the vote or civic action.

Political literacy would give us, the next generation, a clear understanding of what politics is, how our society works and why voting is relevant and important. There have been some incredible initiatives recently by the UK Government around voter registration and getting young people to vote. Yet, screaming at us to vote without telling us why or how society and politics work, seems a little premature. Like asking someone to run a marathon before being able to walk. You can’t get an entire generation mobilized without first giving them the instruments to understand the system they are supposed to be influencing.

Politics is 4 life: NCS Graduates Call for Political Education at Conservative Party ConferenceWe, Shout Out UK, last year launched a Political Literacy course, which 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 teach are more engaged and passionate about politics because they are taught it, they understand it now, and more importantly it gives them the opportunity for longevity. These young people stuck with it, politics that is, rather than being involved sporadically over the course of one election or referendum. Politics takes time and only when you are taught this, will you have the patience to stomach it.

It’s the modern equivalent to the old proverb, ‘give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’. In a similar fashion, if we ask them to vote, they will do it once before getting bored or disillusioned, but if we give them the tools to understand the system they will remain engaged for a lifetime.