By Laurence Scott
Young people like me are the future of this country – like it or not. We need to help shape our future but how can we increase political activity among young people?
In the most recent Democratic Audit, it was found that democracy and political participation is in “terminal decline” as we already know. In 2010, the total turnout of 18 – 24 year olds was an inexcusable 44% (See graph below).
Many of my fellow young people are apathetic towards politics; they feel like they are not listened too, find politics boring and uninspiring, and have difficulty understanding politics.
It should not and does not have to be like this – for the sake of this country and our democracy.
There are very few who disagree that we desperately need a period of national renewal akin to the one after the Second World War. Young people need to be involved in the debate, decisions and destiny of this; we are the ones who will have to live with the decisions being taken now. Currently, not enough of us young people are politically active.
I have 3 ideas that I believe would help to increase engagement and activity among young people.
- Better education about politics throughout our schooling
At the moment there is very little in the way of education and encouragement for young people to develop opinions, be those opinions about politics or anything else. Children should be taught how to debate and take part in debates in primary school.
Debates increase confidence, help develop the critical-thinking skills that Universities are crying out for and help to develop literacy skills. I know that, if I had the chance to have debates as part of the national curriculum at primary school, I would have become involved in politics sooner and more intensely.
2. The voting age needs to be lowered to 16-years-old
It has been debated for a long time – let’s get on with it and lower the voting age to 16-years-old. If you are able to take your GCSEs at 16 – which require maturity and decision-making – then why are you not able to vote at 16?
• 2012: The year ahead for young people 7 Jan 2012
Better education about politics is a waste of time if, by the time people leave school, they do not have the chance to participate in politics fully and fairly.
3. Young people need to be treated better and more fairly by society
Contrary to what the press would like everyone to believe, the vast majority of young people are not drug-dealing lazy thieves. That is just inaccurate. The 18-year-old diver Tom Daley at the Olympics last week is just one example of a young person doing something positive – and there are many more. This problem is a wider problem in society that must be grappled with.
I am sure I speak on behalf of all young people when I say that we need not be victimized. If young people felt that they were an important part of society, more would want to shape it. Instead, many young people reject politics because it is part of the society that victimizes them, not listens to them.
Those are just 3 ideas that might help. If this problem is not solved, we face the danger of loosing an entire generation of voters.