Despite the clear need, it is incredible that the government still stops short of tackling the core problem when looking at how we build strong integrated communities linked together by their engagement as citizens through political discourse and engagement. In the recent Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper just released by the government, the teaching of Citizenship or Political Literacy is almost non-existent.
A depressing notion when you consider the growing extreme and populist movements gripping people in the UK. The move by extreme sides of the political spectrum to pray on a populace void of political education, inflamed by the likes of certain newspapers, that for years have blamed everything (except the snow) on migrants or Muslims surely should have shown our government that the only way to truly integrate our fracturing society is by giving everyone a clear understanding of our democracy, by bringing practical political Literacy into the curriculum.
This can’t carry on if we wish to have and continue to hold on to a healthy democracy. The real issue here is a lack of political education in all but the top end schools. Something the green paper truly lacks. From my experience, people, especially young people, are interested in politics, but lack an understanding due to this state-induced failure to teach us how the system works.
Currently, we assume that once we hit 18 years of age we suddenly become enlightened with all the political knowledge one needs to vote and engage. Of course, this is not the case, it needs to be taught and understood in school as a compulsory subject. We treat English and Maths in very high regard, as two of the most important subjects. However, the one subject that allows us to be who we want to be, gives us a voice and creates a society we wish to live in, we give no time to in schools.
We, Shout Out UK, last year launched our 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 engaged with where already interested in politics, but frustrated by the lack of education they where getting on the subject.
Roisin Murray, a teacher at Bentley Wood High School, Harrow, said, “Understanding Politics is key to understanding how society works. Shout Out UK’s Political Literacy Course supports students in developing their political awareness so they can take a more active role in society. After sitting in on several lessons with Shout Out UK and our students, I can honestly say it has been a fantastic opportunity for our students to develop their knowledge and awareness of current affairs as well as their ability to speak in public, debate and present a discussion coherently. This has also helped students to develop their self-esteem and confidence.”
Fatima Manji from Channel 4 News, said “Young people have important, inspiring contributions to make to politics and yet their voices are too often ignored. This course can help equip them with the tools to challenge decision makers better.”
Division within our society is occurring due to a clear lack of understanding between communities and a clear frustration with a political system that is becoming ever more alien and incomprehensible to most of us. Rather than fixating on ‘British Values’, a vague terminology, with hints of colonial reminiscence, why not give all communities an equal footing within our society by introducing actual Political Literacy in schools as a clear and distinct part of the curriculum.