Thursday, 5 May 2011

Should we make Politics a compulsory lesson?

On the day of the Local Elections and The AV referendum turnout is expected to be around 40%.

This is only the second referendum the UK public have been offered in history. In 1975 the public were asked if the UK should join the EEC (later to become the EU) and turnout was 64.5%. Considering the change in the population the figure of 40% in only the second referendum becomes even more shocking.

Voter turnout has been on the slide ever since the 1950's.

Voter apathy is a real problem in 2011. How do we solve this problem? It was mentioned to me today that younger people "do not know enough about politics" and therefore "they just don't care". 

John Rimmer (President of The National Association of Schoolmasters) has suggested that Politics becomes a compulsory class between the ages of 14-16. His hope is that the pupils will become educated at a young age and have a proper understanding of politics before they leave and become disillusioned or (worse) indoctrinated by the spin of Alistair Campbell and the likes. 

Cooking is compulsory. So why not politics?

Politics classes at this age would give pupils a better understanding of how UK politics works, but could we keep it non-partisan? This seems to the main criticism levelled at the idea. But if classes could be offered different sides of an argument on the same topic, surely we would benefit in the future from a more politically inclined population - one which could better hold its MPs to account and one which better understood what politics was really about.

Five years ago the Institute of Public Policy and Research called for compulsory voting - like in Australia. But what would be the point if people still knew next to nothing about UK politics.


  1. I agree with this idea in principle but I think it could be dangerous within Academies because of their freedom to exploit and reinforce certain political and religious ideologies. I do believe that politics would also benefit from being modernised in a way which is more palatable to a contemporary public who have become disenfranchised from collective contribution.

  2. Another suggestion would be that rather than teaching politics, you have a compulsory lesson in a subject which teaches kids how to form and dissect an argument. If people were able to objectively reason about issues they'd be far less liable to the 'spin' of modern politics and more likely to form their own opinions.

    It would also solve your issue of keeping the lessons non-partisan.

    Something along the lines of 'Critical Thinking', but less of an after thought and more of a serious lesson.