Guest Article from CEO of Shout Out UK, “Political Literacy, would mean an end to apathy”

3 September 2019

We live in a society where most people gain their political information from their parents, whom vote Labour or Conservative because of their out of date belief in what the parties stood for years ago, the media, and vote due to vague social customs.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, creating a division, which can be seen when looking at the background of MPs and the ever-expanding Oxbridge bubble in Parliament.

Yet, the issue becomes bigger because everyone in our democracy is entitled to a vote, hence, the divide not only secures the political industry for the elite, but it also lets loose a very politically illiterate populace during elections and referendums, leaving us vulnerable to decisions fuelled by misinformation, media spins, and ignorance. 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.

From my experience, people, especially young people, are interested in politics, but lack an understanding due to this society-induced ignorance. 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 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.

The issue is that 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 works 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.

We, Shout Out UK, aim to combat this, and that’s why last year we 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 teach are more engaged and passionate about politics because they are taught it, they understand it now and even more important than that was longevity, they stuck with it 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.

By Matteo Bergamini, CEO, Shout Out UK

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