Thursday, 25 September 2014

16 yr olds voting? - Then we need to do this....

The jury is still out for me on whether 16 year olds should be given the vote, although at the moment I veer towards the NO. However I could be persuaded towards a YES if we put in the right framework.

We often hear that if 16 year olds can marry (albeit with parents permission which is a crucial part of the argument towards a NO) and if they can have sex, then they can surely vote.

Well, er, no actually. those two things need to be mutually inclusive but everything else doesn't follow suit.

I remember when I went into a school to discuss whether David Cameron or David Davis should be leader of the Conservative group. this was a debate in a Politics class no less, with 17 year olds.

Some of them concluded that David Cameron was the better looking and younger so they thought he should be.

But then I had another experience in school with 11 year olds. I was delivering a citizenship programme and was left so impressed.
I'd separated the pupils into teams and they had to debate an issue and come up with one vote per team. One young lad had the opposite view to every member of his team and yet failing to persuade them otherwise despite his best efforts, he volunteered to be the representative. When I asked him why he was willing to talk about his team's stance when he so obviously disagreed with them, he said 'Well that's democracy and this is my team so I must let people understand why we came to that conclusion'.

Wow - I was impressed and added 'Welcome to the world of a coalition government' and he got that, no hesitation, no argument, he understood.

But so many 16 year olds have no understanding of the world of politics, instead having a romantic and idealistic view of the world and how things should just be done and done now. So if we are to allow this most cherished of responsibilities we have to also do the following:

1) Make politics compulsory from the age of 14 starting with the history, fundamentals of democracy and where it does and doesn't exist. They should be taught the difference between local and national governments and the different types of taxes plus difference between the elected and those that do the work behind the scenes.

2) Moving then into further years to understand the difference between the parties, what their values are and how they think they can deliver what people need and want. Showing them where they can learn more about their options. Some will be interested, as I was at 16, and others will not but if the lessons are made exciting and interactive I suspect most will enjoy it.

4) A trip to Westminster to understand how it all happens, with talks by MPs from all parties.

5) There should be interactive software that allows them to decide where money should be spent using the same budget that is held by their local county and borough councils with officers coming in to talk about where the money comes from and the difficulties they face.

6) Leading up to local elections they should discuss the real candidates that are standing, (or did stand if there's no election) take a look at their literature, websites and debate the merits of each one - perhaps even holding a question time with the candidates face to face at a local event just for pupils.

7) They should be taught basic economics as part of the curriculum before the age of 16 and it should form part of a GCSE.

This should continue right up to when they are 18 and perhaps this way, more adults will take an interest.

I know plenty of adults who could do with this education so please let's not unleash those that are not even an adult yet, into making decisions for the rest of us - unless we educate them.

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