Back in November the Battle of Ideas Festival staged a lively debate on the question ‘Will youth engagement save democracy?‘. The panel comprised LibDem MP Lynne Featherstone, politics teacher Kevin Rooney, and Citizenship Foundation CEO Tony Breslin. This video contains the opening remarks from the three of them.
Lynne Featherstone claims that voters are lazy and the idea of having to walk to a polling booth is antiquated. (Personally I don’t think the system should be changed simply to pander to people’s apathy.)
Kevin Rooney dismisses the issue of youth dis-engagement out of hand, citing Tiananmen Square and Irish political history as examples of how youth are deeply engaged. Quite extreme examples I think: such emotive subjects are, I would suggest, always likely to impassion large numbers of people. He also suggests that schools have no part to play in helping young people understand politics. But surely aspects of civic society are not mutually exclusive? How can we expect people to suddenly understand and engage in their society when those responsible for their formative education tried to distance them from it?
Tony Breslin says that although youth engagement won’t save democracy, without it “the future of democracy is – by definition – doomed”. He goes on to argue that schools have a duty to support the civic education of young people. Of course I broadly agree with that, or I wouldn’t be working here.
Obviously these are only some of their remarks, and the comments I’ve made are my own. Please watch the video to make your own mind up about the roles of citizenship education and youth engagement in the democratic process.