Last weekend I was in Rome for three days attending a conference on democracy.
It was a high level event and three hours of it involved a discussion on civic engagement with about 20 others including the Education Secretary, Michael Gove and a few you others you’d recognise from TV.
Yesterday’s Evening Standard and the BBC have reported on a healthy lobby coming towards the Secretary from DJ Reggie Yates and young Danny Bartlett who has had funding from O2 to create a classy cinema advert for his campaign for better political education. Right up our street indeed, and they have become supporters of Democratic Life campaign. Brilliant!
Most people that left our conversation in Rome agreed that Michael Gove was probably the most impressive person in that conversation. A great intellect with a sweeping understanding of history and politics and as erudite as anyone on the planet. And likeable too…
The workshop considered many ways to engage and support political organisation in communities and in nations and around the globe.
I don’t spend too much time in such high company. I can’t refer to Hobbes with fluency nor keep up with those who have done PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) at Oxford.
I suppose they have been to different kinds of political classes, and now belong to the rarefied Political classes. But these are both different from those that Reggie and Danny (and me!) want to see as part of everyone’s school experience. I find myself thinking that in general people need inducting into the “why” of politics before the “what and how” of politics.
Why is there no option but to do politics and why do we have to settle things by negotiation? After all, it’s not the normal way of the playground.
I feel confident that Michael Gove has the ability to translate this into some kind of force within the curriculum that doesn’t have to refer back to PPE before it conceives the nation as having a more universal political class, rather than those privileged to be included in the high level discussions in Rome.
Too much is changing to leave things to the small political elite. We do need more consistent, ground-level political awareness: everyone becoming a member of the political classes… Without it there will be no Big Society – though that’s just part of our worries.
Without it there will be no decent consensus as things change so fast and furiously in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable. From the local to the global, everyone’s got to be in on it.
There’s a liberal, non-interventionist predisposition within our new government that doesn’t seem too sure whether or not citizenship education is possibly too close to the state controlling the people.
We’ve got to keep the pressure on to show that all of education is a form of intervention in that it is predetermining what will be important for future citizens.
Politics is not about Westminster and the political classes. It is, as Danny and Reggie would insist, the tools for living together. And when you get into it at ground level, as witnessed by London Citizens who set up that conversation in Rome, it’s a darn site more interesting than those who learnt it through the PPE route.
Let’s hope they get to witness that to feel its potential and it becomes part of their political will for the curriculum.