Today I was at the Battle of Ideas – on a panel debating ‘From the classroom to the voting booth: will youth engagement save democracy?’ With me on the panel were Tony Breslin (CEO of the Citizenship Foundation) and Kevin Rooney (Head of Social Science at Queens’ School, Bushey).
Well – it seemed to be a row between purist subject teaching versus citizenship lessons. Those in favour of the purist approach argued that citizenship lessons were propaganda for the Labour Party – whilst the case for them is that we can’t expect people to pick up an understanding of citizenship and democracy issues just like that – it needs to be taught.
And of course – everyone slagged off politicians – which although I myself in my opening remarks said we had a lot to answer for etc etc etc – really the sort of comments led me to believe that the audience was perhaps in need of citizenship lessons! I can only assume now that the media is such a dominant source of where opinions are formed that the political classes are damned!
But the central battle of ideas was between the positions around teaching that I have outlined. Personally – I don’t believe they are mutually exclusive and if done well citizenship is a good thing to know about. Perhaps that was the issue – judging from comments it would seem that it is often appallingly taught by any member of staff who volunteers – not trained and not necessarily good at it.
It was a good knockabout – but the real problem about the headline topic of engaging youth etc was that the people who came to the Battle of Ideas were already engaged – and at a very university type, academic level. Still – it’s good to have a battle of ideas – but propagating that into the more earthy world of everydayness – now that’s an issue!