Two years ago, I made the decision to study politics. I have to be honest, the subject wasn't my first choice. It was one of those "nothing else appeals to me but hey, as a last resort I'll take this" decisions.
What I chose as a last resort is now my first choice -- the subject I'm studying at college and the area I want to pursue as a career.
Politics affects everybody, no matter your age or background -- even if it might not seem that way initially. Politicians have a duty to the people. Although teenagers aren't eligible to vote, your local member of parliament or senator was given their position by virtue of your parents vote and the support of members of the community.
I passionately believe that politics are a two-way street. In order for politicians to help us, we have to be involved in some way in political affairs; you have to care about society beyond just yourself and your neighborhood. How is it right for citizens to just thrust a list of grievances at politicians without making the effort to work out a solution together?
I'm guessing this is the part where age, or lack of it, enters the picture. In my first politics lesson, it would be fair to say that 90 percent of us knew nothing (and believe me, I mean nothing) about politics in the U.K., let alone in America. Common questions included "what is a constitution?" and "what is a MP?" Yes, really. This is the problem: How can teenagers become involved in politics if we are not taught about it?
In the U.K., by law schools have to teach a program of personal and social health but there are no statutory guidelines requiring the teaching of the political system. Earlier this year, the U.K. Office for National Statistics revealed that 42 percent of 16-24 year olds stated they have no interest in politics whatsoever. Yet, is this surprising when the majority probably know little about the area, given it is only taught as part of the curriculum when the students themselves choose to take politics as a subject?
In America, the Circle Society discovered that young people who had good quality civic education experiences in high school were more likely to vote, to form political opinions, to know campaign issues, and to know general facts about the U.S. political system. Civic education goes beyond just the U.K. curriculum of sex, drugs etc., all the stereotypical problems with teenagers -- into the relationship between citizen and society.
If politicians want young people to vote, then they have a duty to us to improve political education in schools. However, we also need to play our part, and show that we are not the apathetic youth the media has stereotyped us as being, so, if you want things to change, make it happen. Create an online petition, write to your local parliamentary representative, attend local debates and educate yourself about politics.