“Children should be seen and not heard.”
Too many times we hear this phrase, in a whole manner of contexts. From what I understand, it’s a phrase that comes from past generations when children didn’t really have much of a place and let adults get on with their conversations. But it’s one that I think sums up a lot of people’s attitudes towards young people getting involved in politics.
It’s also one that I wholly disagree with, and I think it’s one in this context, at the very least, that everyone should disagree with. This year proves this more than ever.
Back in June, the UK voted to leave the European Union. We’re seeing certain effects of ‘Brexit’ already, and a pretty uncertain future lies ahead for everyone in the UK, but young people are almost definitely going to bear the brunt of Brexit the most.
One issue that I’m really concerned about when it comes to Brexit in particular is the Erasmus programme, an initiative by the European Union that allows students of participating higher institutions to study or do an internship for a minimum of two or three months in another European country. It concerns me because the Erasmus programme is something that’s well respected and many students here in the UK use the programme, to broaden horizons and aid our own studies and experiences. Yes, studying abroad is possible without the programme, but I’d argue that it’s going to be more difficult.
And it’s also not particularly fair too. This Guardian article reports that findings by the LSE showed that 64% of registered 18-24 year olds went out to vote. The same report also says that it’s thought 70% of young people who did vote voted to remain.
Your opinions on Brexit and mine aside, it’s not fair that young people aren’t allowed a voice to speak up on the issues that are going to affect them, though Brexit, which 1.6 million 16 and 17 year old citizens were denied the chance to vote on, is just one example.
The argument that, somehow, young people are too immature to be involved in politics is simply invalid too. Many be unaware of the British Youth Council, a fantastic organisation that runs initiatives like the UK Youth Parliament (a body of elected young people from across the UK), the NHS England Youth Forum (allowing young people a say in how the NHS is run in England) and the Youth Select Committee at Parliament to name a few.
620 Youth Councils are active across the UK. 300 Members of Youth Parliament are in post. In the past two years, according to the British Youth Council, over 1 million young people have voted for MYPs. It seems absurd to suggest young people aren’t interested. In fact, I’d argue that young people know what they’re talking about and take a real interest in politics and current affairs. So why shouldn’t they be involved?
Think about it. The decisions that are taken on a daily basis are always going to have an effect on young people’s lives for many years to come. The EU Referendum. The third runway at Heathrow. All of these are decisions that are going to affect young people.
So think about it this way; if they’ll affect you, and you get a say, then if the same issue affects young people, why shouldn’t they have a say too?