I can already feel the younger fingertips that have casually flicked through this edition of Gallery change gear and hurriedly brush this page aside. Such is the dire state of political engagement with young people today, for which I can vouch with my teenage years being void of any political discussion or education, we knowingly deflect anything to do with how our lives are governed and destinies determined.
Wait – no education?! We’ll get to that.
But first, as you have valiantly resisted the societal impulse to ignore anything political, I will reward you with an anecdote about my first Personal, Social and Health Education “PSHE” lesson.
I remember it like it was yesterday: a mysterious overturned poster occupied a patch of carpet in the center of a circle of chairs – remember circle time? – sat upon by a class of excitable year 6 students about to have their minds blown. (I’m aware this is a political article and I urge you to bear with me.)
We were unprepared by our teacher’s introduction to the subject; that these weekly hour-long sessions were to teach us important lessons about growing up, our personal health and social responsibilities.
I remember this first lesson so vividly because after the laminated poster was flipped, revealing the anatomical diagram on the other side, the class erupted in to unending fits of raucous laughter. I laughed so hard and cried so hysterically that I can still picture the expression of genuine concern my teacher wore when looking at me; I can even picture the illustration of the dangly extremity that caused it. (I said bear with me…)
Subject matter and behaviour in PSHE at secondary school differed. Humour dared not rear its red face when discussing relationships and sex, which we continued to do as a class wrapped around graphic diagrams week in week out.
So, if the educative powers that be thought me mature enough to be taught about and to discuss the birds and the bees, why was the entirety of my political education contained within just one of these sessions?
The schools in which you are taught English to speak and write; Science to test and understand the world around us; Home Economics to eat and live; Mathematics to… memorise quadratic formulae (?); could surely stretch to educating students as to what will decide the quality, direction and lawfulness of the lives they are to lead?
While we are at it, why could I not name a UK political party until past my teens; why can I still not name more than three deputies; why do my colleagues know more about the political intricacies of FIFA’s government than their own and how did we get to the stage where the latest political developments in Game of Thrones are more worthy of conversation than the Conservative’s reelection on a manifesto pledge to abolish the Human Rights Act?
It’s not just a cheap journalistic remark to say there are no easy answers to these questions. The cynic in me suspects the language used by those in power is purposefully opaque – honestly, who under the age of 21 knew what austerity meant before it saturated the political discourse? – and the now-wavering optimist that makes up the rest of me thinks we islanders just aren’t that bothered.
I made these points to a fellow Guernseyman over an overpriced beer or seven. He declared himself as having ‘no interest in politics whatsoever’ but was particularly riled over the proposed implementation of a paid parking system locally. Recklessly emboldened by the Breda, I suggested that he had no right to complain about political decisions if he chose not to engage himself politically and at least try to make a difference.
After a cyclical and burpy quarrel my compatriot ceded the point, but not without making one of his own: however would he go about making this ‘difference’?
Before I disclose the sole suggestion I mustered at the time, I have a couple of fresher ones that I have recently resolved to follow:
Read about politics. You’ve already started! Pay attention to the parts of the Guernsey Press dealing with what effects your life before treating yourself to the lighter stories like the Ace Ventura-esque, pigeon-whispering ‘Bird Man.’
Talk about politics. Get talking about local politics with your friends, family, colleagues and even that not-so-nice-smelling guy on the bus. Sometimes it’s only when things are discussed aloud that the ridiculous is discerned (e.g. planning to shut a school with no structural issues and an excellent record of performance against the advice of teachers, parents and students alike).
Contribute politically. “Woah there!” I hear you shout, “How on earth am I supposed to do that?!” Speak to your deputy, write to the press and use Facebook and Twitter for good instead of evil*.
*For ‘evil,’ read: pictures of your hateful pets, links to weepy videos and maps of how far you ran and I didn’t run whilst eating macaroons and cheesecake this evening (MORNING – there, I said it).
I was by no means equipped to advise my beer-buddy at the time; I was stumped!
“Well,” I started, “maybe you could call your deputy?”
His reply was instant.
“I don’t know his name and I don’t like him.” I haven’t laughed so hard since PSHE.