As soon as I won the Sabbatical elections last March, it seemed that in some people’s eyes my career path was already mapped out.
Most successful politicians were once in charge of their students’ union, and there are those who seem to think my new job means I’m now destined to become the first Welsh Prime Minister in just over a century. All of which has led me to ask the question, How long did it take me to gain a credible understanding of politics? How long does it take anyone for that matter?
The teaching of politics is pretty much non-existent in the National Curriculum from key stage one to four. And while politics is overlooked, the value of subjects such as Art, Maths, Sexual Education and Religious Education are rarely questioned in a public arena. Now, I’m not underestimating the importance of any of the subjects currently on the curriculum, but surely a basic understanding of how this country is governed should be critical to those coming through a secondary school education?
Many will not have the chance to study politics until A-Level and end their political studies after this two-year course, and for those who leave school at 16, politics may never feature in their education. I’m not suggesting that spoon-fed British politics is the way forward; in fact there is an argument that it would be near impossible to teach basic politics from a completely neutral perspective at school level. But, if students can graduate from a Russell Group University without truly understanding the political system of their own country, there is clearly a need for change. While teaching party specific politics probably wouldn’t be appropriate, knowing the difference between the Commons and Lords, the left and right, the make-up of parliament and how your vote works, are all things that would not be difficult to put into the school curriculum.
At SUSU, if you think something is wrong, we will always strive to correct it, if it’s in the best interest of students. In theory, Government is exactly the same. David Cameron is in his job to make sure Britain is a safe and financially thriving place to live and it’s up to people like us to make sure that that remains the case, and to stand up if it isn’t. With the results of the Browne Review due imminently, and the potential impact that will have on students, you could begin now by getting in touch with your local MP.
If there is something you don’t quite understand, get talking to other students; no one is born an expert in politics but the Union is an amazing place to learn. Like me, you may have no intention of becoming Prime Minister, but that doesn’t mean that knowing what’s happening and how you can influence it isn’t important.