With Brexit causing controversy and recent leadership concerns within the Conservative Party some may question the legitimacy of British politics. And none more so than the youth. As a fierce debate rages online over the legality and validity of voting at age 16, serious calls are being made to consider lowering the age of voting. And with so many discontented with politics, perhaps its time to ask why.
And propose a solution.
Lost in Translation
British politics is an archaic institution. During a recent sit in at a Health Select Committee meeting, it was evident that protocol and hierarchy are clear disruptions to positive change. Innovative ideas put forward to counter perceived social injustice are met with a bulwark of legislative barriers, seemingly trotted out ad hoc without due consideration of the issues.
Quite frankly, I felt that those asking for change were being ignored.
This is how politics works, slowly, abrasively and ultimately without clarity. The average voter, although given access to such proceedings, is forgivably lost in such hubris. And this is not an insult to a voters intelligence, more an observation of how characteristically impenetrable politics is. Even after a year of studying political discourse, including talking to MP’s, it is clear that what is said and what is heard differs greatly.
And what’s worse, can you really trust what you read? The news is fiercely divided. The stories are contrived, often lacking in substance, high in speculation and without merit. Many are taken back, but the damage is done. It can be hard to make informed decisions when the very information is not trustworthy.
So with a youth poised to make a difference, how can we empower them to make a real difference in the face of such ambiguity? And if not the youth, the rest of us?
Critical Thinking is the Key
In a recent tweet I considered the solution to the problem of voter engagement.
The reason I believe that the youth dont vote isn't laziness or poor education, but disinterest and distrust in a political system that predates them. And there is nothing wrong with that. If a system is our dated, and represented by those with outdated views, it will be ignored.
— Dr Benjamin Janaway (@drjanaway) March 2, 2018
And the reasons are indeed clear. Dissonance, hopelessness and lack of access. The former can only be helped by interest and engagement, and the solution for that may be critical thinking, and an earlier education in politics and philosophy.
The solution, in my view, would be an earlier introduction of politics, philosophy and critical thinking. It would empower the bold and educate the rest. Politics should not be the refuge of old money and Eton.
— Dr Benjamin Janaway (@drjanaway) March 2, 2018
Critical thinking itself is the process of using a logical system to question the validity of a claim or nature of a situation. It is used within Science to refute a study, and within journalistic circles to ascertain truth within a story. The same can be said of politics. By teaching younger people to engage with such a system, they can begin to really question the true nature of how political decisions will affect their future.
And with interest comes engagement
But critical thinking is not just for the young, but can be used by anyone. But by teaching it in schools, or taking the choice to educate yourself, we can empower each other.
So what are the next steps? I propose a small set of questions to be used with any new article, political statement, tweet or report you may read. I will call them ‘The Big 5’
The Big 5
In Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, he advises that to recognise the influence of ‘The Pain Body’ (a concept designed to explain a drive to negativity,) you must ask yourself a simple question.
Do you feel uncomfortable? If so, the pain body has taken over.
The pain body itself is synergistic with emotional thinking, and it is emotional thinking that clouds out judgement. So with this in mind, I propose 5 questions for any child to ask when reading an article or listening to politics. This list includes questions derived from scientific principles, but is tailored to a wider audience.
If an article makes you uncomfortable, you may be being manipulated
By using these five questions, and teaching them to your children or young adult, hopefully we can help engage people in more informed voting.
1.) Does this information make you feel uncomfortable? If yes, consider whether you are being manipulated into making a decision you may not truly believe.
2) Who is saying or writing the statement? If this person has previously misled you, or has strong political views, consider that their statement may be misleading or lacking in clarity.
3) Does the information make sense? Does the headline really represent what is being said? Putting emotive words in headlines is an easy way to spice up a story, making it less about a boring policy and more about a dramatic end point. If this is the case, then you may be being manipulated again.
4) Is there a large amount of speculation? If the information lacks substance, and makes predictions without evidence, then it is likely to be unfounded and trying to cause fear.
5) Is there a counterargument? If the information does not present an alternative point of view, consider why? Does the writer know all the information? What is being hidden?
How can you help?
- Practice critical thinking by using the five questions above
- Discuss issues with friends and family
- Take turns to debate a point