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8 - Active learning of marginalised young people

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2024

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Summary

Introduction

Throughout the 21st century, academics and politicians in the UK and Europe (Kitanova, 2020) have expressed concern about a lack of youth engagement in electoral politics. There has been some contention about whether the underlying issue is a deficit in young people or a narrow understanding of what counts as politics (Henn and Foard, 2014; O’Toole, 2015). From both perspectives, there is room to promote political participation among young people for the benefit of a healthier democracy, though the methods have been contested. Since 2002, citizenship education in schools has been established as a primary vehicle (QCA, 1998), the objective being to ‘instil in students values which make it likely they will want to engage in British democracy’ (Kisby and Sloam, 2014, p 53).

Following the introduction of citizenship studies, the debate moved on to its effectiveness (Tonge et al, 2012; Pontes et al, 2017). Despite efforts to shift thinking away from a deficit in young people and in a lack of trust in formal politics or limited opportunities to participate (Henn and Foard, 2014), the argument that formal political education in schools is necessary persists (Mycock and Tonge, 2014). According to Matteo Bergamini (2014), for example, ‘the introduction of a Politics GCSE for everyone would give young people the information they need and require to become active citizens of the future’.

The starting point for this chapter is an understanding that not only is the meaning of active citizenship contested, but ‘minoritised’ or ‘marginalised’ young people may experience additional barriers to meaningful political participation. This has been evident in relation to adult Black and minority ethnic political participation (Saggar, 1998; Shukra, 1998). Attempts to increase the political participation of ethnic minorities in Britain began in the 1970s (Anwar, 1986; Fitzgerald, 1987) and reached a peak in the 1980s with the election of four ‘Black’ MPs (Shukra, 1990; Layton-Henry, 1992). Since the 1990s, ethnic minority representation in political parties, policy making, community organisations, campaigns and unions has grown (Solomos and Back, 1995; Saggar, 1998).

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Who's Afraid of Political Education?
The Challenge to Teach Civic Competence and Democratic Participation
, pp. 112 - 126
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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