Arguments. Debate. Discussion.
From a very early age, I was exposed to the ferocity of human opinion and facts about the world around us.
I experienced the anger of British rule in Ireland from my Father, peppered with his liberal views of live and let live, no matter your race, colour or creed. My maternal grandfather would read the daily papers from cover to cover and could in great detail, recite the political flow of Ireland from virtually the day he was born until the day he died. He was born into an era where resistance to the yoke was mandatory and talk of Collin’s, DeValera, the British and Americae, dominated talk around the fireplace. His life and that of his brothers and sisters was one of struggle to put food on the table and to dream of a new life without oppression.
In my final year at junior school, our teacher, Mr McNamara, taught us the rudiments of democracy and explained how parliament works. If there was any deficit in education thereafter, it was its failure to teach British history beyond King Henry VIII.
But that deficit did not dent my understanding of Britain, the Empire and its mistakes. For a start, my family around me ensured that the next generation would not forget; they would be made aware of the world around us. To be Irish is not only about the joy of being Irish, but to understand its pain, sacrifice and passion. It is a passion that I have observed on many occasions but is sadly lacking in modern British society. In the UK, you can see anger, coupled with a fatalism, from the various stakeholders I have encountered in my campaigning work.
As the years have passed by, I have taken those lessons of reading and education further and have researched and discovered a much more complicated and complex world around me, that a rudimentary secondary education failed to deliver.
I was struck by the recent article from Laura McInerney, who suggested that ‘politically literate citizens’ appear to be a problem for Michael Gove MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the lead Minister for Brexit preparations.
In her article, you cannot escape the suggestion from Ms McInerney, that Gove possesses some alleged innocence about the world around him (burner phones & journalism) along with his ‘flagrant disrespect’ for parliamentary conventions.
She describes his torturous route on the issue of Citizenship education, exempting 70% of secondary/academy schools from providing this subject. He apparently considered that the European Union was a political and not a physical entity and scrapped references to the EU from geography.
McInerney suggests that an educated pupil is an empowered pupil with something to say. I can subscribe to that. Despite my secondary school being poor on British history, we were gifted with socially conscious teachers, who brought the world beyond our shores into the classroom. I can remember at 15/16 years of age protesting at school about the Vietnam war. Today, we see pupils demonstrating on matters from the rules of school-dress up to Climate Change.
This positive awakening in Generation Z, has delivered a desire to go it alone and find how the rules of politics are played through the ‘independent’ Citizenship and Politics courses they subscribe to.
Whilst Gove & Co believe that they are the only true believers of democracy and masters of data, their dominance is but an illusion. The new generation is rising and they won’t be playing by the Westminster bubble playbook. How wonderful it will be to witness the young english arising from the doldrums and like me, being engaged in arguments, debates and discussions!