First Ever Youth Manifesto

The Greens are breaking ground yet again. They’re the only party willing to take the logical stance needed on the environment (being so committed they even get arrested for it), they’re the only party that injects real democracy into its proceedings, and now they’re the only party that is actually fighting for the young.

This youth manifesto is more than a political gimmick- it shows that the Greens are not just another political party, not just doing what they do for more votes. We’re not in power yet but we’re already trying to change our society for the better, and this youth manifesto is one step towards that. Students and young people are the least represented demographic in British politics, and the very existence of this manifesto, along with the policies in it, are a bold statement of the Greens intention of changing that.

With a blend of what they have already done, and now intend to do, this manifesto highlights that the Greens are the only ones offering a fair and bright future for all. Conservatives talk of things getting better, but ignore the pain and suffering of the most vulnerable. UKIP offer exiting the EU as our panacea, but really will just leave a more divided and isolated world in their wake. As for Labour and Lib Dems, it’s quite difficult to know what they stand for anymore, let alone what the future would look like under their watch. And none of them are fighting for young people like the Greens are.

Take the “Fair Pay Campus” campaign, to ensure university staff are paid a fair wage. This is not just for fairness sake, but also out of a recognition that properly treated and fairly paid staff will also help students get the most out of their degrees. By fighting against the commercialisation of education, investing in more social housing (creating yet more jobs along the way), offering training in key sectors (rather than simply condemning and punishing the unemployed), and a housing policy that is distributed evenly throughout the country, the Greens are offering a holistic set of policies and opportunities that young people simply will not have from other parties.

The Greens alone understand the threats we as a species face and put tackling them at the forefront of their policies. The current political elite may not live long enough for climate change to affect them too badly, but the young people of today will. Only the Greens understand this, have a counter to it, and also see it as a chance to create more jobs and prosperity for us at the same time. Their pledge to invest more in renewables will create more jobs, put us at the forefront of a growing industry, and help reverse the negative effects we’ve had on the planet.

And finally, the Greens youth manifesto offers solutions to one of the biggest problems in British politics at the moment- apathy. This is particularly pronounced for young people, with 18-24 year olds consistently showing the lowest levels of electoral turn-out. By bringing in proportional representation, giving more powers to local councils and thus localising democracy, and giving 16 year olds the right to vote, the Greens are offering solutions to growing discontent amongst the young today with how politics works.

A vote for the Greens is a vote for a healthier world, a more equal society, and a more accountable and democratic government. A vote for the Greens is a vote for a future.

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First Ever Youth Manifesto

The Beauty of the Vote

Today, as millions (hopefully) go out to vote in the European elections, I’d like to offer a new message. Anyone familiar with my writing will be used to me telling you what’s wrong with the world- today I’m going to tell what’s right. Today I’m going to tell you to be for something, rather than against, to reflect on a battle won, rather than prepare for one that must still be fought. And above all, today, I am going to vote.

We are often reminded around election times of those brave men and women who laid their lives down to defend our democracy, who crawled through the mud with bullets flying and artillery cascading down upon them, because they believed in something.  Of the Suffragettes, some of whom were abused and ridiculed and died- because they believed in something. These are important things that should be remembered, for the battle for democracy was a long and hard one- starting in the debating halls of Athens over 2,000 years ago, and still continuing in some parts of the world today

But the marvel that I really wish us all to reflect upon today is evolution. I find it absolutely incredible that something that crawled out of the ooze hundreds of millions of years ago has reached this point. We have evolved from simple primates, whose thoughts were filled with instant gratification, to a species that recognises everyone is equal and that we should all have a say in how we’re governed. How powerful, and beautiful, is that?

The very existence of a democracy is testament to what we as a species can achieve- of the good that there is in us. I’m constantly being told we’re all selfish, in it for ourselves, that we should compete, that self-interest is the way forward. Nowhere is this more true than in politics- there is a huge disjoint with politics and people, so much so that the majority of the people in this country are happy to believe all politicians are selfish liars. But look how far we have come- there is good in us. And there is good in politics- even if it is a little hard to find sometimes.

Having a vote should be a right, but sadly in comparison to other parts of the world and in historical context, it’s a privilege. A vote is a powerful, beautiful, unique thing. Today I’m not going to tell who’s right and who’s wrong. I’m not going to tell you which colour rosette will bring the hope and change we so desperately need. What I am going to tell you is to vote. Get to that polling station and make your voice heard. Make Westminster and Brussels tremble at the power of the people and the sound of your voice. 

Yes, politics is a murky, corrupt water that it isn’t always pleasant to drink out of, But the more of us than can stand the bitter taste now, the more likely it is that we will eventually be able to dilute it, make it pure again. Don’t accept the easy choice of abandoning politics to the elite- it should be for all of us. Have your voice heard.

What happens next, is up to you.

 

The Beauty of the Vote

Only Cooperation, Not Competition, Will Save Us

Cooperation not competition

We have an economic and political system that is geared towards working through competition- survival of the fittest. The “free” market has been heralded as the apex of social evolution- with its driving force (competition) being the most effective way of distributing wealth, resources, of catering for everyone’s needs, and of ensuring “progress”. If we’re all competing against one another without the messy interference of the state then only the best will survive and so we will all receive only the best. Anything holding us back will be improved, or removed.

The problem with this competitive outlook on life is that quite often the things “holding us back”, are people. They have families, friends, jobs, virtues, and potentials. When a company is outcompeted by its competitors, people lose jobs. Families go hungry. Of course, friendly competition in sports or hobbies is great, we have an urge to want to be the best and that’s all good fun. But to take that and apply it as a global economic system is a bit like me taking my thrill of betting on a roulette wheel and using it as the basis for our financial syt- oh wait…

Darwin’s theory of evolution may have given a natural law to the dogma of right wing elites, but the concept of competition had driven our economics and direction long before. Many love to point to the progresses made under capitalism during the 16th/17th/18th centuries- neglecting to mention how the large corporations of today were born out of cooperation with the state. The phrase “socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor” is at times a very apt description of Western progression. But by taking a wider look, our success as a species is unique amongst evolution. The way we “outcompeted” our evolutionary rivals, was by our ability to cooperate.

Many animals show signs of cooperation, of community, of perhaps even rudimentary “societies”, but none more so than human beings. Could we have built the giant cities of London and New York, or launched ourselves into space, or any of the other incredible achievements of our species without cooperating with one another?

We also need to be looking at what we mean today when we say “the best”. Is the most competitive, “the best”, drugs company the one that produces the most beneficial combatants to disease, or is it the one that manages to most aggressively market its products and maximise its profits? And which of the two leads to a brighter future for humanity?

The question also needs to be asked what the psychological effects on the individual and the wider effects on society are of this drive for competition that seems to infect every aspect of our lives. Increasing pressure at schools (the Times termed this a “mental health time-bomb”), meaning we don’t get to learn for the sake of learning- to enjoy knowledge and treasure it. Ever more loops to jump through trying to get a job, a promotion, achieve the best grades… A hostile world where selfish motivation is put first and stamping out competitors is seen as a virtue.

Numerous studies have been conducted by psychologists documenting detrimental effects of competition. Sherif et al (1961) found that competition between groups fosters a culture of hostility and prejudice towards those in the “out-group”. Vaughn (1938) concluded that competition is a result of a process of socialisation- i.e not something that comes naturally to human beings. And perhaps most importantly of all, Deutsch (1949) found that when he had groups working cooperatively or in competition, the ones working in cooperation did far better at their tasks.

Our species faces unprecedented threats, most of them of our own creation. Nuclear holocaust, depleting resources, climate change… competition is not the cure to these but the cause. We will only be able to find solutions to these problems by working together, not by becoming ever-more divided. Competition divides, competition has losers.

After intense competition between the Americans and the Russians, Neil Armstrong eventually landed on the moon, the first human being to ever have done so. The question that has always troubled me, however, was that if the two superpowers had not been in the midst of an ideological war and had actually cooperated- could we have reached the stars?

References

Deutsch, M. (1949). An experimental study of the effects of co-operation and competition upon group process. Human relations.

Sherif, M., Harvey, O., White, B., et al (1961) Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The Robbers Cave experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Vaughn, J., & Diserens, C. M. (1938). The experimental psychology of competition. Journal of Experimental Education.

Only Cooperation, Not Competition, Will Save Us

Not So Great A Recovery

I have to admit, that when watching Mr Osbourne’s budget, at first the raging leftie in me was given pause for thought. I was a little rattled, worrying that perhaps my condemnations had come a little early. I shouldn’t have been so easily fooled by the slick delivery of carefully packaged lies. We have a “recovery” in name only, and a bright future for only a few.

My fears were quietened a little when I debated Michael Ellis, Tory MP for Northampton North, whom had received a special mention in the Budget the day before. He was utterly unable to answer a question aimed at him concerning the tripling of tuition fees. It lifted the veil a little on the slickness of the Tory operation- on their neo-liberal dogma that has promised us so much. If they were wrong on this then were they wrong on the Budget?

This article caught my eye, pointing out that we are not doing as well as other countries, and that our personal debts are set to continue to rise. Then I began to look around a bit more and investigate this so-called “recovery”. For me and you, there isn’t one.

For starters let’s look at precedent. Greece has embarked on a campaign of austerity, and look how well that worked out for them. When the worst recession in history (the 1929 Great Depression) hit, it made many stop and contemplate the unbridled capitalism that had been allowed to flourish in the West. How did Roosevelt, the leader of America, the bastion of capitalism, solve the depression? Increased governmental spending. The Tories scoffed at Labour: “You want to spend your way out of this crisis? Hahaha, how silly.” Well, joke’s on you Osbourne because Roosevelt did it, whilst you’ve presided over one of the slowest recoveries in history, failing on almost every single promise your government made pre-election.

We are seeing signs of a housing bubble once again, overwhelmingly any hint of a “recovery” is being centred in London, and Osbourne has fought tooth and nail any EU proposals to muzzle a ferocious financial sector (the cause of the crisis in the first place.) The recovery figures are not at all impressive once you get past the shine of the Tory PR- we’re still not at the 2007 peak nearly 7 years on, other major economies have been doing far better than us, and yes, wages seem to have finally outstripped inflation, but how long has it taken? Since the Tories came into power, year upon year wages have been below inflation, and now that for once they show a sign of being slightly above, we’re being told the government is doing an excellent job. Don’t be taken in by the manipulated statistics and short memories of this government.

They promised to make work pay. They’ve only just managed to get peoples wages to stop falling in real terms- they’ve a long way to go to make up for the losses the majority have felt under them.

They promised to get rid of the deficit in one term, now they’re telling us they need another- a spectacular fail. Yet we’re being told that they’re doing a great job because of the “progress” they’ve made.

They promised us a future, but look at what we have. A crippling food poverty crisis, with outrageous numbers having to use foodbanks in the one of the largest economies of the world. Disabled people turning to dangerous payday loan companies because the state is no longer providing for them. Self-employed figures rising, with many of these on poor pay, not to mention zero hour contracts (the inconvenient truth behind the “impressive” employment figures). And numerous fears from respected sources that the poorest in this country are slipping into poverty:

 

Even the PM seems to be floundering a little, falling back on of all things religion to try and justify his government’s policies.

If this is the cost of our supposed “recovery”, then I’d rather go back and take my chances with the disease. This government seem to know the cost of everything, and the value of nothing. I don’t want to live in a society that demonises those that are struggling, that leaves the vulnerable out to dry, and that places profit over people.

This is a recovery only in name. The elite may be able to get back to business as usual, but the deep flaws in our economic and political system are still there, meaning we will repeat the whole cycle again before too long. And we have added injustices harming those at the bottom now, meaning for those that could really do with “recovering”, things have actually just been made worse.

Do not believe the Tory dogma and lies. Challenge, fight, and endure.

Not So Great A Recovery

Educating About Education

With the possible exception of the NHS, education is probably the most kicked political football in British history. We’re always being told that kids need more of this and less of that- always changing depending on which party is in power- so much so that teachers are left struggling to keep up, floundering in the tides of educational reform. To dismiss all this and say leave it alone is at best simplistic, and at worst damaging to students. Instead, let’s take a measured approach to the debate, by looking at what education really is, and assessing how we can get there, bypassing ideologies along the way. But let’s start at a look at how the current government is doing- we need not take the medication for an ailment we don’t have.

The current state of education

When we have teacher PPA time being cut, academic staff bearing increasing workloads whilst suffering a 13% real terms paycut, and we have 4 of the biggest teaching unions all pass (with an overwhelming majority) a vote of no confidence in Mr Gove- then we have a system that clearly doesn’t work for staff.

When we see the tripling of tuition fees, a system that experts believe has led us to be sitting on a “mental health time bomb”, the cutting of financial support for 16-19 year olds, and soaring youth unemployment- we clearly have a system that isn’t working for students.

When we see Vice Chancellors pay soaring whilst their staff’s is falling, universities investing in flashy campus’ and big billboards rather than course content, and schools are more and more being placed in the hands of unaccountable private companies- we have a system that very much works for the business elite and the dogmatic Tory.

So maybe a medicine of sorts is required.

What is education supposed to be?

I stumbled across an interesting definition on Wikipedia, that despite the websites reputation, I think we’ll run with, it rings true to me (if you dislike this definition please comment below).

Any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational. “

That rules out most of my GCSE’s then.

This definition really cuts to the heart of what is wrong with our educational system at present- the constant need for examination. It is, of course, a symptom of an economic system that only leaves space for efficiency, things with utility. Gone in our schools is the time for debate, for inquiry, for passion– we’re too busy ticking off the syllabus checklist. I think this is why I enjoy university so much more than I did GCSE’s and A levels. I have the time now to explore what I want to explore, where lecturers can talk to a room full of interested students, and while exams and assignments are still important, they’re not the main objective. Learning is the centre of what happens in my lecture theatre, present in a way it never truly was in my school classroom. Challenging the way you think is so much more important than teaching you the lyrics to the national anthem.

Another cause of this problem is that I think rather too much is expected of schools now- we’ve lost perspective and now treat primary schools as a panacea for societies’ woes. From solving obesity to cheap child care solutions, schools fulfil a lot of roles in modern society! No wonder we get so angry when teaching staff strike. We need to remember that learning should be at the heart of the system, and any reform proposed should first face the question- “will anyone learn more because of this?” “Will this encourage students to explore new ways of thinking and acting?”

So what needs to happen?

We need to start supporting the staff in schools and universities. If the moral argument of “it’s not fair to them” fails to get you, then consider that when they’re being treated poorly, it’s going to affect the quality of education students get.  Instead of complaining about the selfishness of a teachers strike or a marking boycott, let’s try and understand what it is they’re fighting for. If it’s in the best interests of education in this country (as I believe it is) then surely we should be rallying behind them and showing solidarity in their fight for a fair and prosperous educational system? These are the front line experts whose opinions we need to start respecting more.

We need to fight the privatising of education with every fibre of our being, to stand against the running of schools and universities like businesses. Business thrives off competition- that’s how a market works. The problem with competition, however, is that there are winners, and there are losers. What would that look like for an educational system (or shall we say market)? It would mean some not getting as good a quality education as others. It would mean corporate profits “earned” off the back of an elitist and divisionary system. For me, that is simply unacceptable. School should be a place for us to begin to define ourselves, to explore the world in a safe and nurturing place, a place for all to have that equal start in life, the best chance we can have. An increasingly privatised system erodes those most fundamental of goals.

We have to ease up on exams. Yes, we need to be able to see how students are progressing and we need a way of assessing if schools are doing well, but we’ve become too obsessed with this. It used to be a way of ensuring that pupils were doing well, now it almost seems like the entire point of school- to pass exams. Perhaps if we created a culture where learning for the sake of learning was the aim, where pupils and teachers alike were given more time to explore their subjects in more depth, and there was a looser National Curriculum in place that allowed more freedom, then we might find that children actually enjoy going to school. Who knows, maybe when we do get round to testing them we might find that they score better, now they don’t have the stress of an overbearing exam schedule, and have been able to inject some passion and enthusiasm into their studies.

If all we do is “teach to the test” for all pupils, then it what way does that encourage new ways of thinking and acting? In what way does it encourage us to develop into unique and gifted individuals, ready to embark on meaningful and satisfying lives? If we’re all learning exactly the same things to pass the exact same test, then we just create armies of fact regurgitating machines. That pretty sums up my experience of A levels anyway.

Let’s foster a renewed sense of wonder in our schools and universities, encouraging imagination and learning for the sake of learning. There’s something very beautiful about learning something that will not help you with your career prospects in any way, of simply allowing your mind to explore, limited only by your own curiosity. Let’s listen and respect and work with the professionals, rather than allowing ourselves to be turned against them. Let’s challenge the move to making schools and universities factories for pumping out efficient, unthinking workers- let’s educate about education. 

Educating About Education