Can Politics Be Taught In The Classroom?

Across the political spectrum you will find broad consensus that our children are the future. They are the ones, after all, who will inherit whatever mess we make of things – the social, economic and broader environmental climate will ultimately be their problem. Despite this acknowledgement across the board, however, there’s more disagreement about whether or not we should be introducing our kids to politics from a younger age. The argument about whether contemporary political questions should be raised in the classroom rages on, with strong opinions held on both sides.

If you’re concerned about getting kids into politics, there’s good reason to be worried. In 2016 voter turnout was at its lowest since the mid-90s with just 55% of voting age citizens casting a ballot. As for millennials, they were slightly less likely to vote than your average citizen, with one in every two 18-24 choosing to stay at home.

Democrats will know that this demographic is likely to lean to the left, with young voters choosing 2 to 1 to back Clinton over Trump in 2016. However, Republicans are likely concerned about an alienated young electorate as low turnout reduces the legitimacy of any candidate’s victory. What should be clear to those on either side of the aisle is that there is a vast untapped electorate in the youth vote, and tapping into this potential could be the political equivalent of striking oil.

For most people, their political education in their school years ran about as far as FDR. Should we be doing more to introduce kids to politics, and is introducing politics into the classroom the right way to go?

The main concern around bringing contemporary politics into the classroom is the risk this brings of partisanship. Teachers have a duty to be objective and teach their students without bias, but is this possible when the subject is the contemporary political debate? Given the pressures that teachers may feel from their superiors, and ultimately given that they are all government employees, would the teaching be skewed in favour of the incumbent political party?

The picture of a generation of children being indoctrinated by their teachers is most certainly concerning. But when you examine how most young people receive their political education in the current state of affairs, it becomes slightly less alarming. Research has shown that voting age children often vote alongside their parents’ political allegiances, revealing that a homogenous political education has already been undertaken in the home. 

Further, millennials are coming to garner most of their news from sources on social media, an unreliable source of information at the best of times. Adding the classroom to the traditional platform of the dinner table and increasing use of social media is likely to improve the balance of information, rather than narrowing it further with political agendas spread by teachers.

Teachers groups have been hard at work crafting contemporary politics and civics courses that are capable of covering all sides of political arguments and controversies. One tip for teachers is to ensure that discussions are led by the children themselves by presenting material in a questioning way. By asking participants in these studies the simple question of “what do you think?”, teachers are able to avoid projecting their own biases and encourage children to think critically about contemporary political questions.

Some teachers even believe that they have a duty to introduce the children they teach to political and civic questions. Part of the purpose of an education is to set children up in good stead for the future and encountering political questions is inevitable as children become of voting age. And feedback from pupils who have participated in exploratory attempts to bring politics into the classroom has been overwhelmingly positive, with children as young as 13 saying that their studies have empowered them to vote when they become of age.

Bringing politics into the classroom is always going to be a thorny issue and anyone across the political spectrum may begin by being skeptical about the implicit biases that teachers could bring to a political education. Nevertheless, by focusing less on a political agenda and encouraging pupils to think for themselves, bringing a civic and political education to younger children seems to be possible, and could have powerful results on voter turnout and the political sophistication of the younger electorate. This in turn could give us a politically minded generation, one that’s ready to take on the challenges of future decades.

Ashley Halsey is a professional writer at and As a political campaigner and mother of two children, she enjoys the challenge of presenting politics to a young audience. In her spare time she attends business training courses at


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