Embrace politics and get empowered


Radiocentre CEO Siobhan Kenny wrote for Education Today

“I am a key cog in a wheel.”

“Everything I touch turns to sold.”

“I think outside the box. If I was an apple pie, the apples inside me would be oranges”

Just a few choice quotes from hopefuls on Alan Sugar’s ‘The Apprentice’ over the past few years. Not exactly Steve Jobs, are they?

But while these reality stars are rightly mocked for their arrogance and general lack of a grip on reality, the truth is that business and working life are (for the most part) sadly misrepresented in pop culture.

In Apprentice-land, blowhards, bullies and self-promoters seem to rise to the top while more traditional values like humbleness, respect, hard work and showing up on time have slid down the agenda.

‘Kids today’ have been labelled narcissistic, entitled and lazy by swathes of grumpy op-ed writers across the media (in fact, there’s a running twitter thread keeping track of all the articles written about how Millennials – shorthand for young people – have allegedly ruined everything), but in reality kids today are superstars. They are immensely resourceful, enterprising and ambitious, with a wealth of creative talent and the drive to make things happen.

However, when I speak to schoolchildren through the Speakers 4 Schools program, it comes up again and again: they still feel disengaged from current affairs and politics, and pay little attention to topical issues such as Brexit, despite these things having huge repercussions in store for their futures.

And who can really blame them, when their famous business role models seem only to care about themselves?

I believe that young people taking an interest politics is crucial for everyone, not just kids (for example, it’s worth wondering whether the Brexit vote might have swung in the other direction had more young people showed up to vote). But when it comes to getting their first job, being aware of politics and current affairs will be a big hint to future employers that this candidate has their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the world around them.

This is why politics shouldn’t just be seen as a distant, vague university degree someone might study once they come of age: it needs to play a larger role in the curriculum, and education professionals shouldn’t shy away from discussing the topic out of fear of influencing their classrooms – after all, if religion is compulsory to learn about, why not politics too?

Ultimately, children who take an interest in the decisions that shape their lives today will become self-reliant, curious young people with a deeper understanding of the factors affecting culture, business and society. What’s more, these qualities are exactly what employers look for in a candidate – despite what Lord Sugar and his cohorts would have you believe.

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