2016 wasn’t great and 2017 isn’t starting too well either. Why? Young people often feel disconnected and dismayed at today’s politics. They don’t feel that politicians work for them or work for values that they hold. Yet despite the challenges ahead of us, as individuals and as a generation it is still possible to make a change. In fact; it is essential. These changes are required so that society works for us. One of the rights we have in our democratic society is that of freedom of speech, and although this should never be mistaken as the freedom to offend or the freedom to discriminate, this is a right we should all hold dear. As “fake” news becomes an ever more powerful medium we should all remember to take some time out of our echo chambers. The ability to consider the good points in the argument of another and not just read but understand their viewpoint is often overlooked.

We need to stand up and fight for what we believe, but fighting with violence and simple crude offense will never cause the change that people desire. Instead the ability to frame your argument with facts, figures and emotion in a way that carefully unpicks the opposing argument in a respectful manner is much more powerful. The view of MPs we receive from the media is not always entirely accurate, from the braying and disobedient masses assembled at PMQs (the weekly questions to the PM) to the crude form of “debate” displayed on Question Time we don’t get the full picture. A few minutes spent watching BBC Parliament will avail you of that idea, MPs spend most of their time in the chamber debating motions such as the thrillingly named “National Citizen Service Bill”. These laws matter to your lives and well behaved debate is a way of exploring the consequences of the motion and its benefits and flaws.

The debating you can take part in in the Sixth Form will not change the world but it is a good start. It allows you to form a greater understanding of the current issues facing the UK today such as the NHS crisis and EU finance and will give you a way to frame your argument. It improves analytical skills and will allow you to get involving in politics respectfully rather than as a glorified playground insult hurling contest. Whatever your views, they should be heard and young people should be confident that whether through contacting their MP, to promoting issues that matter to them, eventually they will be heard. Debating is being able to say and agree with Evelyn Beatrice Hall: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

-Henry Wright, year 13.

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