The Anatomy Of Youth: Effective Citizens

Being a member of v20 and working for the youth empowerment charity Envision I see and meet many young people that are active and effective citizens; young people that are volunteering, campaigning, starting their own projects and making a positive difference to issues they care about.

Chapter 7 of the Anatomy Of Youth report explores young people and the trends and challenges around being an effective citizen. Today there are many more ways to make a difference as a citizen. Young people have many avenues to express their opinions and campaign online, young people are pursuing careers in social and ethical areas and many express their views on things such as fair labour through what they buy. The chapter also highlights the lack of connection that exists between young people and political culture. Young people feel disillusioned with politics and politicians. The report explains that young people’s apathy towards politics is now greater now than at any point in history.

For me the chapter throws up two main concerns. Firstly, whilst some young people are ‘hyper engaged’ as effective citizens there are others that are completely disconnected from both wider arenas of active citizenship and traditional forms of political expression. We need to make sure that efforts are made to engage everyone as effective citizens. Secondly, whilst it’s positive that there are an increasing number of ways to be an effective citizen, these need to be accompanied by traditional political citizenship. As Stuart White points out democracy provides us with the opportunity to change our society – if the next generation becomes disengaged from it there is a risk that it will only represent a narrow section of society. We need to recognise the power of government, use our votes and hold politicians to account.

To enable young people to be the most effective citizens they can we need to be inclusive in our efforts to continue to encourage and expand the many ways that people can be active citizens. This needs to be accompanied by traditional political citizenship. I think we need better citizenship education in schools and, as the report highlights, there needs to be a transfer of political capital to young people so they can become more involved with and excited about politics.

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First posted on 18th May 2010
By Emma v20

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