As someone who has been involved in student campaigning since the age of probably around 6-7, when I was first made part of the student council in primary school, it is safe to say I have always wanted to be represented and always wanted to represent others of my specifically younger, age. However, I cannot help but feel in these modern times young people’s voices are being miss-represented, or being missed out entirely. With every new law, every new election in many nation, the voice of young people is forgotten until a viral video shows a 9-year-old challenging a new leader or an 18-year-old appearing on Question Time. For me, this is no longer good enough.
No one is effected more by ANY change more than young people. Any law or change occurring today could affect them in ways they do not even understand, and in a lot of cases ways the government or bodies behind the change severely forget about that. It is made even worse when the biggest topics young people care about are simply ignored, as the only voices pushing these issues or topics in to the mainstream are young people themselves. This is topics from equal pay, which means a lot to new graduates, to climate change for young scientists as well as employment prospects and the young housing crisis. These opinions and voices seem to be ignored by all except extracts on Radio 1 and social media. They don’t make newspapers, they don’t make 6 o’clock news, and they do not make it to chambers of government. To be young and to put forward your voice for change seems to either go viral or go ignored. Those viral stories can create incredible applause and emotion, but through the very nature of being viral, disappear quickly.
I remember when I first started university a major change occurred to A-Levels, with quotes at the time from the Education Secretary stating that exams were easy and coursework didn’t test students enough. I found this faintly disgusting and hateful to say when I knew how hard people such as myself had worked over years to achieve A-Levels which would allow us to get in to university. Getting in to a university that had now tripled in cost and thus tripled my future debt. At this time I decided to write to the, at the time, Secretary for Education, Michael Gove. I was infuriated, how could these changes be happening? I asked whether any young people were spoken to during this time of hateful quotes and infuriating rule and law changes to education being put in place. I received a letter stating that of course young people were spoken to, with a panel of 20+ students debating certain topics. But why was this not opened to further discussion, for a further period of time including more voices and shown on a national scale as more ‘adult’ arguments are? This is where we need to look at not only increasing student representation at university, in schools, but most of all nationally and in government, whilst also looking at new ways at cracking this issue. Young people act, talk, connect, and overall live very differently to any generation before, it is the generation gap. Values of politeness and patience are always, and should always be taught, but this does not mean other values should not be changeable.
Every new generation has different values. No longer do young kids see diversity as an issue but as opportunity, no longer is technology the new frontier but the next lesson, no longer is going to university only for rich kids, yet through every generation representation has changed little. While universities have increased university budgets for representation and on many campus’ this does mainly improve, there are issues where the NUS still does not represent all and has constant battles with true representation and democracy, while students share their voice more and more via marches and campaigns, but governments seem to close their eyes and ears ever more. We now need to look at how we can take this initiative of young people and use it to make great change, via representation. Governments and government bodies need to talk directly with young people. Across the country, across the education level and across institutions. When young voices are properly heard, young change can happen. The earlier we start to make change, individually or as a whole, and showing young people the value we place on them and their voices, the more benefits we all get from it in the future. Representation of young voices has never gone far enough and now is our time to make our voices heard thoroughly and truly.