The other morning I told my top set RS class that I was feeling somewhat ‘discombobulated’. They, of course, fell about laughing, but as the laughter settled, began to chat about the word, why I was feeling somewhat confused and discombobulated and the state of the UK right now…once again the topic came to Brexit and then to voting. We had a long discussion at the start of the session about voting, why we should vote, how to vote and to some extent for whom. They began to appreciate the word I had used and some of their own thoughts and concerns for the future of their country and world began to materialise. It is one of the joys of teaching a subject such as RS and philosophy, that opening statements can actually go on and evolve into highly evocative debates or conversations. The opportunity I have as an educator to bring in such important topics such as the right to vote, the importance of reading manifestos, the luxury of being a voter in the UK (even though it might not seem it sometimes!), the links to our wider society and world are endless even if you might be sitting there thinking ‘how on earth does this link to religion?’. Well, religious studies/education is about teaching about how communities of people believe right? When broken down, that is what religion is. A set of specific beliefs centred around one thing/figure/book that a significant amount of people believe in, so much so that they are prepared to live their lives in a certain way in order to follow the teachings of the leaders of the religion. That is not meant to be a derogatory or an inflammatory statement, and whatever your feelings on religions may be, it’s just the plain truth. It can therefore create communities, cultures, countries that all believe/live the same way. Thus discussing how/why countries and cultures elect those who lead them from the top is actually quite an important learning point for looking at how we fit in to the world as a whole, about what tolerance is, about what racism and religious hatred is, about what bigotry and misogyny is. Learning to understand the world, make good choices and be a good citizen is the most important thing I hope that my students take away with them when they leave school.
One of the things we talked about was when we make a choice, it is always (as is human nature) going to be centred in what is the best for us and our families. For my students, that might be education or the future of one or more of their family members’ jobs, possibly health care or the environment, either way they are likely to be swayed by the things that they can relate to the most. Not many of them will be thinking about their jobs and futures as yet, still sounding quite familiar to how people may look at choosing their religion, spirituality, agnosticism or atheism. It is about our environment and those that are within it (This reminds me about Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development!!).
Of course, you will probably argue (and rightly so) that with our election looming, the future of our relationship with Europe in the balance, that it is hard, maybe impossible to make a good choice. The manifestos are full of promises and platitudes perhaps, none of them (certainly in my case) ticks all my boxes, (there are several that tick none!), so therefore how can you make a good choice? Well you already have! By taking an interest in the country and reading these manifestos (or the shortened versions), by registering to vote and then actually going out on December 12th to vote, you are making a good choice. What you actually put in that box is not necessarily the most important thing, really! I am fairly sure that in my constituency, what I put in my box will not change the seat, however, I will be making my voice heard and be counted. I will be able to have an opinion. I will be able to say ‘I chose that’ or ‘I didn’t choose for that’. By making our voting turnout 100% an even more important message is being sent to parliament and that is that we all count and want to be heard!
So I think for me, it is going to be about making a good enough choice. It’s not about making a ‘right’ choice (as in correct, not of the Tory persuasion!). There is not going to be any right (again, stay with me!!)choice. I know that I cannot say that I will be voting for any one party because I irrefutably agree with everything in their manifesto, therefore I will have to make a good enough choice. I will have to make a decision based on what I feel may have the best outcome for me and my family and my zone around me, and that attitude makes me feel a bit selfish
You have until 11.59 this evening to register to vote. You can do it online.
I can’t promise you’ll feel any less discombobulated about who to vote for, but you will be making a big noise. Good luck!