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Sunday
Jan062013

Status update: We need change

Rebecca Hansen, winner DWtO video contest 2012

by Rebecca Hansen

Think about politics. Particularly, think about politics in Canada. Maybe think a little into the past but preferably a bit closer to home. Now what’s your first reaction? If it’s a) yuck b) eww or c) we’re doomed, keep reading.  The fact is the current political climate isn’t pretty.  A general feeling grips Canada, a feeling of gloom about the events on Parliament Hill. And at the same time a general group grips the House of Commons: old men. That doesn`t seem very representational considering Canada has a population with normal gender ratios and (mostly) average age levels. So how can we, the general, equal public take back control of the country?

Well, the answer ridiculously obvious: get a more diverse group of people into politics. But, why not save some time? Let’s kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, and target both age and gender. Let’s engage young girls and women. Let’s introduce these people to politics and get them interested in what’s going on.  After all, they’re a group of pretty bright creative people (if I do say so myself).  If we got them in to politics, we might give it a refreshing overhaul. 

But it’s a long step between the thought and action.  Working from the ground up, we need to start with schools. As much as I dismiss the whole idea that kids haven’t learned/don’t understand/aren’t independent enough to be involved, politics isn’t talked about much in the classroom. Part of this is because it’s hard to keep discussions neutral, but there’s also a feeling of apathy which comes with the political climate right now. But school is the perfect place to begin.  By grade 5, many kids already have lots of strong opinions and know what issues they want to work on.  What about creating a website targeting these ages, or adjusting the curriculum to include political activism or teaching what governments do, and how youth can create change. 

 Being engaged in politics should be something started at the elementary school level, but also continued through the next stage: teenage-hood. This is where the gender split needs to be addressed. You’ve got a lot of girls changing rapidly, concerned about the world but trapped by stereotyping and peer pressure. By reaching out, using social media and government connection programs we could harness the anxiety of girls’ teen years and use it to bridge the gap between young women and politics.  Get women activists and politicians to create links through schools and the internet, proving that speaking out is more than okay. Programs like internships with politicians would show how interesting (and how important) politics are.  Imagine holding mock elections exclusive to Canadian high school students that, using schools as “ridings”, created a body that would speak out for their “constituents”.  It would be a way to highlight how our political system works and the impact young people can have.

Our parliament needs to represent us and we can’t sit back and wait for something to happen.  So let’s take up the challenge. Let’s share the responsibility, not only with the people who’ve done their share but also to those who are looking to make a difference. Maybe, instead of letting one group hold power until the last possible moment, we should take advantage of the collective knowledge.  The world has changed. Let’s change our government with it. 

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