Disclaimer: I usually hit delete when I get unsolicited email requests by media consultants, but this intrigued me. You can take it or leave it but, as ever, the thoughts in this post are my own!
Ever since Barack Obama managed to sweep to victory in the US on a wave of personality and Web 2.0 savvy, people have been talking about the importance of ‘new media’ in politics. I see it as a good thing, especially engaging young people in the political process. It was great the other night, for example, to see the deluge of tweets with the hashtag #leadersdebate during the first ever live televised debate amongst the leaders of the main political parties.
It’s also encouraging to see each main political party – the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives, and Labour – present their manifestos in such forward-thinking ways. Out are boring-looking printed documents and in are engaging videos, social media groups and ebooks.
But of course, the importance of new media isn’t that people who have always been able to get across their message continue to have their say, but that new voices are heard. That’s why I was buoyed to watch the following video by the Edge Foundation, set up when Edexcel was sold to Pearson PLC in 2003. They have invested millions of pounds in the promotion of practical and vocational learning for young people as well as funding two academies (Nottingham and Milton Keynes). But we’ll not hold that against them.
(their YouTube channel features related videos – including politicians’ responses)
I’m not sure that highlighting the dichotomy between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ is necessarily useful. I’d be inventing new ‘third way’ terms to lose the historical baggage. What I am sure about, however, is that the so-called ‘academic’ courses I’ve taught as a teacher have turned into knowledge cram-fests and the so-called ‘vocational’ courses are nowhere near as demanding.
So what’s needed?
I agree with the Edge Foundation that young people need to be given choices.
I agree that there need to be more and different routes to employment.
I agree classroom-based activities don’t stimulate some (most?) learners.
But I’d go further. I’d say that all students need to be doing vocational courses. Not the spurious ones mentioned above, but proper, rigorous, out-in-the-field vocational courses. That’s how to improve our education system: real-world learning.
And I don’t know anyone who would disagree with that!
More on new media and the election
- BBC Radio 4 – A ‘new media election’?
- The Guardian – Web 2.0: the new election superweapon
- Channel 4 – Vote 2010: the tools of the new media election
- The Telegraph – General Election 2010: Facebook and Twitter to have unprecedented impact
Recommended election-related sites
- Who Should You Vote For? – asks a series of questions leading to a recommendation of which party most closely aligns with your thoughts and values.
- Voter Power Index – the first-past-the-post system in the UK means all votes are not equal; find out what yours is really worth here!
- Electoral Registration Form – the place to go if you haven’t registered to vote yet.
Image based on original by hugovk (CC BY-NC-SA)