One of my photos

Open minds

March 20th, 2010 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 2 Comments · Politics

With a general election fast approaching – probably only 47 days away – the trickle of invitations is starting for various events.  By the time it is all over there will have been hustings, Q&A sessions, interviews and all sorts of things.  I still find it hard to adjust to the idea that there will be occasions where other people actually want to hear what I have to say without me having to try being the loudest voice. Which I am not.  I suppose in my acting days I must have been able to project, but I think I have forgotten how to now.I doubt if many of the things I get invited to will be as pleasant as the sessions I had talking to politics clubs/classes at Collyer’s and Christ’s Hospital.

The popular opinion of teenagers is that they know everything, or think they do, but that is not how the students came across to me.  I am sure they do have opinions on all sorts of things, but they seemed to be genuinely interested to hear another point of view.

I think the real difference is that they sometimes ask questions without knowing the answer.  That does not mean they will accept what you say as the answer, but they will file it away, compare it to what their teacher has said maybe, or what they have heard elsewhere and use to make up their own minds.  Well I hope so anyway.

In so many other situations questions are asked by somebody with an entrenched opinion who only wants your opinion so they can argue with it.  Or agree if you are lucky, but I think people prefer to have a chance to argue.  That’s the way it seems anyway, unless it is just me being unduly cynical.

In the case of Christ’s Hospital there was the added benefit of there being very little pressure.  Any students that are old enough to vote will be registered elsewhere anyway.  It reduces the temptation to just say what people want to hear rather than what you actually think.

My normal reaction when visiting a school is for at least part of my mind to wander back to my own schooldays and half-wish they could have gone on for ever.  This week I had a slightly different reaction.  It crossed my mind how good it might have been to have gone into teaching.  Too late for that now,  and maybe they were on their best behaviour and are usually a pit of malevolent chaos, but that is not the impression I got.

I reckon it could be very rewarding, especially in a subject like politics where so much of it is (or should be IMO) just encouraging students to think for themselves rather than cramming them with the ‘right’ answers.

Anyway, it was a good opportunity to get used to speaking so that the more contentious events will be a little easier to handle, and it helped me in another way too: it made me think about a lot of things and to have to work out what I think about them.  I have always found it tedious when politicians seem to have a strong opinion on everything, and wondered why they are so afraid to say “I don’t know”, but at the other extreme I’m sure the class would have found it even more tedious to get “I don’t know” as the answer to every other question.

I have been trying to get into the mental discipline of remembering that so much in politics is just opinion – to not say that such-and-such is wrong but to say that I think such-and-such is wrong.  I’m sure that will be harder when faced with opponents who are sure they are right and with questions that have hidden agendas attached, rather than open questions but at least I have had a bit of practise now.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • skud's sister

    The loudest voice is okay when you have to be heard over others but when people want to know the answer I reckon it is worth speaking more softly – if you’ve had to work to hear something it must have been worth listening to!

    I hope you can do some events/promote hustings etc to new voters (i.e. the 18-22 year olds). Us older ones have had our turn and I have, like you, always found the younger generation are not afraid to have their opinions and I think they often care more about others than they are given credit for.

  • Richard

    If you can somehow put your political ramblings – which do have substance – into some sort of coherent, concrete form (eg policy), you might well give the Lib Dems a fright….and if Maude continues his deceit with his privately-controlled hospital, you might give cause for the Tories if Horsham to fidget uncomfortably on their comfortably numb backsides…

    No-one makes you feel politically inferior, without your permission.