//Is Thatcher a good role model for young girls?//

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This weekend I have been studying Thatcher’s 11 years in power in considerable detail, as I came to the realisation that my teacher hadn’t actually taught us the whole of the Thatcher unit in our course book and so set about teaching it to myself. For those of you who don’t know Margaret Thatcher was a Conservative party member who became the first female Prime Minister of Britain in 1979. As a woman myself and a strong believer in the importance of politics in the empowerment of young people, women, and other misrepresented and minority groups, I was keen to investigate Thatcher’s impact as a role model for young women like me and why perhaps she is still viewed negatively by British society nowadays. Was she really as bad as people make out?

So I started with learning about what Thatcherism actually meant, as despite studying politics last year and learning about Thatcherism as an ideology, I feel like I never fully understood it.  Thatcherism is basically the key political ideas that Thatcher stood by and from what I can tell, they were given their own ideological term as at the time, they were considered to be radical compared to the traditional Conservative ideas of preserving individual wealth and private ownership. To give you a bit of background, what Thatcher stood for was the rights and interests of individuals over that of the nation as a whole, promoting individual enterprise, rewarding hard work through low taxes, the importance of law and order to maintain a democratic society, that law, freedom and justice was provided for all by British democracy and she was a conviction politician, believing that as prime minister, she should stick to her own principles rather than trying to reach a consensus which always required compromise. Although I pretty much have the opposite political standpoint on most of her key ideas, I could see the logic behind Thatcherism, so at this point had a fairly positive view of Thatcher, although I was a little skeptical as to how she could have transformed her political beliefs into policy that would have benefited the political and social environment at the time.

Then I went on to learn about Thatcher’s economic policy, which I won’t go into detail with as it is quite complex and long-winded, but overall her attempts to lead Britain out of recession – although they broke the trend of past governments – and her way of economic thinking interested me, despite their limited success. Generally though I am quite sympathetic towards economic policy as it must be so difficult to manage such a vast, fluid concept as a countries economy and it’s impossible to benefit everyone at once, so her economic failures in my opinion were no worse than past governments.

After going on to reading about her intentions to “roll back” (reduce) state intervention in the economy and increase the size of the private sector, I started reading into how Thatcher’s policies caused political and social division within Britain. This aspect of analysing her time in office really interested me, because instead of reading all the complex detail of which policies she introduced to do what, I was actually learning about the impact of her policies and how they affected real people living at the time. What stood out to me most, was a statement saying that Thatcher felt “threatened” by diversity within society. This is what got me thinking about if Thatcher really is a role model and an inspiration to young girls like me because even though she managed to fight her way to the top level of politics – something that would have been unheard of 50, 20 or even 10 years before she became Prime Minister – I certainly don’t agree with some of the things she did whilst she was in that position of power.

Firstly, Thatcher’s viewpoint of homosexuality was that it was a symbol of ‘moral decline’ and that heterosexual families and relationships were the norm which should be promoted to young children of the time as the ‘right’ way to live. As a member of the LGBT+ community myself, I was saddened by this. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t ignorant to the fact that discrimination and attitudes towards the LGBT+ community in not-so-distant decades were on a different scale to they are now, but it still upsets me to read about the fact that the government who sets the law and code which the public should abide had a role in stigmatising homosexuality as late as the 1980s. As a result of Thatcher’s beliefs about homosexuality, she introduced a law called the Local Government Act 1988 and in Section 28 of this law, it was stated that discussion and promotion of homosexuality within schools was to be banned. This is something I really disagreed with, because even during my school education I haven’t learnt about homosexuality, in fact i can’t even think of one instance throughout my primary and secondary school education where homosexuality was even mentioned, other than Christian views on homosexuality that we had to study at GCSE, but even then we only briefly touched on it. As a result of this, I didn’t even know that there were other sexualities until about two years ago and only discovered my own sexual identity thanks to the help of my internet and my wonderful blogger friends, so I definitely think education about LGBT+ issues and people is vital in helping the LGBT+ community, especially young people, feel accepted by society and to help others to learn about us and the issues we face. So going back to Thatcher, I an’t imagine what it must have been like for LGBT+ young people back then to live in a society where your sexual identity is repressed in every aspect of society.

Furthermore, as Thatcher was in favour of advancing individual rights over collective rights, she was also against feminist movements of the time. Feminism is also something I am passionate about as a young women, because I believe that nothing: race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity etc should stop anyone from being treated with equal respect and having equal opportunities in life, so naturally feminism is a cause that I am in support of. It sort of shocked me a bit to hear that Thatcher was against feminism, to the extent that she stated that a group of women campaigning against the positioning of American cruise missiles on British territory should be ‘eradicated’, because as  the first female Prime Minister, she was in a position to empower young women and make a step forward for the rights and attitudes towards women within British society at the time. Those women that she said needed to be ‘eradicated’ had every right to campaign and what sort of message would Thatcher’s attitude towards them have sent to young girls at the time? That they should remain passive and that their opinions aren’t worthy of expressing?

Honestly, although I could accept some of Thatcher’s early beliefs and policies, I struggle to accept her attitudes towards homosexuality and women. I know I must take into consideration the context of the time in which she was Prime Minister when attitudes towards same-sex relationships and the roles of women were still very traditional, but form the viewpoint of a young 21st century LGBT+ girl, I can’t really see Thatcher as an ideal role model for people like me to look up to. I mean yes, it is inspiring that a woman managed to achieve such power in a time where women were very much expected to be wives and home-makers instead of pursuing careers for themselves, but I think there is so much more that Thatcher could have done as Prime Minister to inspire more young girls to take up careers in politics. Of course, I still think it is important for young girls and women to learn about Thatcher but I hope that one day the stereotype of female politicians and Prime Ministers as being ‘just another Thatcher’ will disappear and the new generation of female politicians will forge their own identities and success stories that will act as a better inspiration for young women of the future.

//Exams need to change//

I’ve been thinking about this for a while but today’s exam confirmed it. I had my second biology exam today and although I thought the exam went quite well, guess what? Only 14 of the 53 topics on the specification actually came up in the exam. That’s just 26%. Not only did the exam board fail to test us on the majority of the course which I have spent three years learning, they decided it would be fun to ask us about ‘the 4 elements all proteins need/have’ and ‘why red seaweed grows at great depths’ which aren’t even included anywhere on the specification. And what about the other 74% of the course? Was it even worth me learning that in the first place?

This got me thinking about how exams are really quite unfair. I mean, it’s only natural for everyone to have their own strengths and weaknesses within subjects. I know exams can’t always play to everyone’s strengths but I just find it really unfair how the topics that actually come up in the exam are randomly selected as surely this gives students who’s strengths lie within these topics an unfair advantage. You could get a grade C in physics for example because the 26% of the specification that is actually in the exam happens to be the bit you struggle with most so then you and everyone else will forever be thinking you’re just average at physics when in reality you could have A* knowledge on the other 76% of the course that you weren’t tested on and that your grade wasn’t determined by and in actual fact the only things in physics you are not too great at are describing how double-glazed windows work (thanks for that OCR physics – in case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t want to be a window fitter when I’m older so how am I supposed to know that?).

Not only is the way exams don’t actually assess you’re whole knowledge of a subject unfair, there is also far too much content for you to  be able to actually leave school and remember a single thing about the advantages of using immobilised enzymes or what red shift even is. I don’t know about you, but I find that as soon as I’ve finished an exam, all of that knowledge is just forgotten because my brain knows it is taken up valuable, unnecessary space which I need to prepare for my next exam. So far I’ve done exams in RS (ethics and philosophy), maths, English literature and language, history, geography, French, chemistry, physics, biology and politics and to be honest I can barely remember anything I’ve spent the past three years learning (except French because my brain weirdly seems to translate everything I’m about to say into French before I actually speak). It seems like such a waste – and to be honest it is – but because we are forced to cram one 300 paged text books worth of information into our brains after the other, anything that’s not needed anymore has to go, no matter how much I want to be able to remember it.

In my opinion, exams and education in general would be so much more effective and useful if the course content was a lot smaller and all of it was actually included in the end-of-course exam. Otherwise what’s the point? Reducing the course content would give us more time to learn and understand the information we are expected to know so revising for exams won’t become so much of a test of how good your memory is but of how much you actually understand and are able to apply that subject knowledge. For me revision has just become a process of forcing myself to memorise facts but wouldn’t it be nice of instead of having to cram all these facts in without having time to properly understand them, we could just know those facts and concepts because we understand them fully and are able to apply them to everyday life around us? At least that way we are more likely to leave school actually knowing how catalysts affect the rate of reaction instead of just having a sheet of paper saying at one point in our lives we were able to recall this information under timed conditions only to have forgotten about it before we’d even left the exam hall. The whole aim of school is to educate us and provide us with the knowledge we need to pursue the careers that we want to but at the moment this is not the case as we are expected to learn so much that we never have time to fully understand everything and if we can’t understand stuff, then we won’t be able to put it into practice in real life which is a fundamental feature of effective learning. At the moment I’d be no more qualified to do job biology-related job with my *fingers crossed*GCSE biology than someone who has never studied biology in their life because I simply can’t recall anything I’ve learnt. The problem with having loads of course content is that the only way we can pass our exams is by cramming all these facts into our short-term memory as we don’t have the time to understand them in sufficient enough detail for them to be embedded into our long-term memory.

An alternative to reducing the course content and including it all in the exam (because we all know the government would never agree to this as it would make exams ‘easier’ – nah m8, it would just mean us students were able to leave school actually knowing stuff but you don’t seem to want us to become educated…(stop starting conspiracy theories about the PM, Em, and stop getting over-excited about the incoming double-bracket)) would be to divide each exam into sections. These sections would correspond to sections of the specification which would give he course more of a clear structure AND allow the exam board to offer a choice of sections/topics in the exam so everyone gets the chance to show off their true abilities to the examiners and answer topics that play to their strengths. This would make exams a lot more fair and useful in my opinion plus it wouldn’t be too hard for exam boards to actually implement this change (although I’d never have the courage to actually suggest this alternative exam system to exam boards or the government myself…well, maybe one day).

So, that’s why I think exams really do need to change. I know the government is just beginning the process of making exams ‘harder’ so I’m sure I’ll end up writing a much angrier rant than this in a years time when I will have experienced being the ‘guinea pig’ year for the new ‘tougher’ a-levels, but if anything, the fact that I am able to waste an hour of my valuable revision time writing this rant at the moment proves that exams are too hard and unfair as it is and that these new reforms are only likely to make everything much, much worse. All I can say is good luck to everyone sitting the new reformed GCSEs – I simply can’t imagine how the can make them ‘harder’ than they already are but everything is possible I guess…

 

 

//Why politics should be taught in schools//

Throughout my 12 years in education in the UK, it was only 9 months ago in September that I first came across politics at school. Previously to that, I had very little knowledge of politics – to be honest I didn’t even know what the difference between government and parliament was or that there was such thing as the EU, let alone be interested in politics enough to dedicate a whole blog post to explaining the pros and cons of the EU. But now, after studying AS level government and politics for 9 months, you could say I’ve completely changed.

It seems ridiculous that, for 15 years of my life, I lived without even the basic knowledge of politics or how government worked – politics was just some ‘adult’ thing that us kids didn’t need to worry about until we were 18 and were suddenly expected to vote on important stuff. And quite frankly, it is ridiculous. I mean, it’s compulsory for 11-16 year olds to study and take exams in subjects such as English Literature but not politics? Clearly it is much more important to be able to write a 3000 word essay on how the plays Of Mice and Men and Death of a Salesman present the tragic reality of America in the 30s/40s than to know what government actually is, how our electoral system works and what the EU actually is. Politics is something that we are all expected to participate in and know about as adults yet English Literature (not slating English Lit entirely, just using it as an example here) – which only a small proportion of people will go on to pursue careers in – has a whole three years worth of GCSE dedicated to it. I’m not saying we should all aspire to be politicians, nor am I saying that a GCSE politics should be made compulsory (which may lead to political apathy) – I’m purely saying that politics should be taught and offered in the UK at an earlier stage than a-levels, which, by that time, you are already 18 and expected to make an informed vote.

So, without further or do, I present you with an awesome, very important list of why politics should be taught in schools:

  1.  When it comes to voting, knowledge is key: so, you’re 18 years old – congratulations you can now vote! But hang on, what’s all this about registering to vote? And what the heck is this manifestation? Manicure? Manifesto-thingy that I’m supposed to read? Do I tick the box or cross it? Does it matter? How many people can I vote for again? Why can’t I just vote for who I want to be Prime Minister? Ok so I’m not saying everyone is this ignorant to politics at the age of 18, but if it wasn’t for me taking AS politics this year, I believe I certainly would be. I honestly had no idea that in the UK we have constituencies (not constitutions as I used to call them, although we have one of those too…sort of) and that in General Elections we have to vote for an MP to represent our constituency in the House of Commons. I genuinely thought we just voted for whichever party we wanted to ‘win’ and form government, not that the government is formed of the party that has the most seats (MPs). If you don’t know anything about the electoral system in the UK (which is called first-past-the-post in case you didn’t know) then you are likely to be having the same misconceptions of how it all works as I was. The only way I escaped the state of viewing elections as some ‘distant, mysterious event that no one really knows much about’ is by studying it at AS level, something few people in the UK seem to do.
  2. We are the future generation of politiciansyoung people, yes, you and I, are the ones who will grow up to fill the shoes of the politicians we see in the news now. Believe it or not, someone you know from school will probably end up with some sort of political career, whether it be a politician themselves, a pressure group activist, a civil servant – whatever. The point is, we are going to be the ones forming the government in 10, 20, 30 years time. Now, it is a well known fact that the House of Commons is not representative in the sense that most of it’s members are older, white males who have had some sort of private education. Clearly, the whole population of Britain is not older, white, privately-educated males so how can it be fair that the people with the most power in society represent a small proportion of those they govern? The truth is, it’s not. In my opinion, the only to solve this representation dilemma is to make politics more accessible to young people from all social and educational backgrounds and encourage young people to pursue careers in politics, no matter whether they went to Eton or the local comprehensive. At the moment, the earliest possible time you can actively study politics is at a-level, as I’ve mentioned a few times, and even so not many people actually choose to study it because they’ve had no previous experience of studying it and hence don’t want to waste one of their four a-level options on a subject they might not even like. So, if politics was introduced or offered in schools at a younger age, it would give young people more of an insight into the political world and the jobs available ad perhaps make it easier for people from all walks of life to have political careers, instead of the select ‘elites’ that dominate the government.
  3. For the sake of democracy: fun fact: democracy derives from the Greek words ‘demos’ and ‘kratos’, meaning ‘rule by the people’. But how can we have a true democracy if we aren’t equipped with sufficient knowledge to be able to make an informed vote for a party/candidate that best represents our ideological views? How can we even form ideological views without political knowledge? I wonder how many voters simply chose a candidate because their tiny, 2-inch photo ‘looks’ the nicest out of the half a dozen others on the ballot paper or because they have the ‘best’ name…If a lot of people are making uninformed votes because they simply do not know anything about the candidates and what they stand for, then how can the results of the election be an accurate, true representation of what the people stand for? The thing about our representative democracy is that our MPs are ‘supposed’ to represent the views of their constituents but if their constituents don’t know who their voting for, then it isn’t really a true representative democracy. So, for the sake of democracy, we should be educated about politics at some point in our education to allow us to actively vote for candidates who actually represent our views and to help us figure out where our ideological standpoint actually is.
  4. Apathy needs to be reduced: why am I even letting myself get started on apathy? If there’s one thing about politics that deeply annoys me (ok there is more than one thing, but don;t get me started on them either) it’s apathy. In case you don;t know, political apathy basically means not being interested in politics, like, AT ALL. So much so that you can’t even be bothered to travel 10 minutes to your local polling station on election day or, even worse, not even be bothered to spare a couple of minutes of your time to register to vote (by the way, all those lucky over 18 year olds who can vote in the EU referendum, you need to register to vote BEFORE the 7th of June – I even included a handy link for you). Most people who are politically apathetic have that ‘view’ of politics being a boring thing that they don’t need – or want – to care about. But you SHOULD care – it is your chance to have your say on issues that affect your life. Also you might be apathetic because you just don’t know anything about politics or understand it so cannot see the value of it. This is exactly why we need to be taught politics in school. I’ve recently been made aware of an organisation/campaign called Bite the Ballot which aims to get more young people interested in politics and is driving young people to vote and #turnup for elections/referendums. I think it is a really great campaign and I would absolutely LOVE to get involved with it one day. Their website is very informative and as loads of shocking figures about 16-24 year olds politically apathetic attitudes (for example in the 2015 General Election, only 43% of 18-24 year olds voted) that really motivates me to want to make a change and help young people #takepower. I highly recommend you take a look, even if you are not in the slightest bit interested in politics – you never know, you might just change your mind! Anyway, back to the point – increased political education from an earlier age would surely help to reduce apathy amongst young people however I am aware that making – for example – GCSE politics compulsory could lead to more apathy as students would get bored and fed up of if they were forced to do it. I still think we should at least be taught politics in the run up to GCSEs (e.g years 7 and 8) and offered politics as a GCSE so that, with prior experience of the subject, more young people will actively be taking an interest in politics.
  5. Reducing the stigma of politics: at my school, as I’m sure is the case at many others, politics is seen as a bit of a joke. I mean, we all have a good laugh about how certain politicians resemble kids TV show characters (of the transport variety) and animals for the most part, but, does anyone actually know anything about these politicians and what they have achieved? Amongst young people, I find you are often seen as ‘boring’, ‘nerdy’ and sometimes even ‘mad’ for being interested in politics and backing up all these politicians that are becoming the source of teenage banter by explaining the good things they have done (although sometimes this is quite a challenge) for our country in counter to the bad and sometimes stupid decision they make that teenagers seem to hold a grudge towards politicians for. Perhaps the reason that most of our politicians come from privately-educated backgrounds is because in state schools politics isn’t viewed as being ‘cool’ and isn’t socially acceptable amongst young people. This is, in my opinion, purely because youngsters lack knowledge of politics and, as I mentioned earlier, often view it as an ‘adult’ thing that we don’t need to worry about or take seriously. But, if politics was to be taught in schools, then surely it would reduce this stigma and not only encourage more youngsters to follow political career paths, but to actually bother to inform themselves about political parties and to turn out to vote without fear of feeling ‘uncool’.

So, I’m hoping you’ll agree that there are lots of reasons as to why politics should be taught in schools in the UK. From searching the internet, I have so far only discovered one reason against my viewpoint – that teaching politics in schools could lead to teachers ‘injecting’ their political views into their students. However, I’m not saying that teaching politics in schools would involve evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of political party (because we all know that would end in some biased lecture about how so-and-so ruined our such-and-such) but that we should be taught about all the non-partisan things such as how first-past-the-post works, what democracy is, the difference between government and parliament etc. Therefore, I believe that there is in reality no reason why we shouldn’t have a better political education in the UK and, until we do, I shall be campaigning for the implementation of one.

//GCSE French: promoting equality in fashion//

Today I sat my GCSE French reading and listening exams and I have to say I am very impressed with the topics covered by the exams. Although there were the usual questions on relationships and jobs, there were also a few more interesting, current topics such as a UN summit on global warming, selfies, e-cigarettes, the mysterious ‘orange badge’ (which I think may be the French version of the blue disabled sticker for cars in the UK) and Skirt Day – journée de la jupe.

Although I love French, I have to say the course content does seem a bit random and I do feel like I haven’t really developed my conversational French much since I started the course three years ago. However, the relevancy and up-to-dateness (is this a word? Well if not it is now) of the topics included in todays exams really surprised me and made me feel like I am actually applying my French in a useful way and learning more about the world around me – which is why I chose to learn a language in the first place.

The thing that impressed me most about the exam though was the part on equality and fashion where we listened to a girl talking about ‘la journée de la jupe’ (national skirt day). I don’t know if Skirt Day is an ACTUAL thing – I’ve done a bit of research but only came across a French film called ‘La Journée de la Jupe’ in which a French teacher discovers a gun in one of her students bags, accidentally shoots one of the students in the leg then holds the class hostage and one of the terms for letting the students go is having a Skirt Day to allow her to wear a skirt without being criticised by people with conservative attitudes about how women should dress. Apparently one part of the film actually came true – it was requested that La Journée de la Jupe become a nationally accepted day but this was sanctioned by the French Ministry of Education. However, in 2014 27 colleges did take part in a Skirt Day and boys and girls wore skirts to fight against sexism as part of the #JourneeDeLaJupe campaign.

Although the French exam itself didn’t explain this to me, I kind of got the general idea that Skirt Day was about allowing girls and women to wear what they want without being sexualised and criticised. The girl speaking about Skirt Day in the exam herself said things along the lines of: ‘Skirt Day had happened last year and had been a great success’, ‘the idea is for girls to be able to wear what they want’, ‘the headteacher didn’t like the idea of it at first as he thought students would insult each other but changed his mind after seeing that it was a great success’, ‘boys were allowed to wear skirts in support too’ and ‘her boyfriend wore makeup to show his support’.

The whole idea of Skirt Day seems really good to me. Although I don’t exactly live in a very multicultural area so have never experienced a clash of cultures where I may be criticised for wearing ‘revealing’ clothes such as skirts, I have certainly experienced being sexualised because of what I choose to wear and have seen many other girls experiencing the same treatment.

Ultimately, I think Skirt Day represents the fact that everyone should be allowed to wear what they want and what they deem is appropriate without fear of being judged and criticised. Not only does this sort of tension arise between different cultures and religions, it occurs between different sexes too and the stereotypical ways men and women should dress. The fact the this girl who was speaking in the French exam said that some of the boys even wore skirts and makeup to support and that many boys did do just this back in 2014, really interested me because all around us we are exposed to the media which portrays – or dictates – the way we should dress and behave, yet boys were still willing to defy this to support Skirt Day (yes I know the French exam was all fiction, but I have a point, trust me). Perhaps it is because something such as Skirt Day would represent something much more than just allowing women and girls to wear skirts without having to face criticism from people with conservative attitudes. Perhaps it would represent equality in the fashion world – or the need for equality.

It’s not just about women being able to wear skirts, it’s about everyone being able to wear whatever they want without judgement. The fact that the item of clothing in question is a skirt is irrelevant – skirts are just one example of clothing which causes tension within society and Skirt Day would, in my opinion, be a step towards reducing this tension, uniting society and providing greater equality in the fashion world.

Whether you are a female who has faced criticism and sexualisation for wearing skirts and other such clothing or just someone who doesn’t want to conform to the ‘expectations’ of the fashion world and just wants to be able to wear whatever clothes you want – whether they are deemed to be ‘male’ clothes or ‘female’ clothes – freely, Skirt Day would be beneficial to you.

I think Skirt Day should definitely become an accepted day in order to help fight sexism and tension between cultures and religions withing our society. And why not make it International Skirt Day?

I’m really interested to find about more about the #JourneeDeLaJupe campaign now, so merci to the AQA exam board for making my French exams so interesting and inspiring!

//The EU Referendum: A Teen’s Perspective//

As a teenager – and therefore a member of the future adult generation – I believe it is important to be aware of the world around us and take an interest in the political decisions that the current generation of adults is making on behalf of our futures. One such decision being the UK’s upcoming EU referendum.

Background information:

  • The UK is holding an ‘in/out’ referendum on our EU membership on 23rd June 2016.
  • The UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, is in support of remaining in the EU and has negotiated deals for this outcome.
  • The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has declared his support for a ‘Brexit’ – Britain leaving the EU.
  • The government itself is divided, with the majority of Conservative (the majority party in the UK) MP’s supporting their leaders decision to remain.

Since taking up AS Level Government and Politics this year, I have gained an insight into the workings of politics, and consequently that of the EU itself. Specifically, I have studied about what powers/influence the EU has over the UK and what the EU itself does and have been able to develop my own opinion about whether the UK should remain a member of the EU or not.

Personally, I am a supporter of the ‘stronger in’ campaign, one of the main reasons being that I am not opposed to the EU having power over UK laws and being able to enforce laws on us. This is because EU law overrides national law of all of its member states meaning that in some cases UK law is insignificant due to an EU law that overpowers it. Although some would disagree with this as they do not believe that the EU – which doesn’t represent the people of the UK as well as Westminster Parliament itself does as the UK only makes up a small percentage of the European Parliament – should have more power over our laws than our national government.

Although I can’t deny the EU does have power to enforce laws in certain areas, the UK still currently has full control over: foreign, security, defense, trade, justice and economic policy. Those policy areas which the EU does have control over – for example environmental and agricultural policy – are, in my opinion, areas that affect and are relevant to Europe as a whole and are therefore more general policy areas so I think it is right that the EU is united on its policies for such areas.

Also the UK does have the right to veto (not accept) EU in certain policy areas meaning that for some things it is still in our national governments control whether we accept and implement these laws.

Therefore I don’t see EU laws overriding UK law as being that much of a problem of remaining in the EU.

Another reason why I believe we should remain a member of the EU is that being part of the EU means we don’t have to pay trading tariffs for imports and exports within the EU and it has been estimated that over 50% of our trading is done with Europe, so surely this must be a reason to stay within the EU?

Some argue that if we leave the EU we could become like Norway and still be a part of the free trade zone without actually being a member of the EU however I do not see the point in this as no deal has been made to secure this outcome if the UK does leave the EU.

A huge source of controversy surrounding the EU though is immigration as EU citizens are allowed to move freely between its member states. Some people are strongly against this as they believe that mass immigration is causing strain on housing and education among other things and that the only way to have full control of our national borders is to leave the EU. However, I have no problem with the free movement of citizens across the EU and personally think immigration is more of a benefit to the UK than a disadvantage as it helps to make or society more diverse and multicultural.

Overall, I’d like to say that as a teen it is important for us to think about these things as they will predominantly shape our futures. Whether you are an ‘inner’ or an ‘outer’, whether you agree with my view or not, I think it is vital that us teens get our voices heard and share our opinions regarding the EU referendum. Even if it’s just discussing it with your family or watching campaigns on the news, just because this is something that has been put in the hands of adults, doesn’t mean we can’t have opinions too.

When thinking about the benefits and costs of remaining or leaving the EU, it’s hard not to get tangled up in statistics that all seem to say different things, especially as a teen as the world of politics may seem very confusing and complex. However I hoped I have managed to explain my point of view adequately and will leave below a brief summary of my version of the different arguments below so you can make up your own mind.

Remaining in the EU:

  • Access to no trade tariffs.
  • Economic security/stability.
  • Access to the estimated 3 million jobs that the EU provides for UK citizens.
  • More influence on the world stage/in European affairs.
  • Less control over borders and immigration.
  • UK law can be overridden by EU law.
  • Government money continuing to be paid into the EU.
  • Less global influence.

Leaving the EU:

  • Control over immigration and borders.
  • Full control over UK laws.
  • Freedom to make trade deals with other countries.
  • Would save the government lots of money for not having to pay into the EU – ultimately giving individuals more money.
  • No one knows how much money will be gained/lost if we leave the EU – the UK may end up being financially worse off.
  • No deals have been negotiated with the EU for if the UK does leave so things like the suggested ‘Norway approach’ where we keep our trade link with the Eu may not actually be possible.
  • Making trade deals with other countries will even further reduce the amount of products sold in the UK that are manufactured in the UK – many people are strongly in favour of increasing the prominence of our national industries and leaving may decrease this.
  • Leaving the EU would cost the UK lots of jobs – estimated as 3 million – increasing job scarcity in the UK and possibly putting further pressure on the education system and increasing job competition within the UK.

Whether you are from the UK or not, I would love to know your opinion on this!

Thanks for reading this and considering mine. 🙂

P.S. featured image doesn’t belong to me.

//Is violence ever ok?//

So today I was revising for my RE exams, more specifically the topic of peace and justice within Christianity and, as per usual when it comes to RE, it got me thinking. Although RE is supposed to help us gain an understanding of beliefs and views within religion, which of course is important, I also think RE helps us to develop our own beliefs and views on the world around us.

So, when I was reading about pacifism today and how most Christian’s believe that violence is never acceptable, I started to think about my views on violence. Am I a pacifist? Could I ever condone violence?

At first glance, my brain was telling me no. No, violence can’t ever be acceptable. It is not right to use violence to terrorise people, seek revenge, solve ‘conflicts’ using violence. It is never, ever right.

But then I started thinking about the Nazi’s and Hitler (as you do, you found out yesterday that I am really interested in this era of history, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise). Was it acceptable for Britain to declare war on Germany? Was it right for our, innocent soldiers to kill many innocent (well, they were practically forced to fight for Hitler, whether they agreed with it or not) German soldiers when in reality it was a war between Hitler and Churchill and the other allied world leaders?

But then I realised that although Britain had fought violence with violence and that this may be considered unacceptable by some people, what would have happened if we hadn’t declared war would be 1000x worse. I mean, reading Wolf by Wolf proved that.

Although in my opinion pacifism is the ideal, sometimes we have to stand up and not be pacifists, sometimes using violence is for the best.

Dietrich Bonhoffer was a Christian pacifist during Nazi Germany. He decided to become involved in the bomb plot to assassinate Hitler as killing Hitler would have been the ‘lesser of two evils’ in this situation. I deeply admire Bonhoffer for this, for going against not just his religion, but his core values and morals. He knew when violence was acceptable and necessary and I think society as a whole could all learn something from him.

Although the bomb plot failed and Bonhoeffer, along with others involved in the plot, were imprisoned and eventually sent to concentration camps (Bonhoeffer was sent to Buchenwald then Flossenbürg concentration camp) his defiance of the Nazi’s was truly inspirational. Not only did Bonhoeffer become involved in the bomb plot, he also fought the Nazi in many ways, for example he publically spoke out against Hitler in radio broadcasts, he worked for the German intelligence agency Abwehr and helped German jews escape to Switzerland, he was invloved in the Confessional Church which in it’s self was an act of defiance against the Nazification of Christianity in Germany.

I think it’s awful how such an inspirational man died such an awful, undignified death at the age of 39 in a concentration camp, just two weeks before the camp was liberated by the American’s.

When I went to Berlin last year, I learnt about Martin Niemöller, who also founded the Confessional Church and was known as an anti-Nazi theoligan. I visited Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp during my trip and saw for myself the prison cell where Martin – and others like him- had been imprisoned for his acts of defiance. It really put into perspective just how terrifying life in Nazi Germany must have been and now I find myself wondering would I have been a pacifist and stood by and let Hitler’s mass genocide and persecution of innocent people happen? And I honestly have no idea.

Although I’d like to think that I would stand up and fight back just as Dietrich and Martin and many, many others did, I have no idea whether in the circumstanves I would have been able to surpress my inner pacifist inclinations.

All I can say is that these two men are just two of many, but sadly not enough, who stood up to the Nazi’s and were able to figgt against the fear and terror of the Nazi regime to do what was right. And I really do admire them for that.

It makes me wonder, how can such courageous and inspirational people emerge from such darkness?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller, the Confessional Church, Anne Frank, the White Rose Group, the Schöll siblings, the Edelweiss Pirates, countless resistance groups…the list could go on.

So many amazing people emerged from a time when people were ruthlessly murdered – their futures and lives snatched away from them – because of their religion, race, sexuality, political and moral beliefs etc.

And that’s why I love this era of history so much. Not because of Hitler and all that he did, but because of the people who fought against him, stood up for themselves and society as a whole, fought through fear and terrorism and opression. Those are the people I am interested in. Every single person who died at Hitler’s hands deserved so much more from life, and I feel like even though we can only give them a fraction of what they deserve by remembering them, we must do this.

Every person who died innocently at Hitler’s hands is a hero, an inspiration to me and although I will never be able to say in words just how incredible those people were, I must keep writing and reading and learning about them, doing something in an attempt to remember and pay my respect to them, and I think we all should too.

Although I can’t ever except that the violent products of Hitler’s greed for power were right (even just writing those words sickens me), I can accept that everyone who fought against him fought with a justifiable violence that I can accept. So, to conclude, I now believe violence can be acceptable in certain, specific circumstances but I will never promote violence because I guess I am truly a pacifist at heart.

//In spite of everything//

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In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart. – Anne Frank.

How can it be that such a young girl who faced such terrible persecution and violation of her human rights could still find it within her to believe that deep down people are good and have good intentions, however deep those may be hidden. It still puzzles me now even after having known about Anne Frank’s story for years.

She, along with millions of other Jews, suffered immensely during Hitler’s reign of terror yet she could still see the spark of goodness in people.

I wonder why? Was it her faith? Was it her upbringing? Know one will ever know. Anne, unfortuantely, is just one of millions of Jewish youngsters who died too soon. Who were snatched from this world for what? For what reason did they die? Oh, because Hitler said so.

It sickens me to even consider that Hitler had even an ounce of goodness within this, yet Anne Frank could and she was the one who suffered at his command.

Maybe Anne wasn’t including Hitler when she said this. Maybe she just meant humanity as a whole has goodness within them, even though they allowed the Holocaust to go on for way to long (not entirely their fault though, many, many, soldiers from all around the world lost their lives in an attempt to stop Hitler and I am no way devaluing the sacrifice they made). Maybe Anne believed that her and the rest of her race’s suffering would eventually have a good outcome and ensure that something as tragic as the Holocaust never happened again. Maybe she knew that she didn’t deserve to be persecuted. All of these questions will remain unanswered for eternity. We can only imagine what Anne and other Jews had to go through and how that affected them.

None of this should have ever, ever happened but maybe Anne Frank knew that the world would be righted. Her life should never have been taken out of sheer spite along with all other 6 million Jews who died at Hitler’s hand, but maybe Anne’s faith led her to die in hope that future generations would never have to suffer her fate. I hope so, I really do. I hope that every single person who died in concentration camps, death camps or even in hiding or on the run from Hitler, anyone who died because of him, died with hope.

Yes, Hitler could deny them of their dignity and decency, humiliate them, treat them as ‘sub-humans’ but after all he savagely took from them, I hope he never took their faith and their hope. I hope that at least they died with that, even though they deserved so much more.

These people all deserved their lives – who knows who they could have become? What they could of achieve? And now we will never know.

If there is one thing I do know, however, it is that the Frank family and all the other Jewish, communist, homosexual ect people who lost their lives during the Holocaust were and are still an inspiration to us all. They showed us that in all the adversity they faced, they still remained true to themselves, their faiths, their political beliefs, their sexualities and by doing so they died dignified – yet so, so unecessary – deaths.

I will always continue to be inspired by people like Anne and I will never forget the sacrifice they made to ensure our generation will never have to endure such persecution again. Yes, our world is flawed, but because of all of those who lost their lives in this terrible time, there is one less flaw in the world.

No matter what adversity I face, Anne Frank has taught me that staying true to yourself allows you to see the ‘good’ in humamity and allows you to live in hope if a better future for not just you but those generations after you.

As is repeated on 11th November at 11am every year in the UK to remember our fallen soldiers,

For our tomorrow, they gave our today.

Anne and others like her were an ‘army’ of a different kind who we should also remember. Not just on Holocaust Memorial Day, or even Armistace day, but every, single day.