Rhodes scholar calls for communities to embrace 'the politics of love'
Young people should be get more political education at high school level so that they may be encouraged to become more involved in where they live, a visiting Rhodes scholar says.
Author Max Harris says fostering "the politics of love" will help encourage a sense of community while bridging the divide between ordinary people and the political process.
The 29-year-old gave a public talk in Timaru last week, telling the audience at the Timaru library that having more young people involved would mark a shift in political culture.
"There is a responsibility for young people to get involved," he said.
"Young people are more impatient and more creative, which would shift the debate."
Harris described his broader philosophy as being "the politics of love", which he details in the recently published book The New Zealand Project.
The book centres on encouraging people to become more involved with politics and their community, and more concerned with the wellbeing of one another.
"The politics of love" is a globally focused set of ideas which Harris applies to politics at local and national levels.
"Global politics affects local politics in several ways. People are growing apart in New Zealand in several ways.
"Maori and Pakeha, big cities and regional areas. Government needs to get more involved to stop that divide."
At a local level, Harris believes there are things that can be done to stop what he sees as a trend towards division.
One of Harris' ideas is introducing civics classes to schools to reverse what he perceived as an increasing disconnect between ordinary people and the political process.
Harris said schools should tailor the teaching of civics to suit local community needs.
"It should be taught in a de-centralised manner in New Zealand schools.
"It's broadly about political education to me. But it's up to each school how it teaches politics as related to the region."
"People can get involved in shifting political culture. We can't only have big city people shaping politics."
Harris said increasing political involvement of young people at the local level will make communities more harmonious, as young people would feel like they stood as equals with their elders.
Harris also detailed numerous ideas he had regarding changes to national policy.
These included reforming the prison system, introducing welfare policy reforms, and encouraging expanded dialogue between the political community and the artistic community.