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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

What is politics? Why should we care? And Other Big Questions by Michael Rosen and Annemarie Young

This volume is part of a series of titles about the "big questions" of life which are directed at an audience of 11 - 15 year-olds. ​While this addition asks "What is Politics?" and "Why Should We Care", some of the other titles in the series address and ask questions about topics such as gender, feminism, racism, refugees, and mental health.

All of the books in the series have similar covers featuring cursive script, not only creating a visual unity and making them look like a "set" but also suggesting the importance of the question, without distractions.

This book introduces the idea of politics, defining it as the use of power, and because it applies to all situations from personal relationships to the power of the state, affecting the way we live at all levels, then it is important to understand it. The chapters look at politics as a decision-making process, different political systems , the language of politics, politics as a vehicle for change and the agency of the individual in making these changes through political avenues. Many of the examples of political activity - the strike of women in a car factory for equal pay, the institution of the NHS - National Health Service, the changing of laws regarding homosexuality are British.

There are also a number of biographical case studies, highlighting the way in which politics has been an important part of an individual's life. These individuals include a writer, a publisher, an MP, a charity worker, a playwright and a political activist, who are mostly British. There are passing references to Jacinda Ardern and the Christchurch Mosque Killings, Barak Obama and Greta Thunberg but the perspectives presented in the book will not generally resonate with New Zealand teenagers.

In a series that aims to focus on the "big questions" in history and in society, this book offers information and ideas for the school student both as an individual to ponder and as a part of a group to discuss. It would be of most use in the classroom, as its appearance and approach are not likely to entice the individual teenager to engage with this book. Set out as it is like a textbook, teachers may find this a helpful book to use to encourage students to think about political systems and ideas and to stimulate them to be informed and involved in the politics of their world.

Reviewer: Clare Lyons

Published by Wayland


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