So here’s the thing: I refuse to write anything political on social media because 1. You don’t care about my political views (and similarly, I’m not particularly concerned about yours) and 2. My vote counts equally as much regardless of my Facebook feed.
But…what about the kids? This post is only and completely about the kids.
Perfectly timed this week was a reading curriculum for my third grade group that talked about the government. It had vocabulary words like Election, Convince, Announced, Candidates, and Independence. We conversed about these words and I was surprised by the wide variation of their previous knowledge about the US government. It was evident that some kids were almost oblivious to the election season and others were retaining the (sometimes strong) views of their families.
I left that conversation feeling both energized by the time that I had been given to talk to these wonderful little folks about our awesome system of government and also somewhat saddened by their perceptions of it. OF US. (By ‘us’, I am referring to the adults of this country as a whole. I acknowledge that many of us have handled this election differently, but for the sake of simplicity here, I am lumping us into one big observable group as seen by young eyes.)
A few trademark moments.
“I don’t trust either candidate so I wouldn’t vote at all.”
“Trump! All the way.”
“We could have the first ever girl president!”
“I have family in Mexico and I’m worried that Trump will build a big wall between us and them. I still want to see my family.”
“I’d vote for my mom.”
“If Clinton wins, we can’t have guns and then we can’t protect ourselves.”
“I wish Michelle Obama was a candidate.”
“Why can’t Barack Obama just keep being president?”
I was glad to see them genuinely interested and engaged in the conversation. I restrained myself from offering my own opinions, of which I gave none, and also some concerned facial expressions by how heated they became with each other over this. They looked JUST LIKE US.
We spent some extra time on the word ‘convince’. Not only is this a handy word to focus on in reading group because the ‘c’ makes both of its sounds in one word, but also the meaning of the word ‘convince’. I told them that as their reading group teacher I might try to convince them to read and enjoy a lot of books. Their dentist hopes to convince them to floss their teeth. We brought it back around the the topic of government and specifically, what a candidate could do to ‘convince’ someone to vote for them.
Here was the group consensus:
“To get someone to vote for you, you must say a lot of really bad things about the other person.”
Am I the only one who is embarrassed by this? It seems to me that we have fallen significantly short of showing the very respect to one another that we expect these young people to demonstrate.
So I was thinking perhaps we could add some words to our own vocabulary list. Kindness. Integrity. Goodwill. Compassion. Opinion. Character. Honor. Listen. Sincerity. Example.
In the end, we steered away from the US government, the one in which we are brilliantly honored to be a part of, to the classroom. We decided to hold our own election for which class pet they might theoretically enjoy. The candidates were Cat and Turtle. We convinced each other why our chosen candidate would be the best class pet. We cast a ballot and then announced the winner. Let’s just say this: if the government was seeking a turtle for president, it would be a landslide.
They are watching and they are absorbing. I’m afraid of what a debacle we’ve already made of this big political mess and I’m concerned about the poor example we have demonstrated for our youngest generation. So here’s what I’d like to convince you do try:
How about we pull it together these next few days? How about we show them the tremendous honor of voting and our ability to have both opinions and kindness. I think we can do it and more importantly, I think we owe it to our cherished youth.