As George Bush famously stated, "Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?" How right he were. However, in light of this unprecedented presidential election, I can answer that question...is our children learning? They definitely is.
The excitement, importance and proliferation of news about the twists and turns of this critical election have not left our children behind. Many children, even if they don't quite understand all the details or are simply reflecting their parents' opinions, have been learning about and engaged in democracy.
As reported recently by Reuters, a quarter of a million students voted online and by mailing paper ballots in a mock election run by Scholastic, 57% chose Obama, 39% percent chose John McCain. The cool thing is, 250,000 children voted for president, most for the first time. That's a nice habit to learn at a young age.
One can only wonder about the affect this could have on our children's sense of civic responsibility to vote and care about our democracy as they grow up. All of this may evaporate from the minds of some of these kids but then again, we may have a generation coming up that is far more engaged in our country's democracy than many that came before them. A very exciting prospect.
There are many amusing, inspiring and poignant examples of kids being engaged or at least having an awareness of this historic election.
My five year old daughter, for example, recognizes on sight and can name Barack and Michelle Obama, Biden, Hillary, McCain and Palin.
In fact, she made up her own name for McCain, "Oldie". One afternoon we were at a restaurant and suddenly she pipes up, "There's that mean girl!", I look to the tv she's pointing to and there's Sarah Palin on a news show.
When at dinner with a Republican friend of mine, my daughter got into a debate with him, asking in disbelief, "How can you vote for Oldie? You should be voting for
Barackobama (that's the way she says his name, as if it's one word...I think it's more fun for her to say it that way). Needless to say, she won the debate.
Other such anecdotes have been posted here by bloggers which I think you may enjoy:
PaulainIowa: My 5 year old was heard chanting O-Bama, O-Bama at school. My 8 year old told me kids in her class were erasing John McCain's face in their Time for Kids Magazine, "because some kids don't like him." She also told me that EVERYONE likes Obama (that is the 5 children that sit around her). I heard a 2nd grader say to another one, "You like McCain?? He is like the whitest white guy ever." This young man was also white.
MNmommy: 10-yr-old-fifth-grade son plays tag at recess and the person that gets tagged *it* is called Republican. Today Matthews was talking about battle ground states, and he pipes up, "Yeah, PA is important, they have 21 electoral votes, but Obama is up in the polls so he should get it." Apparently, they are studying the electoral college and map - he knows how many votes each state has, I was impressed.
HeIsTheOne: My eleven year old son gets into fights on the school yard playground sticking up for Obama. The kids that like McCain are his 6th grade liars, says Max. My 16 year old daughter is ambidexterous and I was told would make a good attorney discovering this when she was 3. NO I said...but she said "the first woman governor of the fine state of NY". "I love her too much to let her be a politician."
andvoodoo2: My 17 year old, after watching the debates, told me that if the music business doesn't work out for her, she might go into politics. After seeing Palin, she says she can be a politician, only GOOD at it! (I love her too much to let her be a politician.)
Rumplestiltskin: My thirteen year old son wanted to watch the last debate with me, and he wasn't even avoiding homework. He goes to a science and technology school, and he says the interest in the election is very high there.
Meggie: My daughter and her friends have been making Obama campaign buttons to hand out at school. Laminated and nice! Response has been overwhelming and they've even gone into the specialties - hockey players, swimmers, mathletes, etc. for Obama.
Dentuso: We had a McCain canvasser who came to our house last Saturday as my wife and I were doing yardwork. As he approached with his McCain Palin button, my eight-year-old said quite loudly "McCain's the one who lies, right?". The canvasser continued to the next house.
There was however one post that was very sobering about the impact that the brand of politics being practiced in this election has on our children:
marasgram18: My children who are in grade school have become traumatized by the rhetoric. They think that maybe someone will not like them because they are black and will try to do them harm. Sad!
For better...and hopefully in fewer cases, for worse, this election is affecting our children in profound ways. Perhaps, when they're adults, it will be wholly for the better.