commentary
Sept. 10, 2004

 

From the mouths of babes
by Rhiannon Ross

Do you know who your children think should be president? It might surprise you.

You might assume that your kids think like you do or maybe it never crossed your mind that they would even care about the upcoming election. After all, kids can't vote. They're more likely to be interested in the latest games for their Play Station II.

But young minds are listening and forming opinions...and also parroting the opinions of significant adults in their lives. And it might not be you.

On a recent visit to Wichita, I asked my 13-year-old nephew, Jordan, who he thought should be president.

"Not John Kerry," he muttered beneath his ball cap.

I was driving at the time and admittedly, my eyes briefly left the road and stared at him in disbelief.

"Not Bush!" I exclaimed.

"Well, he got us into this war, he needs to get us out," said Jordan.

"Where did you hear that?" I asked him.

"No where," he said.

"You heard someone say that," I persisted.

"No," he said, "It's what I think."

It's alarming to say the least that we would grant a president who led us into a war on false premises another four years to deliver us from his grave mistake and worse yet, perhaps, get us into another war.

But where was Jordan's opinion really coming from? He doesn't follow the news. His interests are girls, food, video games and his motorbike. His father isn't a Republican and his mother, my sister, is an open lesbian whose response to the election is, "I don't know anyone who's voting for Bush." While not an official spokesperson for the gay community in south central Kansas, I suspect she could be.

"Bush has been terrible for the economy," I tell Jordan. "And while he returned tax money, most of it went to the very rich. Now the nation is in debt. And we don't have money for health care or quality schools."

"Uh-uh," said Jordan. "It's all because of 9-11, when those planes hit the towers."

I was just as surprised last spring when my 10-year-old nephew, Derek, informed me that the Democrats are baby killers.

"They cut babies' heads off inside their mother's bellies," explained Derek.

He was obviously talking about partial-birth abortion.

"Who told you that?" I quizzed. Certainly not his mother, who supports a woman's right to choose and late-term abortion when the mother's life is at risk or the child's quality of life is severely compromised.

"My friend at school," Derek said.

"You talk about things like that?" I asked.

He shrugged and ran off to play with his little sister.

The reality is if we, as parents and aunts and other family members, aren't talking to our kids about politics, someone else surely is. And while talking about politics should be encouraged in a free society, it's important that our children get all of the facts.

As a child, like my parents, I was a Republican. My high school government teacher, however, was a liberal who graduated from Columbia University (what he was doing in Joplin, MO, is anyone's guess). I asked him one day during class what the differences are between the Republicans and the Democrats.

He drew two circles on the blackboard. In one, he wrote, "Big Business" and in the other, he wrote, "The People."

"This is whom Republicans represent," he said, pointing to the first circle. Then he pointed to the second circle, "And this is whom the Democrats represent."

I chose the latter. And yes, I've since learned that there's a whole lot more to both parties and that today's Democrats are more centrist. Yet, my teacher’s simple explanation helped clarify for me the basic differences between the two major political parties.

Today, I admit to being pleased when I learn that one of my nephew's teachers is progressive but perplexed when I learn another is conservative. Professional standards require teachers be politically unbiased in the classroom. But during an election year, with all of those young minds, it could be tempting to promote one's political or cultural ideology, even in small ways. And many educators take positive advantage of an election year to teach students how government works.

But as our children's providers, we need to sit down with them and explain, in language they can understand, what all of the political parties and candidates stand for, and why it is we belief what we do. While we're at it, let's tell them how important it is to vote.

Granted, we would prefer our children agreed with us — were not little Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians or Greens made in our image — but it may be more important to dispel the outrageous lies and exaggerations so often associated with a party’s rhetoric. We need to teach our children how to make informed choices so one day they can decide what they believe for themselves.

Simply telling our children "Because I said so" isn't enough.

Rhiannon Ross lives in Kansas. She can be contacted at Rhiannross@aol.com or publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.

 


              
              
                 

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