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Talking to Kids About the Election

Do you take your child to vote with you? Do you discuss the issues?

Election Day is Tuesday and America will choose which man will run the country for the next four years.

Our kids can’t vote in the election until they are 18, but my earliest memory of the election process is voting for president in a Weekly Reader poll. (I won’t date myself and tell you the candidates.)

Children learn about current events, such as politics at school, from TV and from the environment created by parents. So, how do you deal with the elections and your kids?

I remember my mom taking me to vote with her when I was a child. Do you feel it’s important to take your child with you for the experience?

Do you talk about the issues in front of your children or with your children?

Share your opinions in the comments area below.

Bob Byrne (Editor) November 04, 2012 at 08:47 AM
Discussing politics is an opportunity to teach civics 101 to kids. Depending on a child's age and grade level the discussion can often start with asking what your child has been learning in school about the election and/or candidates. It's a great way to see what they're being taught and how that lines up with your own thinking. For older kids (this year mine range from grades 6-11) it's a chance to help them understand your own thinking on a candidate or office and why you're voting the way you are and to help them talk or think through what they think about candidates and issues. That dinner table discussion can help arm kids with skills that will help them when it comes to classroom discussions. Those kind of classroom discussions tend to start later in middle school but there are often more basic lessons taught in elementary school. Many polling places will be set up in schools. That's another opportunity to talk about why voting is important. At the youngest grade levels you can simply discuss what voting is all about. Tuesday is the day that "We the people"- the founding idea behind out government - is put into action. It is the day we get OUR "say" in who writes the laws we all must live by. When they were little, I always took my kids into the voting booth with me. It "de-mystifies" what happens behind the curtain and gave them a chance to see how the mechanics of a polling place work.
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 09:42 AM
Yes, Bob, a great time to be teaching about our civil liberties because we are voting for keeping them, or losing them this election. This would be a good dinner table discussion this weekend and up until election day. More on the secret losses and abuses to our civil liberties under either an Obama or Romney administration: "Obama, Romney Still Silent on Civil Liberties in Last Debate" "Among the primary threats to security is our government," Buttar said, "and the founders of our nation warned us of this happening." Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/obama-romney-civil-liberties_n_2006992.html
Bob Byrne (Editor) November 04, 2012 at 10:42 AM
Never in at least a generation has so much been at stake for the future of this country. It's not just two people from different parties running this time around. It's two radically different viewpoints on the basic role of government in our lives. What the nation decides on Tuesday will affect every child and the next several generations of children. That's why I think it's not only critical to go vote but also to explain what's at stake to kids (to a level they are able to understand). Just as the grandparents and great grandparents and even great-great grandparents who voted in the 30's dramatically and forever altered the relationship of government to the American public so too will Tuesday's election. Today's kids may not fully understand what's at stake (many adults may not either) but they will be left to live with the results, regardless of who wins. I would encourage everyone, no matter who they support, to go to the polls and vote Tuesday. Our kids are watching and years from now they'll have the context to understand whether their parents voted or not and why and who they voted for.
Rosemary Decker November 04, 2012 at 12:10 PM
This is a great discussion. As a teacher we have been having quite a lively discussion about the election. The students in our building have been engaged in research on the issues and have been encouraged to go home and make this a topic of discussion with their families. They have written papers about their choices based on research, and have voted in the Kids Vote project sponsored through the IU. We even have had and will be having debates. The level of excitement among these students is amazing. They are engaged, enthusiastic and are asking deep and thoughtful questions. It makes me proud as a teacher, but also to know that this comes from active engaged parents who encourage this discussion. Regardless of political persuasion, and we have seen our students support both sides actively what we teach is the process and how critical it is to be involved and most importantly to VOTE. As I tell them daily - you won't turn 18 and understand it all, it begins now.
Taylor November 04, 2012 at 12:19 PM
See, Bob... I disagree. The world will not cave in due to the results of this election. Yes, we discuss what's happening at the dinner table and we try very hard to introduce the two parties to our older elementary school children with as little bias as we can. The media has dramatized this election to an epic battle between good and evil - no matter which side you're supporting. The truth is, the president has only a third of our government's power. The president does not set the budget, Congress sets the budget. The children have just studied this, they even know it's hype. The president may make suggestions and float a budget for congress to consider, but ultimately it's congress' job. We need to find a way to work together as Americans and end the polarization. The world will not end Wednesday... no matter who wins.
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 02:16 PM
@Taylor - more than two parties! We can choose to see our world within our control or out of our control. The world just might cave in if we are letting it fall out of our control, and into the control of others. Take care of your world, and don't let it cave in because, unfortunately Taylor, all things can cave in that we are not controlling. Take control. Maintain your own civil liberties and those of your children. They can be lost without your care.
Rosemary Decker November 04, 2012 at 02:31 PM
We teach students to be aware and to know their rights. The Bill of Rights is taught, and we do look at Civil Rights quite actively. We teach the process of civic engagement. It is not our place to guide students to any way of thinking. That is what students do on their own based on their own critical engagement in the process. What is so often lost is that students are able to do this if they are taught the facts, and allowed to research independently. Our students are very savvy. They read, and they come in with some hard questions. My job is to remain unbiased and direct them to appropriate places to find out more, or back to their parents. For all the bashing that gets done of young people I forever remain impressed of how smart they are, how eager they are, and how much they do crave knowledge overall. What I also find in this community is that the parents by and large want their students to be challenged to think independently and taught to think at high levels. Our job as educators is to not dictate any thought or to scare but to teach the process. Anything else is a violation of the trust the community places in us.
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Rosemary, are you teaching that we have more than two candidates on the ballot in most states? Yes or no?
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
@Rosemary Decker Rosemary, fortunately we do have more than two parties in the United States. I hope you taught your students how important civil liberties are in our country, and how they are being secretly and slowly stripped away from the American people. Both Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama are both ant-freedom + anti-civil liberties candidates. Suggest you read, "Support for Kill List and NDAA make Obama and Romney Unfit for Office. Again, it is fortunate that we do have more sides than two in America. Be sure you and your students watch the last historic Presidential debate between Gov. Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Dr. Jill Stein (Green) to be aired on Monday evening, Nov. 5th, 9:00 pm Eastern. Both Gov. Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein are champions of civil liberties, and will repeal all laws that strip civil liberties from the American people. Should prove to be a throughly teachable moment to tune into this historic debate on Mon. evening, Nov. 5th, 9:00 pm. http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/reawakening-liberty/2012/nov/2/support-kill-list-and-ndaa-make-obama-and-romney-u/ http://freeandequal.org/?v=1
Rosemary Decker November 04, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Of course. In fact in the research papers I received I had students select third party candidates to write about. In the course of our teaching we teach about how the party system developed, the history of how the two party system infused itself, but also how third parties exist and are a vibrant and active part of our political system.
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 06:23 PM
That's great news, Rosemary. Did you discuss the media blackout of third party candidates, and how they are excluded from the nationally televised Presidential debates?
Rosemary Decker November 04, 2012 at 08:45 PM
We speak generally of bias and how to recognize it. My ability to discuss much is limited as it is not my job to make political statements or express any political opinions or to critique the press. That could be construed as "expressing a viewpoint". I respect that and understand what my role is, to educate as the the process and how the system including the media works. I do discuss how in fact we have others running whose voice is not expressed and how the media does not give voice and how it is their job as a citizen to be actively engaged and involved to listen and research. These students very quickly do ask about the other candidates, very quickly begin to research the issues, and very quickly become aware how the system operates including the media. In the end we work with parents and the community to educate. There are boundaries and limitations to what we can do.
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 08:59 PM
This article is from "TIME for Kids: Vote For President: Cast your vote in TFK's election poll." Students apparently were only given two choices for President even though 2 more third party candidate's names, Gov. Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Dr. Jill Stein (Green) WILL actually appear on most state ballots this election. Why aren't we teaching students or most adults of all legitimate candidates running for the Presidency? Why are we denying reality is the real question? What do we hope to gain from denial or half-truths? "On November 6, Americans will go to the polls to vote for President. Two candidates want the top job. One is Barack Obama. Elected President in 2008, Obama wants to lead the country for another four years. He is a Democrat. In September, the Democratic Party will officially nominate Obama for President at the Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mitt Romney also wants to be President. He is a Republican. His party meets in August, in Tampa, Florida, at the Republican National Convention. There, Romney is expected to be named his party’s presidential nominee. Americans must be at least 18 to vote. But young people can still share their opinions. Make your choice in the TIME For Kids poll below". TFK POLL Who would be your choice for President? Choices Barack Obama Mitt Romney Read more: http://www.timeforkids.com/news/vote-president/42751 http://www.timeforkids.com/news/vote-president/42751
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Here is another article brought to students by PBS Kids: The Democracy Project. On Meet the Candidates page, again only two choices for PBS Kids to choose from. How is this truly educational? Isn't it time for nothing but the truth, the whole truth to be told? Our children and students deserve the whole truth. http://pbskids.org/democracy/meet-the-candidates/
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 09:22 PM
I understand, Rosemary. Your students have a good teacher. They're lucky. The average American adult should be in your class. They would have more opportunity to truly learn about all our choices for the Presidency. First Amendment rights do extend into how our media violates rather than permits free speech in regard to our nationally televised Presidential debates, and our election process. It is time it came to an end.
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Yeah, here's one that is telling the whole truth for voters in Pennsylvania. (Some states have more candidates on the ballot, though Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein do have the most ballots). Kudos to Kids Voting USA! Good for you for telling the truth, and making it available to students! http://kidsvotingusa.org/2012-presidential-election-resources
Sharpie November 04, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Yes, let's be throughly clear what is at stake this election. It is civil liberties. "Support for Kill List and NDAA make Obama and Romney Unfit for Office" http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/reawakening-liberty/2012/nov/2/support-kill-list-and-ndaa-make-obama-and-romney-u/

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