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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Politics and being 8 years old...

I'm going to leave partisanship out of it for a minute. I was reading an article about Obama just now. An article by Mark Steyn. I was about to share it on my wall and I thought: "Why? Anyone who supports him by now does so blindly because they just plain believe in either these socialist / Marxist policies of his or they believe in the grand experiment that he is. In either case I'm not going to make a dent.
Then I had a memory of 8th grade in Mr. Farmer's Social Studies class at George Reed Jr. High. It was 1976 and an election cycle. It was Ford vs Carter. We spent 12 and 13 year olds in the 8th Grade...discussing the election, the issues (back then it was inflation and the Cold War, and the shadow of Watergate) and the candidates. We talked about the electoral college and how it worked. In the EIGHTH grade! The penultimate assignment, prior to the mock election in the classroom, was that each and every one of us took one side or the other based on our own assessment of the issues and we gave a stump speech for our man. Again...12 years old...EIGHTH grade. In the end I believe Carter won the classroom, if I remember correctly.
The point here is this was the EIGHTH grade! We were kids but we were educated without bias and taught about how to make a decision like voting and what a privilege it is. It would be 7 more years before I could actually vote for a President, having turned 18 in 1981 I missed Reagan's first term but voted for him in the second...while a student at LU.
Fast forward to the current day and I would bet the majority of 8th Graders in public schools have yet to have their first discussion about Electoral Colleges and voting rights and how to decide issues. Sadly that transfers to adults as well. I graduated High School in 1981 and have been essentially unaffected by the educational system until 8 years ago when my daughter entered the first grade. So it's a bit of culture shock for me. Between the saggy pants, shocking clothing choices and the barrage of outside influences all aimed to steal their innocence and childhood before they ever really experience it, and the enormous pain some of these kids seem to be in, I'm not at all familiar with the new landscape.
A lot has changed in 23 years. That's long enough for almost two generations to have progressed through public education at 12 years each. The yield...? A large cross section of the voting public with NO CLUE how to really, effectively make that one vote count! They sit back and let themselves be influenced by Tweets from candidates, video documentaries from Hollywood actors, the bloated rantings of past-their-prime rock stars who still think they need to influence society instead of just makes some good music that helps us forget some of the crapiness of our situation as it is. They don't learn critical thinking so they can't decipher through the smokescreen of what IS and what is NOT a "women's reproductive rights issue" and what is actually a "Suck a baby into a sink and the government pays for it issue". If you want to argue for "reproductive rights"...argue for it up a big person, not couched in some veil of rights and freedoms. These voters don't even know what the First Amendment actually how would they know it's being violated by the government? And it's no wonder they believe the Constitution actually contains something called a "Separation of Church and State"...when was the last time the actual Constitution was studied in a public school classroom? Not the principal of HAVING a Constitution...the actual DOCUMENT?
I'm guessing it's been a long long time. If they taught it the kids would know there was NO guarantee of privacy in the entire premise of "reproductive rights" would be out the window. They would understand the First Amendment and then they'd be as angry as I am at this administration for flipping the bird at the Catholic Church and daring them to react. They be angry about the new law that says we can't matter how peacefully...anywhere near a politician if he happens to be important enough for Secret Service protection.
They would be angry. They would speak up. They would go home and tell their parents what they learned and their parents...having benefited from the same information themselves during their school years would be angry too. And they'd talk as a family and they'd discuss their vote, and they'd make a lifelong lasting impression on their 12 year olds about democracy and what a Constitutional Republic actually is and how it works.
When I was 8, as an assignment I wrote to the-Senator Pete DuPont about the environment. It was 1972 and pollution was a big deal. Remember the commercial with the Indian Chief and the trash at his feet? It was back then. He responded with a little card that carried the Senatorial seal...which I was SURE was worth a king's ransom...and a book about 2000 pages long that contained the EPA report to the President from the previous year. In hindsight I realize Pete DuPont didn't actually send me the book. Some staffer, who didn't read my letter thoroughly enough to grasp that I was EIGHT, put it together and Pete signed the card. But it came to my house in a big manila envelope and I took it to school the next day and showed my teacher, Mrs. Winters. I was so proud to have suddenly become a part of the democratic process at 8 years old. Pete's card simply said "I hope you find this helpful and of interest". Honestly it was neither...and it was both. On the matter of pollution and the environment...naah. It was 2000 pages of scientific gibberish that I am certain Nixon himself didn't bother to read. But to a nine year old it was a magic pill. I had written to my Senator and he wrote me back! He sent me this cool two-tone blue book that was written for the President himself (under the watch of Russel Train, the EPA director), and my Senator had shared it with me. I had that thing for YEARS. I tried reading it a few times. Seriously. It was beyond boring and baffling. I think I had that book until I was about 20.
It was part of a class assignment in Mrs. Winters' third grade class at Wilmington Manor Elementary School. We all had to write to a government official at some level. I only remember one other classmates letter. Glen Senseny wrote to our Congressman (whose name escapes me, it might have been Bob Connors) and asked about the air traffic near our school. The school was close to Greater Wilmington Airport (Now the Airport of New Castle County) and the Delaware National Guard trained daily. There was also a large private jet firm there and they tested aircraft as they completed them. The skies were full of C-130's, Huey helicopters and Leer jets. Glen wrote and asked if the pattern could be diverted during school hours so it was quieter for us. Imagine the nerve of this little 8 year old! The Congressman wrote him back too. He said he understood the situation and that his own kids had gone to school there. But the airport had been there before the school and before the neighborhood even and there wasn't anything anyone could do. Glen carried that letter to school like it was Excalibur.. We had become part of the process. The next year--as the Watergate hearings got underway--our fourth grade teacher had a TV brought into the room and we watched the proceedings as we did our work. All day long.
I am pretty sure this isn't happening anymore...not in Metro Nashville anyway. This is why I discuss politics at length with my daughter. Because they aren't teaching the system in school now. They aren't teaching critical thinking either. They are teaching them about bullying and accepting all lifestyles. THAT is my job as a dad. Teaching civics and the Constitution...that should be done in school. Unbiased and non partisan as it was when I was a kid. In closing I want to do something as an'll have to trust me on this that I didn't Google the text of what I am about to do. In the 8th grade we were given an assignment...learn the Preamble to the Constitution, by memory, and be able to recite it orally and write it out. That was 1976. I have not studied it goes
"We, the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and secure domestic tranquility. To provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty, for ourselves and our posterity. Do hereby ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America".
I learned that 36 years ago, and I didn't review it just now. How'd I do?
How would your kids do? How would you do?
God Bless America

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