Politics On The Playground

It’s no secret that the political atmosphere is about as thick as it can get at the moment. You can’t watch TV, listen to the radio, check your mail, answer the phone, or drive anywhere without having political ads in your way.

Even schools are getting involved with “Kids Choose the President” type events. This weekend Cordy and Mira told me all about their discussions of the elections at school. Cordy told me there is a website for kids to go to and choose who they would vote for if they had a say in picking the President.

I asked her what her teacher said about the candidates. Cordy rattled off some very basic information about how and why we vote, Obama being the current president and going for his second and last term, Romney being the challenger, two political parties with different ideas for ways to do things, etc. It was very non-partisan, and sounded like good information for the kids on how the political process works.

I asked Mira if she had similar discussions in her class. She then responded, “Mommy, I was told President Obama was a bad man.”

My eyes nearly popped out of my head. “What?? Your teacher told you that?”

“No, mommy, some of my friends said it. Their parents said he was a bad man who spent too much money and wants to hurt us. They said we have to vote for Romney, but I don’t think we want to do that, do we?” She then went on to say some friends have been saying these things for weeks now, with one child even making it clear that kids who like Obama aren’t good kids.

I’m really, really uncomfortable with this. Five year olds. Spewing political hate and propaganda to their five year old friends on the playground to take home and share with their parents. What parent thinks this is OK for their children to say?

My children have asked who we’re voting for, and we’ve told them we’re voting for Obama. They’ve asked several questions about why we prefer him, and we’ve always kept it high-level and age appropriate. We explain that each candidate has different ideas for how to be president, and we agree more with Obama’s ideas, so he’s our choice.

We’ve also told them it’s OK for others to have different ideas, and they’re not bad people because they think a different plan is better. Voting is how we all say which person and ideas we like the best, and the person who has the most votes gets to try out their ideas.

We’ve talked issues a little, too, but they’re too young to understand many of the issues at stake, so we keep it general and non-scary. We’ve also told them it isn’t polite to tell other kids they’re wrong about which candidate they prefer, even if someone tells my kids they’re wrong.

NEVER would I tell my child that a presidential candidate wants to hurt them or is a bad person. Who instills that kind of fear and hate into their children? It’s not OK to make children hate their president or fear the government of the country where they live.

What happens if Obama wins this election? Do these children spend the next four years having nightmares that their president will snatch them from their beds and hurt them? Do their five year old hearts harden towards the president and any who agree with him, turning them eventually into angry, prejudiced adults who can’t see any further than the rage and fear programmed into them?

I have no concerns with our school teaching proper government education to our kids (I respect those who have different views, but that’s not the topic at hand), but I do worry about what inappropriate opinions kids are bringing to school from home. A child telling friends that kids who like Obama aren’t good kids is the same to me as a child telling friends that kids who like Christians aren’t good kids. It’s hateful and divisive and shouldn’t be said at school.

In our home, we believe in the political process and want to make the idea of voting and choosing a new president (and other political offices) interesting and thoughtful for our kids, not scary and traumatic. Sure, I have much stronger political views online and in the presence of other adults, but around my kids that subject is reigned in. At their age, they need to learn about democracy and government structure, not about the negative ads, accusations, hate and gridlock that tries to tear down that system. They’ll be exposed to all of that too soon, sadly.

(Yes, they went with me to an Obama rally in 2008. Mira was just over a year old and Cordy was four and slept through nearly the entire thing. I would not take them to a political rally at their current ages, although I happily take them with me to vote.)

My daughters aren’t hearing attack ads – there are no political ads on Nick Jr, and I turn down the radio during commercials in the car. Our discussions are upbeat and positive so they will like the political process, not fear it. And even when teaching differences of opinion, we still point out that, even if we think differently from others, we’re all a part of the same country and still have to get along.

I don’t understand why any parent would knowingly teach fear and division with the topic of politics. Teach your kids about why voting is important to you and give them a general view of why you prefer one person’s ideas over another, but leave the hate out of your message and don’t scare kids. Instead, emphasize that there are many different ways to approach the same problem, and that in the end, we’re still all one people that need to work together for the greater good.

These are our future voters and lawmakers – let’s teach them to do a better job than we’ve done.

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  1. I understand where you are coming from, Chris, my brother -in law and sister in law. Have done that with there kids turning them againist the goverment. They have taught them that all the goverment wants to do is take your money and control your life. They also say that Obama is a bad man. Yet it is funny because if it was not for Obama and his politics they would have lost their business, their house (which is HUD and based of their salary), their children’s health insurance and their food each month. Not to mention she went back to college using goverment grants.
    They are using every goverment program they can get and still “they” accuse the goverment of not caring about the american people.
    She could go out and get a job (all 3 kids are in school) and make enough money to pay for all that themselves but in my opion is to lazy. Why work hard when the goverment will pay for everything for you.
    Perhaps people need stop complaining about the goverment and get involved to change it. I for one will get into anyone’s face who “complains” about the goverment and it’s politics, yet refuse to vote saying “my vote doesn’t matter because it is rigged.”
    These people are teaching their kids this and now the kids don’t think it is worth voting or getting involved anymore. That Their vote doesn’t matter. This is what’s wrong with America. When REAL Americans no longer vote then politicians can do whatever they please because the public no longer cares.
    What makes all this horrible is…
    How many people over the years have died to give us the freedom to choose how our goverment will be ran and now half of Americans don’t even use that right.
    Sorry about the long rant but this really pisses me off when people wine about the goverment but won’t do anything to change it and teach their kids that it doesn’t matter what they do it none of it matters anyways. That we no longer have a voice in our goverment, when in reality if these lazy people would just get up and vote it could change. It could and would get better!

  2. Amelia Sprout says:

    Man, I love living in the hood sometimes. That shit would not fly around here.
    However, I can see that it is happening other places. In the name of racism, disguised as being politically normal. I had some idiot on Twitter the other night trying to claim that Obama is trying to take over ala Hitler. Um, no. I had a particular passion for my Western Civilization history class and I KNOW how Hitler rose to power and just.. no. But here some idiot, who likely has kids, is spewing that kind of crap and there are people out there that believe it.

  3. It is so incredibly sad and not something that you as a parent can really do anything about other than educating your children. I suppose if you caught a peer saying something to your kid you could correct them and use it as a teachable moment but I bet they’d run home and their parent would be pissed off at you. Crazy world. So ready for election season to be over and for Obama to be re-elected :)

  4. I was trying to watch the debate the other night and my 6yo son was protesting. Once I started explaining who was who and what they were doing, he got alot more interested. In fact, he’s pretty excited about class president races at school now and seems fairly happy with Obama. It was hard to bite my tongue while explaining which guy wanted to do what with the country…I think Obama got the nod from him because he already IS the Pres, plus he has a dog, not a dancing horse.

  5. My nephew came home (when he was about 6) saying he’d heard at school that Obama kills babies. He lives in Dallas and we assumed that it was due to Obama bieng pro-choice, but it just sickened us. His parents are fairly staunch republicans, and we are mostly far-left liberals out in CA, so there is already a huge discrepency. My mom happened to be there so I don’t know what my BIL would have said, as he probably agrees. But to see this on the playground is just awful.

  6. This reminds me of the Weekly Reader, which is sadly no more. Their presidential poll was the most accurate or at least one of the most accurate presidential polls ever. Someone may claim to the pollster that they are undecided, but if you ask their kid who should be president you’ll find out exactly who mommy and daddy will be voting for.

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