Second Grade Politics

I woke up this morning ecstatic. Obama for a second term! My first stop was tutoring. In the lobby, one of the other volunteers started to tell a story to our organizer about how he wanted to rewrite the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper to incorporate a new character – the Bee – who would come every year and take away 50% of the Ant’s savings.  And the Ant would get frustrated – why is he working so hard to save food just to give up so much? I tweaked to the conservative metaphor right away, and wondered if this person was utterly oblivious of his rather liberal audience – it was kind of a weird moment. And I asked myself if any volunteers would impose their own views on the kids if and when asked about the election.

Then, while waiting to go into the classroom, I noticed some drawings and essays related to voting posted outside. I love these young and fresh views of the world, and have posted on them before. My first thought was – oh, how cute, I’ll check those out after class. When I came out, I started to leave for work and then remembered I wanted to look at the “Vote” essays. I hustled back and scanned a few and wound up taking some photos so I could read them with more time later.  Here are a few.

Now that I have had a chance to really look at them, I’m not sure how I feel about the whole situation. I do think it’s important to teach children from a very young age the importance of voting, of engaging in the civic process, of expressing an informed opinion, and so forth. That said, how informed an opinion can a 7–year–old have? Are they by default echoing the opinions of their parents and teachers and role models around them? Is that an ok part of the growing-up/learning process? To imitate your models until you have your own opinions? At which time you can appropriately express them because you’ve had good models in the past? When is the moment that you might have a different opinion and – as a dissenter – feel comfortable saying you don’t share the opinions of you classmates/teachers/parents? I don’t know what that age is.

This particular school is full-to-bursting with people who fall under what everyone regards as “Obama’s demographic” – low and middle-class families, diverse ethnic backgrounds, recent legal and/or illegal immigrants, etc. And I couldn’t help but be entertained and find the Obama portraits and dedications heart-warming. Would I feel the same looking at a wall full of Romney essays and portraits? Definitely not. I have my own clear opinions and preferences, though I try not to foist them on others most of the time. But I’m left not knowing where the line is between teaching students to participate and engage, and having them simply reflect our own views. A complicated matter, as so many things in life are.

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