Did you know that the Democratic Party believes in state’s rights (including having the right to prohibit or accept slavery) and that government is too intrusive into average American’s lives? Or that the Republican Party is opposed to the spread of slavery, are for a woman’s equal rights and boasts the first Hispanic Governor, first Jewish Senator and first Hispanic Senator?
Did you know that all of the black Senators in Congress prior to 1935 were Republican?
So it goes that many Americans have uneasy knowledge of politics, political parties, and both the process of electing and the responsibilities of their elected officials.
Which makes teaching our children about politics without bias is both hard and necessary. Without knowledge of politics and how things work in government, our children will either have no interest or skewed views in politics. Without a firm foundation in the election process and the responsibilities of those elected, they will fall for whatever fad spin or fancy orator who comes along. They will bequeath a country to their children devoid of ethics and responsibilities and genuine regard for its citizens.
But worse, if we teach them our biased views, they will either continue in such biased tradition without thinking for themselves, or will be so turned off that they will be disconnected with their government. This will also result in the country they bequeath to their own children being so far withdrawn from the path the founders or the subsequent generations envisioned.
Parents must pass onto their children the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about those they elect, lest they be taken in by any slick snake oil salesman politician that comes along. They must also keep their own biases and beliefs out of the education process, lest they turn their children in unthinking clones of themselves or uncaring and apathetic people who complain about things being wrong but do nothing about them.
This can be a difficult process. But one well worth the investment, for your sake and for your children’s.
First, take time to learn where things began, how they began and what has happened since in your government. The web can be a confusing place, but as good place to start is with your state’s own .gov website. Pennsylvania has a great page that tells you the general facts about how many and who serve you. Many states, like New Hampshire, even has a page for kids to learn about government.
There are non-profit and private organizations out there to help. Groups like Kids Voting USA offers a look at how to get your children involved in the process.
Bookstores are another great place to help you. There are coloring books, fun facts about the Presidents books and books on how government works in age appropriate language. Just be certain the books you get keep their views and opinions out of it. Don’t get the Conservative’s patriot’s only coloring book or the Liberal how corrupt Republican government works versions.(I don’t think these two actually exist, but you never know.) Just get the ones that stick to the facts and tell them in age appropriate words.
Another important thing to do is make it fun and relevant. Children get bored easily with politics if you approach it from your point of view. Get to their level and think about what is happening in politics and government that directly affects them. An issue on school lunches or a teachers strike or extending school days can be good places to make it interesting. Talking about what shows they watch on television and regulations that affect them, or about the food they get at McDonald’s and the legislation about it, are ways to link them to what is happening.
Be open to their questions. And again, try not to let your bias one way or the other enter into your answers. Try to state things as objectively as possible and see what thoughts they have on the subject.
Never, NEVER, discount their opinion. Don’t say things like ‘well, that’s just stupid’ or ‘you don’t understand what you’re talking about.’ Take what they have to say and ask them why they think that way or how they came up with that point of view. Nothing will disengage a children from ANY topic faster than your negative response to their opinion.
Teaching your children about their government and politics can also be a great learning experience for you as well. And it will bring you closer together. You will see them grow as individuals and they will appreciate you letting them have their own opinion. And in future years, when they are all grown up and you can have adult conversations, it may be possible for you both to express differing opinions about what is going on in our country with civility, and without the usual battles and name calling.
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