Family Ties

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 10, 2000

Mary Ann Fitzmorris / L’Observateur / November 10, 2000

Say what you want about Election 2000, it was an excellent civics lesson for the kids. My children returned from school bursting with excitement about having voted in a mock booth. They have been informally polled a number of times, and this national campaign has been the basis of considerable discussion about the system.

Frankly, I’d go so far as to say they’ve come away from it all knowing about as much of the race, the candidates and the process as the real voting public.

But this national contest every four years is not the only occasion where children have an opportunity to participate in politics, to be engulfed in the frenzy of a campaign. The older kids have Student Council, and the race at school recently proved some of them have a real knack for it.

My son ran for the first time this year for representative in his class.

One night we were discussing the race, and he said, “If things look really close I could always spread a rumor that John still sleeps in his parents’ bed.”Very nice. He’s apparently been paying close attention to the modern political process these last few years. I cautioned him about following the Newt Gingrich formula of kettle calling. “You know, pal, I’d be careful about that since you’re in my bed every time you can sneak it, and half your friends have bumped the family dog from his rightful place on the master bedroom floor. Besides, that’s a dreadful thing to do.””Well, Joe’s campaign manager has been spreading rumors that I bribed people to vote for me,” he rationalized. “What is bribing, anyway?”The class has obviously not gotten to Louisiana politics. But really, a campaign promise, under scrutiny, looks an awful lot like a bribe for the voters. For example, a few of the kids who emerged victorious in the Student Council race promised a change in uniforms, or, my personal favorite, a Playstation in every classroom. It seems that electorate gullibility also manifests itself early.

Fortunately none of the candidates predicted that only they could save the students from impending disaster, like detentions just for walking across the schoolyard or the complete removal of recess from the school day. We can safely conclude that there were no budding Democrats in the race.

Or it just may be that the other kids weren’t watching politics as closely as my son. Like his campaign manager, who was definitely unclear about the role. It became a ticklish situation when the campaign posters this friend was making, which were very well done, included the kid’s own name in a prominent position, like he was the vice-presidential candidate or something.

On one or two of the posters the campaign manager’s name was the headliner! My son had to figure out a way to explain to his friend that in a real race no one but members of the media actually knows the name of the campaign manager. Finally, the kid quit and decided to vote for someone else.A friend of my son’s had a more loyal campaign manager. This guy used two entire ink cartridges printing material for his candidate, only to lose to the fella promising the Playstation.

There were actually many other similarities between the Student Council race and real politics. When the election was announced, nearly every student in the eligible grades was planning to run. It was hard to find a campaign manager, because everyone wanted to be in the race themselves. (As my son’s right-hand-man proved.)But this phenomenon was mostly limited to the boys. The girls are much more interested in being Britney Spears. Hillary must have stood out in her school in more ways than one, because the girls we know were not especially interested in this process, especially in the older grades.

Much has been made of the voter apathy in the younger kids coming out of school. I have always wondered about this myself, until this year. Now it all makes perfect sense. Too many Student Council races.

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