It has been the most unusual presidential campaign of my life and probably yours. I was an elementary student during the Nixon-McGovern campaign of 1972 when President Nixon was re-elected under the cloud of Watergate only to eventually resign in the summer of 1974. I was in college when President Jimmy Carter was tested in the primaries by fellow Democrat Ted Kennedy in unusual fashion and then went on to lose to Ronald Reagan in the general election. (If you remember, the Iran hostage crisis was the defining issue and the Iranians were so angry at Carter that they released the hostages right after the Inauguration.) I had just begun working in Hopkinton in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election. George W. Bush become president legitimately after the Supreme Court weighed in on the results in Florida and thus pushed Bush over the top in the Electoral College.
Fast forward to today, four days before the general election. The latest New York Times/CBS News Poll states that 82% of voters feel that the 2016 election has made them feel more “disgusted” than excited about the process. You may be so sick of the election that you’ve understandably stopped reading my words, but my concern as an educator is how this process has affected our children’s view of our electoral process. No matter what candidate you may be voting for on Tuesday, it’s important that we are able to teach our children through some direct “instruction” as well as modeling that our American system still works. Some specific thoughts:
- Our children need to know that we still have a very unique and functional Constitution which has stood the test of time and many crises and it will withstand this one too.
- Somehow we have to combat the disrespect children see from adults on the campaign trail. While most elementary students should refrain from watching too much TV news, nearly every student has seen or heard enough to know that our candidates (from the primaries on) haven’t always conducted themselves the way we would expect of our kids at school and home.
- Obviously, children are going to know where you stand on the issues and candidates because you’re going to be talking about it at home. (I hear plenty of Trump/Clinton discussions from kids in the hallways and lunch rooms). When the kids are within earshot, it’s important that we speak in respectful tones about the process. Even if you may not respect one or both of our presidential candidates, we can show respect for the office itself.
Of course, our action of actually voting on Tuesday may be the most important example we can show our children. Staying home is certainly a choice in America, but taking the time to vote speaks volumes to our kids.