What kids learn living in a swing state

Voting Booth

The kids were really excited to go with us to vote today because they have watched approximately 40 campaign ads each day for months. If you live in a swing state, all YouTube ads are campaign ads.

So the kids are conversant on a wide range of political topics. For example, “Mom, do we have gay friends?”

Me: “What?”

“Barack Obama says we need to vote because our gay friends can’t get married or serve in the military.”

Here’s another one: “Mom, if Mitt Romney gets elected, women will lost the right to vote.”

Me: “Why do you think that?”

“Because he doesn’t support a woman’s right to choose.”

It’s not just that they are conversant on the topics. My older son has a photographic memory which he chooses to use in consistently useless situations. So I was not surprised to discover that he memorized every single political commercial.

In the last week, Romney launched a video campaign featuring immigrants from all over the world who have escaped socialism. So my son can do impeccable impressions of a Cuban accent, a Ukrainian accent, and a Chinese accent.

We took the kids to vote at 7 am – everyone was very chatty. The man standing ahead of us said to my son, “Are you coming here before school?”

My son said, “We homeschool.”

The man said, “What time does homeschool start?”

My son said, “Right now! We’re voting.”

It’s stunning to hear phrases like taxpayer dollars and climate change impact from a seven year old. It might be better if every kid had unlimited YouTube time instead of school so that when they grow up, they would have the knowledge and self-assurance to avoid being undecided in a swing state on election day.

17 replies
  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Having your kids around involves them in a world that their school-bound peers won’t see until they graduate.

    Talk about leaving a child behind.

  2. redrock
    redrock says:

    Voting on Sundays would solve this problem easily. I went to school and my first (non US) voting experience was at the age of 5 or 6 watching my parents cast their ballot.

    • Tim
      Tim says:

      You do realize that most of this country has early or absentee voting, right?

      Voting on Sunday is a solution without a problem.

  3. Becky
    Becky says:

    I had a boyfriend with an eidetic memory. What seemed potentially so useful, also seemed related to some serious problems he has. Having a good memory didn’t mean that he was particularly skilled at interpreting the data he took in and retained. I hope your son can find a way to make use of his gift.

  4. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    Before the 2008 election, my then 7-year-old daughter kept talking about a boy at school named Barrack. I thought to myself, wow, it’s kind of surprising that they would be a white kid named Barrack in northern Michigan. When the class picture came home, I realized his name is actually Brock. I still smile about that. She was hearing a lot about the elections and I think it carried over into her group of friends.

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’ve always been an interested, informed, and engaged citizen for as long as I can remember. I’ve enjoyed civics education, history, and social studies even though my emphasis in school and university was in the STEM fields. I was really fortunate to be selected by my local American Legion in my junior year in high school to attend a week long summer program named Boys State. It was a really good learning experience as boys from all over the state learned together.
    This explanation of Boys State is from their web site – “Boys’ State is a program of the American Legion developed from the concept that youth should be offered a better perspective of the practical operation of government; that the individual is an integral part and commensurately responsible for the character and success of his government . As such, it is and activity of high educational value, borne of a need for youth training in a practical citizenship. Boys’ State is a leadership Action Program where qualified male high school juniors take part in a practical government course. This course is designed to develop in the young citizens a working knowledge of the structure of government, and to impress upon them the fact that their government is what THEY make it. Boys’ State is an objective citizenship training program which inculcates individual responsibility to the community, state, and nation. It is operated on the basis of the political government organization existing in New York State, including all levels from municipality to the state.
    Looking back now I see how fortunate I was to be a participant. So it really bothered me today when I asked the cashier at the grocery store if he had voted and he told me he wasn’t planning to vote. He said his parents were encouraging him to vote but that he didn’t like all the divisive talk or something to that effect. I wanted to say essentially the same thing that his parents said but instead I said – “yeah, it’s really contentious”. It’s my hope that he was listening to what he said, think about it, and change his mind and vote. I would prefer he vote a certain way but more than anything I just wish he would get out there and vote.

  6. gordana dragicevic
    gordana dragicevic says:

    It’s weird with eidetic memory that you can’t turn it on and off as other people (teachers, parents) tell you or believe you should. It seems to work only when you’re fascinated by something, and then it happens all by itself.
    As an adult, i still can’t control it, or *choose* what i use it for, but although i still memorise a lot of useless crap (really), i can well predict situations when it will work usefully – practicly on any topic i work on with focus at a particular moment. Knowing it comes with the way you precess information can give you confidence in advance before you tackle something.
    I’m reluctant to call it a gift, because it is a nuisance as well and it goes both ways, but it can definitely be of tremendous benefit once you learn how to work with it. Kids with eidetic memory should be taught to harness it – it does not always happen automatically.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the comments about eidetic memory. I didn’t understand that he can’t turn it on and off. And I didn’t understand that I need to help him harness his memorizing ability. When you tell me, though, it makes sense.

      I’m going to research eidetic memory today.


      • gordana dragicevic
        gordana dragicevic says:

        I confess, i’ve never researched it myself, what i wrote is an entirely empirical conclusion, based on my own experience, and that of some other people i know.
        If it helps to add some more, i mainly taught myself how to harness eidetic memory: by observation how it works, and then focusing only on subjects that really interest me. If they don’t, learning is forced and short-term, and since i am totally incapable of rote learning if i’m not interested – no matter how much time and effort i invest in it, i quickly realised it is almost useless even to try.
        So it’s a useful (if not the only useful) strategy to make him interested first. Then teach him how to become interested on his own. A kid with Asperger’s will usually get interested if you show that the subject is already relevant to something else he is interested in, and of course, if the subject is presented in greatest detail possible :) An Aspie can get the whole picture only by getting all the details first.

  7. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    In high school, I was part of “the political club” for year. It was such an unknowingly pretentious group of kids (myself included). In all of our discussions, I don’t remember there being an adult there to moderate. Maybe there was. Maybe he or she was really quiet. Anyway, an anecdotal piece of “evidence” to demonstrate how kids can create their own structured learning environments, especially when it comes to real world issues.

  8. Michele
    Michele says:

    My six year old has accompanied me to the polling place every year but this year; we recently moved to Washington state and it’s all mail in voting here. My son saw us fill out our ballots and asked a few questions, but I just realized this morning that he won’t have that communal voting memory.

    • Lisa S
      Lisa S says:

      Our state (Oregon) is all mail-in voting as well. I love it. I’m given enough time to study the ballot and the issues, and my kids can listen in and look over my shoulder to see what’s going on. I love that it’s a cost-effective approach that doesn’t involve long lines or machines that might not work. I also don’t have to spend the mental energy memorizing how I’m going to vote on every office and issue–I can just figure it out at home, color in the circle, and move on.

  9. CJ
    CJ says:

    My son asked me why I don’t want “Mitt on my uterus?” and why any president would do anything “ever ever ever” to hurt the environment? “do they want to swim in poop and oil?” (regarding sewage and waste spills here along the coast during Sandy).

    My daughter got to fill in the circle on my husbands ballot for one of her friends fathers that was running for state rep, and he won. When informed of the results this morning, she said, taking full credit (maybe more you-may-kiss-my-ring) into the air, “you’re WELCOME Eleanor’s Daddy!”

    It is just so much fun and tickling having their innocent perspectives. I can’t imagine a photographic memory child, you must never be off the hook about anything, LOL

  10. KateC
    KateC says:

    I love this: “What time does homeschool start?”

    My son said, “Right now! We’re voting.”

    But I am worried when (what appears to be) understanding of issues comes from youtube videos. Far too often complex issues are boiled down to a simple soundbyte that sounds convincing, but is related only tangentially to any underlying truth. Is important to teach our kids how to dig down into an issue? I think so – and our house is often full of passionate debates about “stuff.” But I would guess that most people don’t know how to understand any underlying bias, and many don’t care that they don’t understand, preferring to rely, instead, on their trusted “experts.” For a pertinent example, an analysis of the pay gap by the AAUW is perceived very differently here: http://www.aei.org/article/society-and-culture/race-and-gender/wage-gap-myth-exposed-by-feminists/ and here: http://www.aauw.org/GraduatetoaPayGap/upload/AAUWGraduatingtoaPayGapReport.pdf
    Who to believe? This is a critical question, and is not easily answered because it takes a lot of hard work to get through filters put in place by those who make the videos.

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