Teaching Children About Politics

Children Should Learn About Politics

Statistics show that the number of young adults who vote in America is embarrassingly low. Is it because of apathy, or because they don't understand the system or know the candidates and/or issues? It could be a combination of all of the above. From a very young age, children can and should be taught about our political system: how it works, who is elected, and the identity of key leaders from their local area, up to the president and vice-president. They should also learn how America is positioned in the world and what makes this country's political system different than others.

As a parent or care-giver, you need not purchase instruction books or set up an entire curriculum for your child. But, at the same time, your child may not be getting the education they need in this area at school. Recently, I worked with a group of 4th grade cub scout boys, earning their Citizenship badges. I made a poster with photos of the President, Vice-President, Governor of Oregon, and our local Mayor. I also scrambled in photos of Hollywood celebrities (Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and George Clooney). Then, I asked the boys to identify our political leaders. It was shocking the number of errors they made! We worked for half an hour, learning the leaders' names, spelling of their names, when they were elected, and when their terms would end. This led to fascinating discussions of why we have term limits, and what qualifications you need to have in order to run for president versus governor of a state (they are different!)

If your child asks questions to which you don't have the answer, take time to look up the information together on the internet, or go to the library to do some research. Elementary school-aged kids are naturally curious. You can capitalize on this time in their life to build a solid base of knowledge of how our political system works. You'll probably learn something yourself, as well!

Speaker Nancy Pelosi Pictured with Children

Find Out What Your Child is Learning in School

If your child is not forthcoming with the information, ask at parent-teacher conferences, or contact the district. It is your responsibility as the caregiver to determine if your child's education is thorough enough to meet the standards you believe will set your child up for success in life.

If you do not believe the instruction is adequate, ask that more be covered. You have that right! But in the end, it may just be easier to teach your children by having discussions, or by taking field trips (to City Council meetings, or State Capitols) yourself. Getting more actively involved in local politics as a family allows your children to see first hand how issues are brought forth, discussed and then acted on. It can seem a bit removed at the state and national level. Consider attending a council meeting with your children at which a new neighborhood park is being discussed, for example. You'll be able to find agendas on-line in advance on your local municipality's website.

Actively Watch News Programs and/or Subscribe to Children's News Magazines

When your child is in at least the 3rd grade, or you believe he or she to be ready, you may want to consider watching national news programs together. There are many stories that relate to politics that can deepen a child's understanding of U.S. relations with foreign countries, and the political systems of other countries in the world. In election years, of course, there is much to be learned. Delegate counts, political parties, National conventions, and primaries versus caucuses. It can be overwhelming (even for you), so see if there are additional resources that can help explain some of the key components of the race.

Time Magazine has an edition especially for children, Time for Kids. Check out the link to the right. You may wish to go to your local library to peruse a few back issues. A subscription could be a fun gift to a child that is eager to learn, not only about politics, but other exciting science and nature facts.

Politics are at play at all levels of our lives, from the smallest neighborhood organizations, to multi-national groups. We may think our children are too innocent to have to learn about the nastiness of the games and negotiations, but at the same time, there can be order and harmony - particularly if they know the rules. Don't let your kids fall through the cracks and be ignorant about the world in which they live. Give them a little edge with a political rule book!

© 2008 Stephanie Hicks

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Comments 11 comments

wizy profile image

wizy 8 years ago

hello


amy jane profile image

amy jane 8 years ago from Connecticut

Great hub, Steph, and such an important issue for parents to consider. My oldest daughter is just turning 9 and is full of questions about the upcoming elections. She wants to undertand how it all works. I think she is already beginning to realize that politics can be frustrating to discuss! It is essential that we teach our children about politics - thank you for sharing your ideas. :)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Amy, thank you for your comment! My almost 11-year old son has watched both debates so far to earn extra-credit in his 5th grade class. I understand that they are having lively discussions at school, too. He even "debates" his younger brother about the candidates and their positions. This is a great year to start teaching kids about politics, for sure.


lori763 profile image

lori763 8 years ago from SWFL

I agree with you. Kids should be taught to ask questions and think critically:)


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi lori, that is the best way to put it! Our children will be more responsible adults if they learn to take in information and decide for themselves what they think. Teaching children about politics is a great way to build a solid foundation.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

Thanks for your opinion. It is useful for our children. We can teach our children more brave and teach them to shout for commenting, negosiate.


danatheteacher profile image

danatheteacher 6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Teach kids to think for themselves through the process of gathering information from pros/cons and then making an informed decision. Too many times, my students rant with passion the perceptions of their parents, but have no idea what they are saying. Trying to teach them to evaluate their beliefs in light of their own personal values is a challenge.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

That's an excellent point, danatheteacher. I've seen quite a bit of what you're describing at scouts and in other volunteer positions. Kids can form their own reasoned opinions, and should learn how to do so!


Mimi721wis profile image

Mimi721wis 6 years ago

I'm all for educating our young on this important issue. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a video game called discuss the candidate and the issue.


full learning 5 years ago

Not a good thing to teach :P

http://full-learning.blogspot.com


adcwriter@gmail.com 2 years ago

I review a picture book entitled "GRACE FOR PRESIDENT" on my blog - www.bookbuzz4kids.com. The book is about an elementary school kid who runs for class president. The book is great and educates kids on how the electoral college works and more. Check it out at http://ow.ly/DFHGt

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