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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Talkin Politics... with Kids?

We’re not supposed to talk about politics and religion—but somehow, we do. My son started noticing that his parents were voting when he was about four. He asked me who we were voting for and I tried to explain that we needed someone to look out for us and make laws that would help us. I also told him we always needed someone to look out for “little guy.”

I wasn’t thinking too hard when I was saying all of this—most of our serious discussions were spent en route somewhere in the car—but somehow thoughts formed in childhood through listening to my own parents were tumbling out.

Sometime later, he asked about Republicans and Democrats and again, I mentioned the little guy. At the same time, I was trying not to label one side or the other (but how can you not?) All this led me to wonder how we can give our kids a political education while staying objective. I guess the short answer is, we can’t.

We can expose them to a lot of different points of view, though, through people, articles and websites we trust. In an age when the country seems to be hopelessly polarized, I think finding things we have in common with the so-called “other” side are crucial. And I truly mean that.

When writing The Beat on Ruby’s Street, I had to immerse the characters and my readers in a particular time and place. Ruby makes several choices based on the actions of people like Mahatma Gandhi and is influenced by the political opinions of her friend Sky and the Beat Generation poets. Yet, I’d say politics have very little to do with Ruby’s story, they add a thread of defiance that I was trying to capture and convey.

If I were really good at this stuff, I’d say getting your kids to act out scenarios that taught them about government would be a good start. What I mainly want to say here is that we’re all going to find ourselves in the middle of a discussion about politics (and religion) at some point, and we need to figure out what we want to see, even if we don’t see it.

If you have any thoughts here, I’m listening—and would love to know. If you want to read more, I’m including some links I found:

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