Jennifer L. Grubbs: Early adventures in civics
Elections can be so much fun for children.
Think back to when you were young, before you knew about all of the partisanship, bickering, name-calling and disappointment. Think back to those first civics lessons about the right to vote and the Revolutionary War, about black people gaining the Constitutional right to vote, and women’s suffrage.
That’s where a great many of the students who are participating in the 2008 Newspapers in Education program are at now. For some, this will be the first presidential election they remember or are aware of. For others, it will be old hat but probably still a little exciting.
This year’s NIE theme is elections. Our first field trip is happening this week, and the students will visit the Moffat County Clerk and Recorder’s office and hear about the election. They will then ask questions and be reporters. After the trip, they will write up their experiences, and the Daily Press will publish their articles, along with the reporters’ photographs.
These kids certainly will remember this election!
I have quite a few childhood election memories, as well as one story my family tells about me. (I can faintly remember this, but not in as much detail as it’s been told to me through the years.)
At the time of the 1984 political conventions, I would have been 4 years old. Every night when my father got home from work, he would flip on the TV and watch the evening news. Just as they are now, the upcoming election and political party conventions were big news, and I saw what was on the TV and got excited about it – even if I didn’t really understand it.
I got so excited, in fact, that I wanted one of the signs people on TV were waving. I got out my drawing paper and Crayons and created a sign that said Mondale ’84 – at least that’s what it said to me.
I liked seeing the man with the big grin on TV. I wanted to be involved in what was happening, and what better way than to wave a sign? I’ve been told that I jumped around in front of the TV crying out, “Mondale, Mondale,” and waving my sign. However, attention spans of 4-year-olds being what they are, the election fever did not last through the election, and I was not stunned or hurt when Walter Mondale lost to Ronald Reagan.
One of my favorite childhood elections stories stems from the 1988 presidential election. I was in second grade at St. Anthony Catholic Elementary in Sterling. The school decided to hold a mock election for the students, kindergarten to sixth grade. We had to pick a candidate, George Bush or Michael Dukakis, and write about why we supported that candidate (at least that’s what the second-graders did).
I knew whom I was supporting – and this will probably surprise most people who know me – George Bush.
I come from a family of Democrats. Today, I certainly tend to lean more left of center in my political views. Why, in 1988, did I support George H.W. Bush?
Well, it was a character/personality vote, all the way. You see, he looked and sounded like my Grandpa. Also, I was not getting along very well with my father, who supported Dukakis and whose name was Mike, like the candidate, so I just wanted to support the other guy.
Yeah, I know. It wasn’t exactly an informed vote.
Then, in 1992, I was a huge Bill Clinton supporter before he really broke away from the pack to become the nominee. This time, I was more informed. I was reading Newsweek and The Denver Post. I watched the evening news. And I just liked this guy.
In 1996, I still liked Clinton, and I sure as heck didn’t want Bob Dole to win. He kinda looked like Grandpa, but I was way past choosing a president based on that! I was voting on the issues, man.
In 2000, I got to vote in the real presidential election for the first time. I was an Al Gore supporter and was crushed throughout the Florida/hanging-chad debacle, and I felt disillusioned after the election was decided by the Supreme Court.
In 2004, I felt betrayed when Kerry lost. That’s all I will say on that.
Now, the 2008 election is upon us. No matter who wins, it will be historic. We will either have a president of African-American heritage or a female vice president. And unlike 1988, I’m not supporting the guy who looks like my Grandpa.
There will likely be some 8-year-olds who do, though.
It certainly will be interesting to read about what the NIE student reporters get out of their year of studying elections. I know I’m looking forward to reading their articles.