Politics for 10-Year-Olds

 

While I was watching the debate last night, my stepdaughter and her friend came into the room. They were instantly thrilled that “a girl” was on stage and began cheering for her to win. I told them there was another girl in the other party, so it could end up as girl versus girl. Then I had to explain this debate was just among one party, and the other party would have their debates (like the playoffs). Then the winner from each party would debate, and at the end we’d pick a president (like the Superbowl).

Then they wanted to understand the difference between the two parties.

This question has come up before. This time I was prepared. I’m married to a public school teacher who has some conservative leanings but is a pretty solid Democrat. Her kids naturally tend to want to be Democrats as well and give me a hard time for being a Republican. I think it’s best to present both sides in as positive a light as possible; that is, to follow Milton Friedman’s approach of always assuming people of opposing ideologies have the most virtuous intentions.

My first answer was in jest: Republicans are for ice cream and Democrats are for broccoli. They knew I was kidding and asked me to be serious. So I said Republicans care more about liberty and Democrats care more about justice. I thought of this answer when my stepson was sliding down a hill in the winter and screamed, “With liberty and justice for all!” That reminded me school kids today are still familiar with those terms from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

My stepdaughter and her friend asked me to explain a little more. I said Democrats tried to make everything fair, while Republicans preferred to let people sort things out on their own. As expected, both girls immediately said “Yes, I want to make everything fair, too! I’m a Democrat!” Within a few seconds they started to realize (without me saying anything) that everything can’t be “fair.” (I think at this point they understand “fair” as “equal”). They even came up with their own examples, such as, “All the jobs can’t be fair, someone gets to have the nice jobs but someone has to do the grubby jobs.”

I think this resonates with our kids because while they’re young, they’re constantly worried about “fairness.” (“If my brother gets a cookie, then I should get one too, right?”) But as they get older, they learn that “everything being equal” doesn’t work. Our son plays football and is playing on every down, while some kids play a lot less. Our daughter gets to be a leader on her dance team because she’s talented and can remember the steps. I think they’re both starting to see that when they work hard at something and succeed more than their peers as a result, it’s obviously not “equal,” but they probably wouldn’t call it unfair.

My hope is that as they grow more interested in politics, they’ll start to differentiate between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. I hope I’ve planted a seed towards that understanding.

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  1. Paul Erickson Inactive
    Paul Erickson
    @PaulErickson

    Thanks for a pleasant read.  From the title, I thought your post was going to be about CNN’s debate format!

    • #1
  2. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Good job!

    • #2
  3. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    like

    • #3
  4. Pencilvania Inactive
    Pencilvania
    @Pencilvania

    Excellent – I like how you distilled the differences down to Liberty and Justice.  So it’s all Francis Bellamy’s fault!

    • #4
  5. Probable Cause Inactive
    Probable Cause
    @ProbableCause

    Republicans are more conservative, so they like to help people with their own money.

    Democrats are more liberal, so they like to help people with other people’s money.

    • #5
  6. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Great post, but I’m uncomfortable with it.  Justice gets short shrift, only I can’t figure out how to articulate that.  Justice = Fair is not right, but I need to sleep on this one before weighing in.  Or I will say something untoward, guaranteed.

    • #6
  7. Vince Guerra Inactive
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    When my wife explained to our nine and eleven year old’s what abortion was they cried. That’s all it took. It takes a grown up mind to convince itself to tolerate an evil thing; children see things more clearly. What I can’t explain to them is why people let it happen. I don’t understand that myself. I guess you’d have to ask a Democrat how they turn off that switch.

    • #7
  8. John Penfold Member
    John Penfold
    @IWalton

    Fair means you all play by the same rules, so that doesn’t work either.  Democrats believe that some people are so much smarter than everyone else that they get to run things.   Fair is a word they use to justify what they’re doing, but what they mean is they also get to determine the outcomes.

    • #8
  9. FightinInPhilly Coolidge
    FightinInPhilly
    @FightinInPhilly

    When they’re a couple of years older (2-3) hand them a copy of Karl Hess’s Capitalism for Kids.

    From the forward: …”you can either make money or you can steal money. You can’t just make it appear by magic or by wishing. Sometimes you hear politicians say that they are going to give money to people. Never forget that they have to take away from some other people first.”

    • #9
  10. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    I don’t know if you can really explain this to kids until they have earned something that they value.  I know of a teacher who told her class full of proto-Democrats that it was unfair that some kids did better on the last test than other kids, so she was going to take points from the “A” kids and give those points to the “C” kids.  This would be fair, she explained, because everyone would get the same grade.

    The kids figured it out pretty quick.

    • #10
  11. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Great post, but the Democrats are the ice cream party, and the Republicans are the party of broccoli.

    • #11
  12. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    What is abundantly clear is that this nation has a lot of adult children in it, who never grew up to learn that life is difficult, freedom isn’t free, and government doesn’t create wealth. Thus the election and re-election of Mr. Obama.

    It’s one thing for a child to want everything to be fair. Young children also want cake for breakfast, birthday parties every day, and unicorns as pets.

    It’s another thing to reach one’s 30s or 40s and never figure out the difference between the fairy tale and reality.

    • #12
  13. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Justice = getting what you deserve.  Fairness doesn’t enter into it.

    Zelazny, from Lord of Light:

    “The priest smiled. ‘What man who has lived for more than a score of years desires justice, warrior?  For my part, I find mercy infinitely more attractive.  Give me a forgiving deity any day.'”

    • #13
  14. Polyphemus Inactive
    Polyphemus
    @Polyphemus

    The reason that children instinctually are drawn to the “fairness” angle is because, in their experience, most of the good things in their life are doled out by an all-powerful overseer. In order to get what they want, their best recourse is to argue “that’s not fair!” When they are standing next to each other, waiting for daddy or mommy to hand them the bowls of ice cream, they scrutinize the size of their scoop to compare to their sibling’s. Fairness = Equality in that scenario.

    It is only when they experience ownership through earning things that they see the injustice of redistributive fairness. I’ve wanted to ask President Obama if, like he said to Joe the Plumber, he would consider this spreading the wealth “fair”: Sasha and Melia do Summer jobs. Sasha works hard and earns $500. Melia, not so much. She just earns $100. But to be fair, he takes $200 from Sasha and gives it to Melia. Now they both have $300. That’s only fair.  Right?

    I think it is far too generous to ascribe “justice” as the primary goal of the Left. We need to realize that they don’t operate on principles. Their only principle is winning power.

    • #14
  15. Arizona Patriot Member
    Arizona Patriot
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Kids need to be taught the story of the Little Red Hen.  Then they’ll understand that everyone getting the same amount of bread is the antithesis of fairness.

    • #15
  16. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    As I began my slow conversion from liberal to conservative I initially saw it as:

    Liberal = equality of outcome

    Conservative = equality of opportunity

    Since then I’ve come to realize that much as one poster mentioned above, equality of outcome has nothing to do with it, its a scheme for garnering power over others.

    • #16
  17. Sash Member
    Sash
    @Sash

    I’m sorry, but Democrats are only about controlling other people’s behavior and keeping people poor and deceived.  Fairness, equality, justice, has nothing to do with being a Democrat at all.  They believe strictly pre-determined outcome is best, because if people make their own choices one person might be happier than someone else.  If that happens, those happy people should be punished and made to bow down and publically repent of their “privilege”, just to be “fair”.

    At times I’m not sure at all what Republicans are for.  I am one because I am not interested in controlling other people, I don’t believe that any group of people are genetically insufficient to rise out of poverty all by themselves, and I still believe the family is the best way to bring up children.  I believe that self-control, self-government, and a capitalist based economy, has historically given the most people their best chance to reach their full potential, and therefore the best chance for individual happiness in life.  I believe in freedom, and self-discipline rather than government force.

    And the Republicans seem to have at least stood for something close to that.  Although they have lost their way and wander around looking for some dead guy named Reagan.

    Your definitions are out of date and based on propaganda rather than the reality on the ground.

    In one word each, Democrats are for slavery, and Republicans are for Freedom.

    Children should be taught the truth.

    • #17
  18. Ralphie Inactive
    Ralphie
    @Ralphie

    Boss Mongo:Great post, but I’m uncomfortable with it. Justice gets short shrift, only I can’t figure out how to articulate that. Justice = Fair is not right, but I need to sleep on this one before weighing in. Or I will say something untoward, guaranteed.

    The justice concerns the law. The law is just, not fair. We are a nation of laws, not men. I caught that too, but liked the post.  I don’t know that kids are quite ready for politics, (I feel the same about religion) until about the time they get kicked in the butt from real life. But I think the example of being a parent interested and involved in those make it reassuring for children to have somewhere to turn when others or themselves let them down.

    • #18
  19. Solon JF Inactive
    Solon JF
    @Solon

    Nice post.  Got me thinking:  Republicans:  equality of opportunity and personal responsibility.  Democrats:  equality of outcome and government to make sure this happens.

    Another:  Republicans think the US and the west are basically good, though by all means not perfect, while the Democrats think that the US and western ideas are not necessarily good and need to be fundamentally transformed.

    • #19
  20. Eric Mawhinney Inactive
    Eric Mawhinney
    @TypicalAnomaly

    If I may synthesize two ideas presented above:

    Ralphie said in #18 that kids aren’t quite ready for politics…

    Sash said in in #17 that children should be taught the truth.

    Perhaps it is that children aren’t ready for all the abuses of politics, but since they do deserve an age-appropriate (maturity appropriate?) portion of the truth, politics and religion cannot be restricted topics.

    And as implied in the original post, this is best done through analogy and examples. I want my children to get all they can handle of the adult world they will join. First in principle–perhaps an abstracted version of the principle–then in experience. Leadership  of the dance team is an opportunity that should be open to all. But only one person can be leader. Very real-world stuff to a kid, and absolutely political.

    • #20
  21. Eric Mawhinney Inactive
    Eric Mawhinney
    @TypicalAnomaly

    Solon JF:Nice post. Got me thinking…

    <snip>

    Another: Republicans think the US and the west are basically good, though by all means not perfect, while the Democrats think that the US and western ideas are not necessarily good and need to be fundamentally transformed.

    I don’t think this point is as durable as the one regarding liberals and their interest in power. Prior to Reagan, liberals loved western ideas and power as a force for good. The ideas only needed to be transformed when they no longer controlled the definition of “good.”

    May I offer: Conservatives think power should be distributed to the hands of a law-respecting individuals. Liberals want the power kept close by so they can control how it is used.

    • #21
  22. Chad McCune Inactive
    Chad McCune
    @ChadMcCune

    A pleasant story. Thanks for the post!

    • #22
  23. Buckeye Inactive
    Buckeye
    @Buckeye

    Not sure if it solves anything here, but Democrats see Government as Mommy; Conservatives see government as a lazy uncle.

    • #23
  24. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Johnny Dubya:Great post, but the Democrats are the ice cream party, and the Republicans are the party of broccoli.

    Now, how come the GOP doesn’t package and market that as, “the Demorcrats are the Tofu party and Republicans are the party of steak?”

    • #24
  25. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Vince Guerra:When my wife explained to our nine and eleven year old’s what abortion was they cried. That’s all it took. It takes a grown up mind to convince itself to tolerate an evil thing; children see things more clearly. What I can’t explain to them is why people let it happen. I don’t understand that myself. I guess you’d have to ask a Democrat how they turn off that switch.

    Because in their heart, children–powerless in their innocence–know “there but for the grace of G-d go I.”

    Where as evil adults do as they please, to please themselves, at the expense of others.

    • #25
  26. Carol Member
    Carol
    @

    One of the things that I think helped my kids understand was group projects in school. The teachers would always mix the groups, including different student types. My kids were always competitive – four boys!- and would want to get A’s.  Inevitably, they and another kid or two would end up carrying the lion’s share of the workload. Then everyone, slackers included, would get the same grade. This made them crazy.

    • #26
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