Civics and Political Discourse—A Primer for All Ages

by Dave Bittle. 0 Comments




Turns out adults aren’t the only ones talking about the upcoming presidential election. According to my oldest daughter, Emma, 10, there has been considerable back and forth on the school bus as to whom, Obama or Romney, our next president should be. Naturally, the kids with opinions were merely aping the political views espoused at home, by their parents. 

Our prejudices, conjectures and beliefs, though altogether different than the double helix, get passed on to our kidos even so, just as eye color and temperament do. Never mind if these precepts are mistakenly formed by misinformation, special circumstances, or even idiocy, our children will nevertheless proudly cling to them as their own—for better or for worse.

Grasping this truth, I thought it wise, shrewd even, to begin my party’s cherished indoctrination process straightaway. Besides, what kind of parent would I be if I allowed reasonable discussion and thoughtful review of facts to influence my daughter’s manner of reasoning about public policy when I, her father, am perfectly capable of influencing her with my very own brand of asymmetric reasoning, partisan distortion, and cynical propaganda?   From the sound of the school bus rhetoric, however, I’m getting a late start—other parents have obviously gained an early advantage. 

Let us begin. First, I tell her to not be a critical thinker, as critical thinking is for losers—plus there’s no time for such nonsense. We’re all too busy scurrying about, this way and that, to look at each issue individually; dealing with politics on the party level is clearly the most efficient and sound way to protect her interests as a U.S. citizen. “Don’t look at the issues” I sermonize, “Vote party…my party…your party!” 

Like healthcare with its rising costs (nearly ten-times since 1980), or education with its overall failing grades (and 25% dropout rate). These issues are best left to party sages in Washington D.C., who are, by and large, really smart lawyers who are infinitely more knowledgeable (much more so than common provincials like her and me) about the complex matters of public health and intuitional learning, or anything for that matter. We’re just worker-bees I inform her. She frowns a frown only a newly disenfranchised U.S. citizen can.

On $16 trillion (or $47,000 per person) in U.S. debt, I tell her don’t worry about it—it will all work out. Just keep listening to my party, her party, our party, and keep watching our favorite 24 hour news channel, they’ll tell us how to think and feel about this most important of national security issues. If we stay devotees of our party, extol their distinctive ideology, it will all work out—they’re going to fix things.  “Trust them,” I advise her “the good days lie ahead. Just be patient”   

Regarding the tri-puzzles of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlements (currently more than 40% of federal budget and projected to surpass 50% by 2020), and the ten thousand people who each day turn sixty-five, I advise her not to nuisance herself trying to formulate her own ideas and opinions about how best to solve these most complex of arithmetical riddles. Let my, her, our, selfless and dedicated party elders sort it out, they represent our country’s best and brightest, they know what is most advantageous for our country, for our family. 

And if knowledge of all this weren’t enough to send her cartwheeling for we-the-people joy, news of the collateral efforts made by the lobbying industry surely would. “The lobbying industry” I emote, “from which great charity springs forth, influence (in the best possible sense of the word) our diligent politicians to ‘donate’ tax dollars to organizations in chronic need, like the farmers ($2 billion each year to not farm) and big oil ($2.8 billion in tax breaks.)” 

“The lobbying industry” I tell her “is our inside-the-beltway sway, they protect our interests, promote our values, and tell us where to spend our money.”

Still frowning, she asks to go play. "Sure," I say "go play. But don’t forget to promote our party’s dogma, our party’s candidate, your party’s righteousness to all your friends on the school bus, and their parents whenever possible." 

So there, my job is done. Politics for pubescents, from pillar to post—and we’re all better for it I think. 

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