What We Can Teach Our Kids about the Conventions

Visits to the RNC and DNC.

After five days at the RNC in Tampa, I arrived in Charlotte yesterday to a city rollicking with DNC festivities and tumult. A street fair appeared to strain the city’s security forces as kids with painted faces and their parents filled the streets, along with delegates, guests, and media. I took refuge in the Huffington Post Oasis, where Arianna Huffington greeted guests who were treated to healthy lunch fare, massages, and facials.

The convention begins today with Michele Obama as the headliner. Bill Clinton is the keynote speaker on Wednesday, and President Obama addresses supporters in the nearly 74,000 seats in the outdoor Bank of America stadium on Thursday night. Both parties script their conventions nowadays, and some pundits, like NBC’s Tom Brokaw, have even suggested that the one hour the networks devote to coverage each night is too much. That’s really a shame.

I fell in love with politics as a kid when I first heard the soaring cadence of John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech when he was nominated for President in 1960. I became a political junkie right then and there. I remember watching conventions when the broadcast networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of floor fights, platform debates, and even walkouts on the convention floor — but those days are long over.

More of a shame is the endless 24/7 media spin — telling us what we saw and what to think — ad nauseum — and there’s blame to go around on both the right and the left. In Tampa, I watched the convention each night in its entirety from the convention hall, and I came to the conclusion that I don’t need an intermediary telling me what to think — and neither does anyone else. Perhaps we should all try watching C-Span.

And what about our kids? What can they learn from the conventions and the political process?

They can learn that our two-party system is part of our government’s system of checks and balances. It’s a good thing, and prevents excesses of power.

We should teach them how to observe, fact-check, form their own opinions — and express them fluently.

We ought to stop talking about religion in politics. There’s still way too much interest in a candidate’s theology in a nation that prohibits religious tests. I remember being shocked that Kennedy’s religion was an issue in 1960. After all, half the kids in my public school were Catholic, and I had no idea all the previous presidents had been Protestant. If we stop talking about it, it will cease to be important.

We should impress upon our kids that they can — and should — get involved. I was once part of a group of students that Vice President Hubert Humphrey addressed. He said, “If you think politics is dirty, get in there with your bar of political Ivory soap, and clean it up.” It was a tall order then, and it’s more so now. But it’s not impossible. Informed participation is the essence of democracy, and we ought to encourage our best and brightest to go into public service.

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GCBob September 06, 2012 at 04:11 PM
What we should be teaching our kids about these conventions is "Trust but Verify." Don't always believe what you read and hear unless you can varify the facts on your own from credible sources,make up your mind, don't be swayed by others and that the devil is always in the details.
JOE September 06, 2012 at 04:43 PM
My dr's college loan has nothing to do with overcharging me. Most dr's enjoy the fruits of their labor so paying a college bill is par for the course. You must be in the proffession if you think its ok for a $400 - 5 minute consultation to check your vital signs. That works out to $4,800 an hour for a pediatrician?
JOE September 06, 2012 at 04:48 PM
As far as teaching the kids. I teach my children that society is far too complacent with the status quo and that it is pathetic that only 40-45 % of the eligble voting population votes . They should also demand more from their elected officials and constantly contact them about issues that are present in congress and also at the state and local levels as well. Look at the child who was elected to the school board in Syosset. How did he get the inspiration to get there? most of the credit probably goes to his parents the way they raised him . that is what we need more children like that
The College Whisperer™ September 06, 2012 at 05:12 PM
What can we teach our children -- and what can we ourselves learn? How about one simple proposition: That the truth matters! I am reminded of the words of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who so aptly stated, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own set of facts." Facts matter, transparency matters, the truth matters, and not just at political conventions. http://collegeconnection.yolasite.com/the-college-whisperer/in-college-applications-truth-matters And along those lines, regardless of party affiliation or political leanings, we all need to gather facts and examine them, rather than, as we tend to do in our haste, accept fictions passed off as facts, and exploit them in the interest of political or personal expediency. Don't just hear. Listen. Don't just accept. Question. And don't just sit there. Get involved! -- The College Whisperer http://www.TheCollegeWhisperer.com
paul September 07, 2012 at 03:41 AM


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