A Learning Opportunity: What Will Children Think about the 2016 Election?

It's safe to say that this election was one of the most heated in recent memory. Both sides refused to pull any punches as they competed for the highest office of the land.

In an effort to win the presidency, the media and respective campaigns used whatever resources available to them to sway public opinion, often digging up decades-old dirt to malign their competitor. While this nation faced real issues, we were subjected to irrelevant rumors, controversy, and speculation that only served to distract us.

By the end, even the most even-handed people had run off the rails. I wouldn't be surprised if you lost a few (or many) friends on social media because you tweeted out something from Trump. Or got into a vitriolic argument with an old buddy because of a link you posted praising Hillary Clinton.

But this is the environment we have to live with now. Because of the massive impact that one person can have on the Internet, traditional media has "turned up" the volume on their rhetoric and opinions. The combined noise of both these outlets have created a veritable echo chamber, where sensible topics and solutions are drowned out by the most clickable, most salacious content.

This has irreparably damaged our election process. A once noble time in our nation's life has devolved into partisan bickering, violent outbursts, even the destruction of property and potential loss of life. (You only have to look at the reaction of people outside the United States, who are exhausted from hearing about this election and are praising it coming to an end.) At a time when we should be intelligently discussing solutions to our nation's challenges, we succumb to our baser nature, throwing tantrums like children.

None of this has gone unnoticed by our children. While we try to shield them from the horrors of the real world, in an effort to protect them from things they are too young to handle, the next generation has been front and center for one of the ugliest and manipulated elections in American history.

I know I've been guilty of my fair share of rhetoric, though I've always strived to make it available to only those old enough to digest it. But TV ads, blogs, and a plethora of YouTube videos have reached our youth, the people who are still trying to understand the importance of democracy and why America--despite all her flaws--is the greatest country in the world because of our system of government.

All they've seen are grownups fighting each other. And while you can say this has always been the case with elections, I can't help but think that earlier generations enjoyed a little more decency in the process. While they surely flung their share of mud, they focused on the most pressing issues facing America at the time.  You know, things like the economy, the Cold War, and threat of nuclear war.  Not whether or not a candidate ate Spirit Cooked food or grabbed anyone by the p*ssy.

Every four years we have an opportunity to show our children that we have the power in our country. America is not controlled by dictators, rich nobility, or even corporations. It's run by the people. We decide what course this country takes, not Obama, not Congress, not even the Supreme Court. But instead of taking this opportunity to teach our children how best to handle this responsibility, we make memes mocking a candidate's hair, their gender, or whether or not they can walk straight.

Then there's what's going on in our public schools. We know that the teachers unions are largely democrat and that our teachers will do everything in their power to sway the students under their authority. We willingly subject our kids to liberal propaganda five days a week and think nothing of it.  It might explain why so many of them end up loud-mouthed, entitled, social justice warriors when they reach college.

Here's this little chestnut.  Even when students express their own ideas, teachers shut them down.

A New York elementary school has canceled its traditional mock presidential election after kids chanted “Trump” and repeated “negative rhetoric about minorities,” according to the school principal.

Children at Jericho Elementary School in Centereach will be voting for their favorite school lunch instead of their favorite presidential candidate after their mock campaign season got too heated...

 “I mean, kids often repeat what they hear on the TV or the news, but it doesn’t mean it’s OK,” [the principle] said. “We have a diverse community here. We want all our students to feel valued.” (via Washington Times)

So they valued the children learning about democracy, until they started to support Donald Trump.  Apparently, wanting to support a major candidate in a U.S. election amounted to negative rhetoric that would make other students feel bad.

But I'm sure if they were chanting "Hillary," the principal wouldn't have minded. I guess this man hasn't heard any of her rhetoric.

Mock elections are taking place in schools across America. It's a fun opportunity for kids to learn about democracy. Yet this is just one of many examples of how the teachers' bias is poisoning that opportunity. Did they really think the kids would unanimously vote for Clinton? They were so convinced that their indoctrination had been working, they couldn't conceive that some of the students would pick a republican.

This principal blamed "what they heard on the TV" as the excuse, instead of perhaps, the children learning about the election from their parents.

Past all the politics, past your personal views, we have a responsibility to the next generation. When we expose our children to the very worst side of the political process--the fighting, mud-slinging, and cynicism--we are only setting up a bleak future. There's a reason why so many young people don't vote. Statically Millennials haven't broken through the 50% barrier.

Many have expressed disappointment with the current candidates. They don't feel inspired by contenders who, regardless of their politics, represent everything about America they despise. They've been programmed to ignore the issues and focus on the negative. Why could that be? Maybe because throughout their childhood during the 80's and 90's, they were bombarded with messages that turned them off of voting.  Today they believe it won't make a difference.

When large groups of individuals refuse to vote, they are giving their power to the people who do. The fewer Americans that have faith in our system, the closer we get to the kind of corrupt, ineffective governments in other countries, that oppress their people and deny them basic human rights. Yet that might be the future America is looking at, as each new generation loses faith in our democracy.

So what will our children learn from the 2016 election? I hope that it's, despite all the fighting and complex politics, the American people have the final word. Hopefully they will forget the lies, the manipulation of the press, and the painful divisions this election has created.

Hopefully they will have more faith in the United States of America than we do.

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