When I first started teaching, we had this rule about not talking about birthday parties. I don't know if it was my rule or the school's rule. Over time I realized that it didn't make complete sense. Any teacher of young children hears, "You are not coming to my birthday party!" at least once a week if not daily and I found that most no-talking-about rules are bound to fail. If the sentence starts, "We don't talk about . . ." -we- already are talking about whatever it is. Now I hope I am working toward creating a place where there are not rules that govern what children can talk about.
Birthday party talk in preschool is kind of like talking about politics at a dinner party. There is bound to be unpleasantness. That is the thing, though, how do we model civil, respectful, and reasonable discourse if we make rules about what we can and cannot talk about? We are a school located inside the Beltway. Seeing the Capitol Building and the White House are regular occurrences for our young children. Many of our parents volunteer for local and national campaigns or work in politics. I know of at least a half dozen alumni, older now and in college, who have also worked on campaigns. It makes perfect sense for the children to hold an election at our school and we have been doing this since 2000.
Note to alumni, you can skip to the bottom for Election Results 2012 (or keep reading).
Since 2000, our school's election results have reflected the nation's. The bottom line is that they have predicted every single Presidential election even to the margin. This is where civil and respectful discourse will get you and the children can vote the way they do and it is okay and is often the topic of conversation at home later or even just after voting. They do not blink an eye, they do not yell and shout. They just state the facts, "I voted for..."
Here is how voting works at our school...We vote the week before Election day because our school is closed on the day. The children build a voting booth and I supply a hollow block with buttons to press for each candidate. The Leaves voted on Wednesday and the Tracks on Thursday. Our little ones, the Bugs, do not vote. There has to be a rite of passage. The children line up, taking turns to go in and vote. In 2000, our voting booth was quite simple with a letter B for Bush and a letter G for Gore written on pieces of masking tape. In 2004, I had to step it up, because I thought maybe the B and the K would be mixed up easily. I wrote out the candidates' whole names on tape.
Game on for 2008, with photos of the candidates and their running mates, mainly because we got a computer at the school, internet, and a printer! We did the same this time. I showed each group the buttons and pictures so that there would be no confusion when they got into the booth and then we got down to the business of asking for their votes on the Questions 4, 6, and 7 that are on the Maryland ballot this year. The parents co-oping that first morning were interested in knowing how the votes would go on these questions. The key here is we wanted to know how the votes would go, knowing our children's history with voting. If you follow our facebook page, you can see our alumni tuning in for the election results already. We could save the in depth civics lessons for another occasion, but this is a great introduction!
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So, here is where I would like you to extend a kindness. Teachers often find themselves out on a limb by themselves when imagining how to frame complicated subjects for young children. I will share how I posed each question on the ballot
and hope that readers will understand how scary it is to be on that limb sometimes.
Question 4 is about extending in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants. Here is how I posed the question, "Should children whose parents were not born in Maryland go to college for the same money as children whose parents were born in Maryland?" The children did not have any questions about this one. For Question 6 which establishes that Maryland’s civil marriage laws allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license, I asked, "A man can marry a woman and with this change, a woman can marry a woman and man can marry a man." We had a lot of questions. Some children wanted to know if these were mommies we were talking about and one child wanted to know if we could change it so that only daddies and daddies could get married (he had told me that Batman and Robin are married a few weeks ago and maybe he was concerned that his answer would impact his favorite superheroes). Question 7 is about expansion of gaming and I had to be careful with this one because the only way I could imagine sharing it was to attach it to a personal story, "This question is about gambling. Let me give you an example of gambling. When I was young, I was at a carnival and there was a booth where you could win a live hot pink bird. I took all my money and tried to win the hot pink bird and I lost all my money trying to win it. I could have given all my money and won the hot pink bird or given all my money and lost. That is gambling. Should there be gambling?" Okay now, come on! If you thought that this sad tale would sway the votes, you would be wrong! We got a share of yes votes and a share of no votes, just like you do in real voting. This is just like the votes for President. Some children vote for Obama/Biden and some vote for Romney/Ryan, just like in real voting.
So without further ado.
Registered voters, 33 with a 97% voter participation (we had one child absent all week)
Question 4 -- 20 Yes, 12 No
Question 6 -- 22 Yes, 10 No
Question 7 -- 13 Yes, 19 No
Obama/Biden -- 21, Romney/Ryan -- 11
Now let's stay tuned for Tuesday.