Friday, September 17, 2010

Quotes from Fifth-Grade Students Today

By Barry Rubin

What do kids talk about during free time in class? From today, here are some of the things said, according to my reliable 11-year-old anthropologist in the field.

"Obama is doing so well with the economy!"

Analysis: This does not seem to correspond to the statistics as even the Obama administration admits.

"Due to global warming it will soon be snowing in Africa!"

"You're stupid for not believing in global warming!"

Analysis: Man-made global warming may be true but students have only been exposed to arguments that it is real and dangerous to their lives with no implication that there is some genuine scientific debate, especially regarding the "man-made" part.

"Obama is going to do something great!"

Analysis: Perhaps but this comes from being constantly told this will happen rather than any specific knowledge or evidence.

"Doesn't the Soviet Union still exist?"

Analysis: Well, they are only 11. So I didn't list other statements like, "Where is Belarus?" since that is a tougher question but one might expect that kids born around 1999 would know that the USSR wasn't even around when they were born.

And,finally, an exchange between two students:

First student: "I don't know who my parents voted for."

Second student: "What are they...Republicans?" Said with an expression of  the utmost disgust.

Analysis: Students in public schools, at least in Maryland (it might be the exact opposite elsewhere) seem to take the hint that Republicans are evil and that being one is disgusting. Kids learn that they are only supposed to be Democrats. This reminds me of an elite private school where two parents were laughing at and ridiculing a little girl who was the only one in the entire class who dared say she supported McCain for president, rather than noting that it took a lot of courage to say so.  

Whatever candidate or party you support, you shouldn't ridicule and intimidate those who disagree. Children should be taught that supporting either party or presidential candidate is a legitimate democratic activity and not subject to scorn. Otherwise, they are being raised to be closed-minded and intolerant, uninterested in actual issue-based arguments for voting either way. When every child in a class of 20 or 30 agrees, this makes one wonder whether there isn't something going on beyond the nature of a specific jurisdiction. The fact that to disagree invites ridicule is part of the explanation.

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