How to Get Kids Excited About Politics

How young is too young for political conversation? Most countries require their citizens to be at least 18 years old before voting, reasoning that by that age, younger voters have the reason and thoughtfulness required to do their part in charting their nation’s future. But what does this limitation mean for those under the age of 18? Should they be encouraged to engage in political discussion even though they haven’t reached the designated age?

 

I would say with absolute certainty, yes.

 

Kids understand more than we give them credit for. Too often, we assume that children won’t be interested in or won’t understand political happenings. However, by acting on our assumptions and cutting interested kids out of the conversation, we potentially handicap their interest and engagement in political action later in life. Think hypothetically for a moment. Two newly-minted voters stand in line to vote; one comes from a politically apathetic family and only bothers to briefly look up which candidate fell within his political party before meandering out to vote. The other grew up discussing politics almost daily with his family and can explain his rationale for choosing his candidate to anyone who asks. Who would you rather have at the ballot box?

 

Political engagement doesn’t have an age restriction. We need to encourage our kids to participate in the political conversation and teach them how to think critically about the candidates they align themselves with. Otherwise, we run the risk of turning our political decisions over to a generation of apathetic voters. Don’t lock kids out of the conversation; bring them in!

 

Bring the Child Into Conversation

Children ask a lot of questions, especially if the adults in their lives are visibly passionate about a subject. Although it might seem tedious to go over basic political ideas, you should do so for the child’s sake. Once they understand the foundation of an issue, they can build on that knowledge and comprehend more complex subjects. Give them a voice! The best way to inspire interest in political conversation is to make a child feel as though their thoughts and opinions are welcome.

 

Allow for Gentle Debate

By and large, children tend to align with their parents’ political beliefs. However, this isn’t a given – and children should never be shot down for airing different beliefs. Talk through both sides of an issue, and gently ask your child to explain why they hold their position. Calm, thoughtful debate is a constructive exercise in critical political thinking.

 

Use Metaphors

Many adults don’t understand the finer points of tax reform – so why would a child? Try to stick to digestible subjects that can be simplified. Opt for metaphors that relate to the child’s experience, such as casting an election as a game or contest. A little reframing can do wonders for a child’s understanding.

 

Next time a child asks for context in a political conversation, give it to them! By bringing them into the conversation, you just might spark a lifelong interest in political thought.

 

Presidential Profile: Ronald Reagan

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

-Ronald Reagan

 

Widely recognized as the driving force behind the nation’s realignment with conservatism in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s considerable success in office has cemented him as an icon for conservative-leaning politicians today.

 

Though he is mostly known for his achievements in California and D.C., Ronald Reagan was born in a small town in rural Illinois. Reagan grew up in a working-class family and put himself through school; his childhood experiences inculcated in him a strong belief in the value of dedication and hard work. In 1937, Reagan relocated to California and began working as a sports announcer and actor; years later, he starred in several notable pictures and was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild. In this position, Reagan took strides against the influence of communism in Hollywood and utilized his influence as a significant figure in show business to springboard his entry to political office.

 

As an actor, Reagan was expressly forbidden from involving himself in party-specific politics; in 1945, he was even asked to surrender leadership of an anti-nuclear rally by his employer, Warner Brothers Studios. The restrictions eventually became too much, leading to Reagan’s  decision to drop acting and pursue a career in politics. In 1967, he successfully challenged two-time Governor Edmund Brown for California’s governorship and promptly set about fulfilling his campaign promises to balance the state’s budget and quell student protests. His notable successes in office led to his reelection to office in 1970.

 

But the governorship wasn’t enough for Reagan; he knew that he could do more good from higher ground. In the years following his second term, he expressed his interest in the Presidency and even went so far as to enter a race himself twice. In 1981, he achieved his reach for the Presidency by overcoming incumbent Jimmy Carter. While in office, Reagan espoused a philosophy of creating “Peace through Strength,” and pressed against Soviet influence. His communications abroad eventually led to the INF treaty with the USSR, which effectively ended the Cold War and lessened nuclear stockpiles. Domestically, President Reagan implemented supply-side policies (later called “Reaganomics”) and called for greater economic deregulation and a reduction in government spending. Over the course of his two-term tenure in the Oval Office, inflation dropped from 12.5% to 4.4, while real GDP growth increased to 3.4. Upon leaving the Presidency following his second term, Reagan had a near-unprecedented approval rating of 68%.

 

Ronald Reagan’s past influence on the United States cannot be understated. He lived a long, influential life, passing away in 2004 at the age of 94. However, his standing as a symbol for conservatism and the importance of his achievements remain strong in his absence.