Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Using Children for Political Ends = Crossing the Line

I first got wind of this news from Yahoo! main page, in a video about a congressman's daughter writing a letter in support of a position he did not. It seemed funny at first. Can you imagine if you are a Republican and your children grow up to become Democrats? Some serious rebelliousness issues there. But then I read a little more thoroughly and...was appalled.

As the DailyMail reports, the congressman, state representative Mike Stone, received a batch of letters from third-grade students compelling him to raise the state budget. Among those students writing was his own 8-year old daughter. In particular, the daughter wrote "please raise the budget" and to help keep two teaching assistants. What makes this appalling is that the teacher intentionally organized the students to write on this issue, voicing such a position, for the explicit purpose of sending off to congressmen of influence. In this case, there was direct knowledge that this young girl's father was Mike Stone. Furthermore, it seems like these actions were initiated by the entire public school system.

Representative Stone declared that "as I read through this [letter], anger completely shot through me" -- a sentiment he has every reason to express. Not only is his daughter supporting a political action he objects to, she is too young to understand the issue itself. An eight-year-old girl has much better things to be concerned with than politics, like unicorns and barbies (I kid slightly). It is pretty obvious that she was just being used as a political tool by the teacher/school system for a certain end. How does this come together? The budget issue is about the current clash between the state Republicans and the Democrat governor Beverly Perdue. And as anyone knows, Democrats have the express support of the public school systems and vice versa.

There are methods to influence your representatives, but using their children to do is not one of them. Think about this for a second: do children have the right to vote? The answer is "no", which means they should not be directly contacting their government representatives either. That is the responsibility and right of their parents. Ultimately, children are children -- and not political instruments.

(One thing I just thought of is this: why would the daughter be writing to help the two TAs keep their jobs? Teacher assistants are not needed for most part, unless there are special needs. Teachers should be able to manage their own classes, without further help. If they can't, then maybe they shouldn't be teachers. TAs are largely there to reduce the workload for teacher -- akin to a student taking an exam but having outside help in doing so.)

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