This morning, I was watching the News while eating breakfast, and my 5 year-old asked me who Donald Trump was. While that question could have many answers due to his…interesting character, my son has been hearing his name mentioned on the News lately and wondered why. This led to a long discussion of elections, and why we watch the News in general.
While we try not to have the kids see overly graphic footage on the News, we don’t hide things from them either. I believe that it is important to be engaged with what is happening in the world. While we don’t dwell on the worst things, I also think that it is important to realize that the worst thing happening in the world today is not that he is out of frozen waffles, or that he left the lid off his Play-doh and it dried out. I would like my kids to be grateful for the blessings they have, living in a country where we take for granted things like clean water, and not having bombs dropped on us.
My son asked if you had to vote. I told him that you weren’t forced to vote, but if you wanted to have a better chance of things being done how you thought they should be that you should vote. While politics often seems to turn into a battle over the silliest things, politicians also decide the direction our country takes on major issues. Voting for who is closest to your beliefs is important, but so is having an understanding of the issues.
On Facebook, it is usually easy to see someone’s political opinions. What is also easy to see is how few people have any real understanding of the issues involved, or at least how few that are publicly stating their opinions. I’m pretty sure most complex issues can’t be boiled down to a funny meme. I am hoping that by watching the News with my kids, and discussing the issues that come up, they will learn to question what they are hearing, and to think for themselves. While we might wish for impartial journalists, that is not really possible, so every story carries some amount of the opinions of the people involved in writing it. There are many examples I have seen lately of people using as “evidence” to back up their opinions like articles from very questionable sources, and they haven’t even considered that. I want to teach my children to look at where the information is coming from, so they can decide why the person giving the information has the opinion that they do, and how likely it is to be true. Even “facts” can be easily changed by the interpretation of the person using them.
I would like to believe that while my kids may still prefer watching Thomas the Tank Engine to watching the News for a while yet, they are still learning about our place in world events and how important it is to make the effort to be informed, so that by the time they are old enough to be voting, they will be making informed decisions, not checking ballot boxes on a whim, or not voting all.
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