Folding, spindeling, and mutilating lauguage for fun since Aug, 2004
Wednesday, 22 September 2004

     Last night I went to a meeting at my eleven-year-old’s school.  The purpose of the meeting was “curriculum night”.  Basically, they explain the homework to you so you can help your child without confusing them.

     Anyway, the teacher was talking about their current events unit, which as you might expect is primarily taken up with the election process right now.

     The teacher told of an exercise wherein he read from both the Bush and Kerry websites.  He read where each of the candidates stood on the main issues of the campaign.  He didn’t say who was who…just “this is what candidate one says, this is what candidate two says”.

     The kids made tally marks about each thing they agreed with from each candidate.

     Then the kids voted on the issues.

     Four kids voted for Bush.  26 kids voted for Kerry.

     You have to realize the significance of this.  We live in Eden Prairie, MN.  George W Bush came to our high school and lauded it as a model for all school systems everywhere…presumably due to the fact that it is in a tremendously affluent and conservative suburb, and continues to pump out high-quality graduates despite being severely under-funded.

     (I can tell you how they do this in another article.  But mostly, it has to do with teachers spending out-of-pocket for classroom supplies, parents donating supplies, a legion of parent volunteers in lieu of staff, and parents spending about as much time and energy teaching their kids at home as they do earning money at work, endless fundraisers, and an endless stream of nickel-and-dime fees that don’t seem like much individually, but add up to a lot over time...oh yeah, and deferring essential building maintenance for the past few years.)

     At any rate, Eden Prairie has grown a crop of Bush/Cheney yard signs that rivals the corn crops of neighboring rural towns.  This is Bush country, make no mistake about it…

     …as illustrated by the fact that most of the kids who voted for John Kerry were greatly upset by it.  They booed the results of their vote.  They were upset that they had voted for the “wrong guy”.

     Glancing around the classroom at the faces of the other parents, I could see that many of them were disturbed as well.  What could have gone wrong?  How had they failed their children?  What did this mean?

     The teacher went on to say that he assured the kids that the election was not yet over, and that there still might be many issues where they would agree with George W. Bush, and maybe when they tried again later, they would end up voting for him.

     The parents looked relieved as well.

     The gears that had begun to grind uncomfortably in their heads smoothed out and they relaxed.

     We moved on to talk about other things, and everyone was happy.


     The end.

Wednesday, 22 September 2004 09:10:20 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [35] | #
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"It is ok, just don't think too much about it" (Smarking) [Trackback]
Wednesday, 22 September 2004 10:41:44 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
That's pretty interesting. It would be interesting to know who the teacher was voting for and how he selected the parts to read. I think it would be pretty easy to skew the votes either way based on what you read (especially when you have the role of teacher).

It would have been a lot more interesting if the teacher would have run the same exercise on the parents to see if they would have voted for the same candidate as the children (I really doubt it).

Wednesday, 22 September 2004 11:21:01 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Did you mean for your contempt of Bush supporters to be so obvious?

This is why we don't allow 11 year olds to vote. They are short term thinkers, and generally don't have a concept of the larger picture, especially since very few, if any, have paid any taxes.
Wednesday, 22 September 2004 11:35:32 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Every time I have taken an issue test, it ends in the strangest results, almost never with someone I would actually vote for. Mostly because the issues are rarely weighted correctly. For many people, there are a couple key issues that mean more than any other and make the other issues all but irrelevant.
Wednesday, 22 September 2004 11:52:03 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I would love to see those questions - is it possible for you to post them here?
Methinks it's a very interesting exercise.

Mainly because I'm, more than likely, similar to the kids - I have no clue of the issues, I am a short term thinker, and generally lack the larger picture though I have paid tons and tons of taxes...

Jiho Han
Wednesday, 22 September 2004 12:00:18 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Interesting that some people think the paying of taxes is what should be used to determine the franchise. In that case. there are a great many very wealthy people who would not have the right to vote, due to the very tax code created for them by their bought and paid for political apparatchiks.

And 'Matt', whoever you are, did you mean your contempt of all childern to be so obvious?It seems clear that you don't think it is appropriate for childern to be educated about the election process. But in general, it seems that most people who support the regressivist sideof the equation want to keep childern and everyone else from getting anything like a real education - all the better to control their thinking, or better yet prevent thinking at all.
The Evil Cub
Wednesday, 22 September 2004 12:25:41 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)

The teacher said that he read the candidate's positions on the issues...I will contact the teacher and see if I can get the links for you, so you can see for yourself what was read to the students.

I was unable to tell which candidate he favors personally, which is as it should be.

I think his goal was for the kids to think about why they were looking at a particular candidate, and to focus on the issues. In the case of my child, it worked. It also illustrated to him how a significant number of people come to a conclusion, and persist in it despite indications that there might possibly be good reasons to take a closer look at their assumptions.

I see this sort of thing on both sides of the political spectrum...I just have more opportunity to observe it on the conservative side here where I live. When I was in college, I had the opportunity to poke at and provoke thoughtless liberals far more often than I do now. I do not have contempt for Bush supporters in general, but I DO react with a certain wry irony whenever I see people cling desperatly to comfortable ideas in the face of conflicting information. I do have contempt for "Fox Bots" and others who are willing to get up in peoples faces and scream at them and call them "terrorists" if they happen to think that going into Iraq was a mistake (by way of example). That's just not constructive, and proves that they have no reasoned argument to fall back on. Likewise the nit-wits who will say that someone has to be inherantly immoral to be a soldier. I think that's just wrong, ideological, irrational and thoughtless.

Don't get me wrong...I totally understand the impulse to cling to comfortable thoughts, and react with wry irony when it is pointed out to me that I have done the same. It is a human impulse, and one I find most interesting.

Thanks to all for your coments and feedback. I am astounded to have so many from people I don't know. It's...weird, in a good way.

Thursday, 23 September 2004 05:45:44 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Ya know, I think the teacher may have inadvertently hit on a way to fix the problems with the electoral process in this country. No talking heads, no sound bites, no propoganda. Just a list of what each annonymous candidate stands for. Let the folks vote the issues and can all the Madison Avenues spin doctoring.
Bob Wagner
Thursday, 23 September 2004 07:47:16 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Cognitive dissonance if I've ever seen it.

Shows how enough money and advertising can convince people that black is white and 2 + 2 = 5.

People get the government they deserve. If the issues are on one side and and the money on the other, should the money win, then the people are fools and deserve no better.
Thursday, 23 September 2004 08:27:11 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I never read your website.
A N T I X O T (prounounced Andy Choate)
Thursday, 23 September 2004 09:25:23 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
"They are short term thinkers, and generally don't have a concept of the larger picture"

Reminds me of a news report I saw on some ultra-liberal school were they allowed the children themselves to decide how and what they should learn. The best quote from one of the teachers was, "If the child thinks they would get more out of recess than learning math, that's what they can do." You can guess how many kids were actually in the math and science classes.
Thursday, 23 September 2004 09:34:49 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Very thought-provoking. I'll be checking back to see if you manage to post links of what was read to the children. I like Bob Wagner's idea of de-coupling PR from platform--if only it were more than a dream!
Thursday, 23 September 2004 10:09:44 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Reminds me of a news report I saw on some ultra-liberal school were they allowed the children themselves to decide how and what they should learn. The best quote from one of the teachers was, "If the child thinks they would get more out of recess than learning math, that's what they can do."
Thursday, 23 September 2004 10:24:08 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
"You can guess how many kids were actually in the math and science classes."

Why, yes, we can guess. And perhaps you actually know the answer. But I can guess that you don't...

Point being, we can sit here and give anecdotes without citation all day long, and it proves nothing.

In fact, we can even *cite* the anecdotes, and it really proves nothing. We tell the stories we remember, or we retell the stories other people remember -- what matters is the data. And when we compile the data, it often contradicts what we "know".

Thursday, 23 September 2004 12:28:01 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)

I have an e-mail in to the teacher, and he said that he didn't bookmark the site, but has since been asked for it several times by interested parents and teachers...

...he is going to try to find the links and send them out to interested parties, and I got my name in.

It sounds as though he really stirred up a can of worms with this exercise...which is often the mark of a great teacher.

Add to it the fact that my kid comes home and happily does all of his homework and does extra reading and appears to genuinly enjoy pursuing knowledge...I gotta say, whatver teach is doing, I hope he keeps it up.
Thursday, 23 September 2004 12:28:53 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Jesus Christ. Are you guys really that paranoid? I have much better things to do with my life than make up stories and post them on internet sites (I don't work for CBS). I was just passing on a story I saw on the news that I thought was relevant and pretty sad. I felt bad for the kids because people who should know better and were entrusted with helping them prepare for the real world were doing them an awful disservice.

"Why, yes, we can guess. And perhaps you actually know the answer. But I can guess that you don't"

I can guess that it is more than 75% - which is 75% too many. How's this... my friend teaches 4th grade at a public school. I'll have him ask his class tomorrow if they would rather go out to recess all afternoon or learn math and science. I propose that 75% or more of the class will choose recess. If you wish to take the other side of that, be my guest. (Do I need to bring a video camera and notary public and post that online for you guys so you believe it?)

Seriously, think about what you are saying. You guys are proud of the fact that your candidate appeals to the logic and forethought of 11 year-olds. We are not voting for class president or prom king. This is the real world.
Thursday, 23 September 2004 12:55:50 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
it's really easy to agree to wide, simple statements..

"we need more jobs!" .. uh.. sure do. "iraq war isn't going well". yep.. that too. "everyone deserves healthcare" .. sounds cool to me.. "people have the right to choose".. hell yeah. but uh.. how?

your probably on to something though, if a bunch of eleven year olds taught by a raging lib want me to vote for a north vietnamese honorary war hero, than hell.. might as well.. right? Kerry isn't losing this election, the DNC who thought it'd be a good idea to put him up for presidency is.
Thursday, 23 September 2004 14:16:27 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)

OK, my apologies. The teacher got back to me regarding the website, and said that he could not find the original one that he used, but found a similar one run by the League of Women voters. What is similar about this is, like he stressed in the meeting about the original website...the things he read were the words of the candidates themselves about the issues.

This is the best I can do, as the teacher did not anticipate needing to produce the URL again beyond what was supposed to have been a simple exercise to get students to think about the issues rather than the personalities of the candidates.

For those of you concerned that the children in this classroom are being indoctrinated by a left-wing nut case, maybe it will help to hear that class discussion surrounding the CBS documents concluded in the general sentiment that the trutfullness of the sources and reliability of the documents should have been checked, and not been believed simply because they said what some people wanted them to say.

Thursday, 23 September 2004 15:16:36 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
"...short term thin[k]ers, and generally don't have a concept of the larger picture,"?

"You guys are proud of the fact that your candidate appeals to the logic and forethought of 11 year-olds."?

"north vietnamese honorary war hero"?

Looks like the rightwing asshole possee just rode into town.

For short-term thinking and failure to get "the larger picture", I refer you morons to the Bush Administration's planning for the Iraq War. 11-year olds could have done it better.

Then you go enlist if you think the war is such a great thing and it's going well. Put your asses where your mouths are, Walter Mitties.
Thursday, 23 September 2004 15:18:26 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Whoops, I meant to say "rightwing asshole posse".
Thursday, 23 September 2004 16:56:37 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
First of all, with such insights into this issue as, "rightwing asshole posse", it's hard to add anything deeper to this discussion. I am, however, going to try. (I am surprised that a liberal would make such generalized, offensive remarks stemming from an obvious personal prejudice and stereotype. My civil rights have been violated...someone please call the ACLU!!! But we digress...

I teach 4th grade, and I can tell you two things that any person with any sort of IQ already knows about the age:

1: Even when it's time to do Math or Science and they KNOW they can't go to recess, over 75% of them are still voting for recess in their minds. It furthermore does not matter how creative or involved you make the lesson; it's all-play over everything else.

2: 4th grade students have very little sense of both practicality and the bigger picture when making decisions. This is not contempt- this is fact. That is why we have things called parents and teachers. I myself should not have voted when I was 11...does this mean that I have contempt for myself? No, Sherlock. It means that there's a growth process, and 99 percent of the kids out there have no clue as to the long-term consequences of political decisions. They aren't yet thinking enough about the greater world around them. How can you furthermore expect a child to be able to sift through political platforms and statements from websites, etc. (which are often more rhetoric and idealism than anything else) when it is difficult for actual, public officials and the general public to do so? Any intelligent voter votes on a candidate's RECORD- not his rhetoric or his platform from a website. It would be useless for ADULTS to vote based solely on the two condidate's statements on their websites.

However, when your campaign is going as badly as Kerry's, a little support from the 10-year old constituency might just be the boost your party is needing. You gotta get it somewhere...
Thursday, 23 September 2004 17:49:23 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
No apologies needed. Thanks for trying to get the questions.

I looked at the positions on that link you pointed us to and frankly I'm surprised that any of the kids were awake to vote after reading those. Plus, which of these answers would sound better to an 11-year old?

Question: How will you tackle the challenge of providing all young adults with access to affordable health-care coverage (Summarized)?

A) My plan will tackle this challenge by bringing down skyrocketing health care costs, which make it difficult for millions of Americans - young and old - to afford quality, reliable coverage.

B) We must work to expand access to market-based health care rather than shift control over health care decisions to the government. Young people need coverage of preventive care combined with affordable protection against major medical expenses. Our Health Savings Accounts, established by the Medicare Modernization Act I signed in December, provide exactly that, combining a low-cost, high-deductible policy with tax-free contributions to the HSA by individuals and their employers. For low-to middle-income individuals and families, I've also proposed a health insurance tax credit payable in advance that will cover much of the cost of this low-cost, high-deductible policy for most young people with low incomes. I have also proposed Association Health Plans (AHPs) to expand insurance coverage options for workers. Finally, medical liability reform is another key to lowering the cost of health care in America.

I'll bet most 11-year olds would pick "A" even though I don't think it actually answers the question (how will you make health care affordable, by bringing down the cost).

Thursday, 23 September 2004 19:48:56 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
"I'll bet most 11-year olds would pick "A" even though I don't think it actually answers the question"


How does 'B' answer the question? It's a bunch of waffle and obfuscation which has little to do with the real issues.

Answer 'A' is a direct and succinct response to people's actual concerns about Health Care. The 'B' (Bush) response has more to do with propping up big business, and weakening patients' legal rights than actually improving health-care.

To get something done, you need to sum up the idea simply, have a goal - and then do whatever you need to achieve it. When you start a project, you don't have to know what every detail will be - as long as you are prepared to deal with them, and stick with your original goal.

This is where we see Bush's weakness - supposedly the "War on Terror" was to make the world free of WMDs and terrorists - but then he loses focus and starts attacking Iraq, and making more terrorists, rather than attacking the terrorists real means of support.
Thursday, 23 September 2004 21:39:34 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)

"Finally, medical liability reform is another key to lowering the cost of health care in America. "

There's a solution that would drop costs even faster. Why don't we let vetrinarians treat people?

So many adults fall for stuff like this that we might as well let the 11 year olds vote.

Thursday, 23 September 2004 22:05:07 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
"It would be useless for ADULTS to vote based solely on the two condidate's statements"

yeah, the last thing we want to do is assess political canidadtes based on what they say their positions are...

What have you done, Trees? Where did you get all these people?
The Evil Cub
Friday, 24 September 2004 08:56:07 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Evil Club,
If you're so gung-ho on voting based on statements, we're in big trouble; you couldn't even accurately interpret my statement about 'voting SOLELY on the two candidate's statements'. Look up the word, 'solely'. Are you really suggesting that we ONLY vote based on what candidates SAY and disregard their actual RECORDS or ACTIONS throughout their history in office? I'm capitalizing words so that hopefully you'll notice them and correctly read a sentence or two.
What have you done, Trees? These are the same people who would call George W. Bush illiterate.
Friday, 24 September 2004 09:51:23 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Thank you for posting this intersting tidbit.

A reader posted this comment on 9/22/04:

"I have no clue of the issues, I am a short term thinker, and generally lack the larger picture though I have paid tons and tons of taxes"

To this person, and others like him or her, I say this: If you have made it to September and still have "no clue of the issues," please stay home on November 2. You obviously are not prepared to vote.

P. Maguire
Friday, 24 September 2004 11:30:25 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
thank the gods there are some potential liberals still left here. I've been watching this state get more & more conservative (we moved here 10 years ago for the theatre/liberal atmosphere) & it's been very distressing.
Friday, 24 September 2004 11:59:43 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Very interesting, but not surprising. I agree with the commenter who pointed out that voters often make their decision on one or two key issues, even though a candidate's stand on other issues may be at odds with their views. On the other hand, the obfuscation of the typical political rhetoric this time of year makes it very difficult for us to get a clear view of each candidate's stance.

There is a web site that has taken a novel approach to this dilemna, Project Vote Smart < >. They are a non-partisan group who gather and compile information on candidate's issues stances and voting records from state to national government. They ask candidates to answer a multiple choice questionnaire on key issues, the NPAT, National Political Awareness Test. In their own words:

"What is the NPAT?

The National Political Awareness Test is a key component of Project Vote Smart's Voter Self-Defense system. It asks candidates one central question: "Are you willing to demonstrate a good faith effort to provide voters with your inclinations on the issues you will most likely face on the citizen's behalf?" The NPAT is administered to all candidates for presidential, congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative offices.

The National Political Awareness Test (NPAT) asks candidates which items they will support if elected. It does not ask them to indicate which items they will oppose. Through extensive research of public polling data, we discovered that voters are more concerned with what candidates would support when elected to office, not what they oppose. If a candidate does not select a response to any part or all of any question, it does not necessarily indicate that the candidate is opposed to that particular item."

I applaud this effort to create a standardized resource for voters that ignores the effects of negative campaigning by focusing on what candidates say they WILL do. Unfortunately, the only candidate in the current presidential race with an NPAT on file is John Edwards. Both Bush and Kerry have declined multiple requests for the information. Why should they change the status quo? It's like trying to get a car sales person to give you a bottomline price when all he/she wants you to do is focus on "what color would you like that in?"
Friday, 24 September 2004 13:42:01 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I think that the teacher must have slanted what she read in some way. I mean it is not possible for children who have been influenced by a strongly conservative community and family to agree with the most liberal man in the Senate. I know you will say I am just in denial but this is not possible. Did the teacher mention the fact that Kerry flips flops on every issue all the time. Did the teacher mention that Bush, or whatever Candidate number he was, has steadfastly defended our nation against terror. Did the teacher mention that Kerry thinks that there are two Americas? Did the teacher mention that Kerry says he would still vote for the war, 'I voted for the $47 billino before I voted against it', et cetera et cetera. Did the teacher mention that Kerry doesn't live up to his 'statements' and that half of them are probably already invalid because of Kerry's habit of flip flopping?
Friday, 24 September 2004 18:06:18 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
With a bit of searching, I was able to find a true issue-by-issue quiz that allows you to find the candidate that most closely matches your stance. A good exercise for any voter, I think.
Friday, 24 September 2004 19:54:05 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
¿Quien es mas macho?

The election isn't decided on the basis of the issues; it's decided on the basis of which candidate is able to best project the image of being an ideal father/husband/pal.

Bush did this by buying some land in 1999 so that he could clear brush and by letting his voice go from Connecticut to Texas to hide the greased slide of privilege that's taken him to where he is today; Kerry is trying to do this by wrapping himself in the military and a warlike image that he probably would have loathed in 1972, and with good reason.

I think Bush is better at this exercise, and may well be re-elected thereby---and it won't be for Kerry's lack of trying to sell the same nonsense, but it's not how a sane man would choose a brain surgeon or a is at best orthogonal to their actual qualifications and the utility of their programs, and may even be contrary to them.

This is rank speculation, but my guess is that in their hearts, they both know that this is nonsense, but believe that the's the only way to sell themselves and their opinions to the people.

We are not stupid, but many of us have been taught by several generations of advertising how not to make rational decisions, and this faculty is actively discouraged by our educational system, religious leaders, and (most importantly) our employers and their trusties. Similarly, enough of us have been fed b.s. so long that many of us are intellectual coprophiles, we won't recognise something as a valid opinion unless it's flavored with at a skosh of bull.

That's why Michael Moore is in business: even though I agree with a lot of his basic politics, I still notice that some people only agree with him because he adds a Limbo-Rushing--size load of guilt by association, poor reasoning, and outright xenophobia to his message.

That is to say, I'm not saying that liberals all are persuaded by rational arguments and conservatives have bought a load of bull; rather, I'm saying that most on both sides believe as a matter of temperament, prefer to see only "facts" that agree with their preconceived ideas, and at heart prefer a cool carnie to a dull teacher. That's how they voted in Clinton v. Dole...,
Dabney Taggart
Saturday, 25 September 2004 07:59:42 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
"This is why we don't allow 11 year olds to vote. They are short term thinkers"

Oh, because most voters aren't short term thinkers.
Monday, 27 September 2004 03:57:03 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
"I know you will say I am just in denial but this is not possible."

Friday, 06 May 2005 00:08:12 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
It's not that these kids are eleven. Kids are actually pretty sharp, if you give them the chance.

People just aren't giving their kids the chance. As evidenced here, and I don't believe this was skewed in some way by the teacher, parents tell their kids who they ought to want to vote for - but not why. So children, like any reasonable person, weigh the issues the way they think they would deal with it.

And to be frank, Bush isn't exactly keen on issues. What is it about providing health care to veterans he finds so loathesome? Did he really think that the estate tax was going to disenfranchise poor farmers, or did he realize that he was misrepresenting a tax that only affects the rich? Do preemptive wars against nations PNAC has singled out really strike him as a way to make America safer?

People are so hung up on image; Bush is protecting America, Kerry is a flip flopper. Keh.

I watched a focus group for the two candidates once, a group of women. A hostage situation at a school was one of the hypotheticals; which candidate would you rather have to negotiate with the terrorists, they were asked? A woman who was a staunch supporter of Bush through all the other questions changed camps.

"Kerry," she said, "because I think that he would be able to negotiate for my child's safety." Apparently, Bush is only the one to back when the child is someone else's. Either that, or people don't stop to examine which of their ideas are their own, and which are entirely the product of watching Fox News and reading The Economist.
Wednesday, 28 June 2006 21:13:10 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
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