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Poli Sci For 2nd Graders

by CCNY (writer), Flushing, October 29, 2008

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Are schools bound by the spirit of the Equal Time concept? If so, one school librarian might be seeking her own subtle exemption.

This past Monday, my son, a 2nd grader here in Queens, NY, came home and told me that his library teacher had read aloud to them from a children's book about Barack Obama's life.  He proceeded to tell me several details from Obama's story and it got me wondering: did the teacher also read a book to the class about John McCain?

It sounds silly to be stumping for equal time in a 2nd grade class, but in the interest of fairness, I thought if they're teaching this as a current event, why wouldn't they read from a McCain book as well, right?  When I asked my son if he knew who else was running for President, he knew that McCain was, but said that the teacher didn't have a book about McCain's life to read to them.

Naturally, I was curious to find out if the librarian indeed didn't have a bio of McCain, or if she wouldn't be reading about McCain to the class out of some personal choice, bias, time limitation or whatever.  I spoke to an administrator at the school, and the moment I started to tell her of my concern about the situation, I knew I had turned into my own father.  It was a little embarrassing and I think she regarded me as somewhat of a nutcase, but I felt like I needed to say something.  I love teachers, they're heroes of mine, but I wouldn't put it past some of the more liberal-minded teachers in the NYC school system (read: 98% of them) to take it upon themselves to do these kids the "service" of pushing them in the right direction politically.

I continued to push ahead with my queries anyway, asking the Assistant Principal if the political lesson was part of the curriculum by School Board mandate or by this specific teacher's choice, and I also volunteered that if the school library didn't in fact own a children's bio on McCain, I would be glad to donate one.  This prompted a quizzical look, as if to say, "Is this guy serious?!?"

The AP told me that the teachers had been warned against electioneering at the school, and that no buttons or posters were to be worn or displayed anywhere in classrooms or on school property.  She told me she would relay my concerns to the Principal, and get back to me on the situation as soon as possible.  Not waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn, I went right to the source.  I asked my son on Tuesday morning how Library class went, and he said they'd finished up the Barack Obama book, and did I know this or that detail about his life, etc...  Still no McCain bio to be had, though, and my son told me that the teacher said they would be moving on to a new book during the next class, and it was not about John McCain.

Listen, I'm not saying this is Watergate or anything, or that I'm going to be taking this to the Supreme Court or any of the other hysterical avenues where issues at schools have ended up in the recent past due to parents with little else to do with their time.  Yes, I can already hear people shrieking that I am one of those parents, but I think this episode bears watching because these are the kind of subtle things that occur at a very formative time in a child's life that can help tip a kid in a certain direction later on.  This I know from my own experience.

I heard my own father, an Archie Bunker type, arguing about Vietnam with my rich white-guilted liberal neighbors when I was a kid, and Nixon was the first politician whose name my father screamed in defense of, and I vividly remembered that later on when we had a mock Presidential vote at my own school in 1976 (Ford v. Carter).  Imagine my classmates' horror at seeing me stand up in defense of Nixon's record (and by extension, Ford), practically frothing at the mouth like my Dad used to do... nice political debut, eh?  But many people get their first exposure to politics from their parents; getting political views from a teacher at elementary school is another story altogether.  God forbid somebody tries to pray in a public school, the whole country goes into a tizzy at the mere thought of it, but somehow, this is supposed to be benign.  I'm not buying it, or going gentle into the night on this.  I'm beginning to feel a little less sheepish, though I'm sure that playground whispers may follow from other parents if they find out.

Indoctrination is a fact of life, especially at institutions of higher education across the country, and I want to make sure that my son's school treats the coming election in an even-handed way and shows the kids both sides of the story, instead of just the side of the story they think should be told.



About the Writer

CCNY is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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13 comments on Poli Sci For 2nd Graders

Log In To Vote   Score: 6
By Diana's Art on October 29, 2008 at 04:09 pm

If the author is sooooo concerned about equal time, how the author BEING  the parent and stop accusing the school of being the parent?  How about the author READ a book, or book’s passage, to their own kid?  Just think how much the author could have indoctrinated their kid with all that time the author instead spent jumping up and down on school officials.  Jeez.  So much sticking of noses into OTHER people’s business and not enough time spent sticking one’s own nose into one’s own business.

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Log In To Vote   Score: -4
By Anonymous Party on October 29, 2008 at 04:16 pm

Diana/Rose:

What if you had a kid (a stretch, I know) and that kid came home from school telling you all about John McCain because the school library had 120 copies of John McCain's biography.  Incensed, you stormed down to your kid's school (in those cute little Trooper Boots you got on sale at Big 5) and asked the librarian, "Where the hell are all the Obama biographies!"

And their were none.

Standard... double.

And you sure seem to love "nose" metaphors.

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Log In To Vote   Score: 8
By Diana's Art on October 29, 2008 at 04:18 pm

My names Diana NOT Rose.  Anonymous Party, can’t read?.  If Anonymous Party, who sure has a lot to hide with THAT choice of name, can’t even get my name right, he/she sure as heck isn’t to be trusted to get anything else right.

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Log In To Vote   Score: -5
By CCNY on October 29, 2008 at 04:20 pm

Whattaya mean, "Other people's business"???  This IS very much MY business, he's my kid.  And what "accusing" are you talking about?  I'm interested in what and how the school teaches my son, I have a vested interest in this.  That's why I'm getting involved, although you curiously see it as "jumping up and down on school officials."  That might be fun, actually.

It's also really eerie, almost spooky and clairvoyant-like, how you can tell somehow from what I wrote that I've never read a book to my son.  I didn't think I revealed that much about myself, but you can tell because you have that power.  Hats off to you...

You're obviously not a parent, or you'd understand a lot more about the world than just knee-jerk reacting like you do here.  To quote the great Diana's Art, "Jeez."

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Log In To Vote   Score: -5
By CCNY on October 29, 2008 at 04:22 pm

Kudos, Anonymous Party.  Ahhh... seeing both sides, it's a rare thing these days.  Rarer still here at the Broo.

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Log In To Vote   Score: -3
By CCNY on October 29, 2008 at 05:42 pm

And you know me, J; I'm not storming the office with a lit torch like a scene out of Frankenstein... I really want to know what the plan is to provide balance in the curriculum and the classroom.  If they hadn't broken out a book about either candidate, I wouldn't mind, but I think fairness is in order if you decide to tackle it at all.

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Log In To Vote   Score: 4
By Sharlene Hardin on October 29, 2008 at 05:50 pm

CC ~ Good article and I would have reacted the same way towards the Librarian's bias. 

Diana & Anon ~ PLEASE Don't branch out your prop 8 hate towards each other here too.

Julian ~ I agree about McCain leading an interesting life and yes it is a very different time than when we were growing up.

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Log In To Vote   Score: -5
By CCNY on October 29, 2008 at 08:57 pm

But remember, we are talking about the Obama book, not the (absent) McCain one.

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Log In To Vote   Score: -1
By CCNY on October 30, 2008 at 07:21 pm

I can't believe it either... cats and dogs will be sleeping together soon if me and you can get on the same page for something.  Well done to us.

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Log In To Vote   Score: -6
By CCNY on October 30, 2008 at 08:55 pm

Wow, Jen, that moral-equivalency math you use is remarkable.

Let's see: Al Qaeda kills thousands of people worldwide, even 3000 in one day, and they behead journalists for having the gall to do their jobs.  Michael Savage is a freakshow host who talks smack on the radio, offends many people's delicate sensibilities, but as far as we know, has never killed anyone with his dogma.

I hope you were tongue-in-cheeking it here...

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Log In To Vote   Score: -6
By CCNY on October 31, 2008 at 07:48 am

Sorry, Jen, my panties were indeed needlessly bunched-up, but I did have the smallest inkling that it was tongue-in-cheek, does that count?

No.  No it doesn't, and rightly so.  Let's funny that shit up.

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Log In To Vote   Score: 9
By Lucy Ong on November 04, 2008 at 09:31 pm

Glad to see the author stood up for diversity.  But what about readings about the other candidates, the Greens, the Independents, etc.?  Shouldn't all of them have equal time?

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Log In To Vote   Score: -5
By CCNY on November 04, 2008 at 09:58 pm

Absolutely, Lucy, but at this point, I wanted them to at least read about the other leading candidate from the other leading party in our country.

I question whether it belongs in the curriculum at all in the 2nd grade, when most of the class time is spent (or should be, anyway)  on things like basic skills such as reading, writing, math, etc.  I think current events should be taught in the older grades, and that students should be introduced to both major parties, as well as the third party options.

But I don't think the second graders need to be educated just yet about the parties, and so I understand the librarian's emphasis on reading about the person running instead of the party itself.

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