Parenting Politics

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Would you teach your children to make up their own minds about political party and candidates? Or, would you insure their politics were the same as yours? Parenting politics should be a fascinating topic, but, it is under researched. Scholastic Magazine sponsored an election conducted by school age kids, grades 1 - 12, on the presidential races. Obama 54% to McCain's 39% if I recall their interview on TV this morning, correctly. What is interesting is how those percentages mirror the adult population polls.

So, is America raising children to think independently of their parent's choices to lead and shape their own future and their America? Or, are children being raised to repeat the mistakes of their parent's generation? It is a profound philosophical question. Reams of rhetoric allude to the next generation advancing. Yet, we are living through a period of our history at this very moment that mimics the mistakes and errors of the generation of the 1920's and 1930's.

One research paper by Meggie Shurcliff establishes parents influence over their children's political choices, with father's having a bit more influence than mothers.

Robert Coles, noted psychiatrist and author of The Political Life of Children, concludes the same thing, but also, that children may not mirror parental views as much as be influenced by them. Common sense would indicate that a child of a parent whom the child dislikes, may adopt political views contrary to the parents.

Still, other research establishes a great deal of generational passage of political party choice from parent to child. All this research raises fundamental philosophical questions regarding our 'free will' and independence when it comes to making political choices, especially as younger adults. Are we free to choose? Or are we shaped to choose as we do?

If we are free to choose, then our political choices would change rather readily with changing conditions. If free will is dominant in our society, it would be predictable that November's election would seek leadership charting a very different course than that which brought us the unpopular Iraq War, a frozen financial system and recession, and a doubling of the national debt in 8 years. But, that is now what the polls are demonstrating. Obama is leading in the polls, but, if free will were at play, one would expect a landslide lead for Obama. That is not yet the case.

Much is being made of Obama's skin color and middle name as having a dampening influence upon a reactionary vote against Republicans. Certainly, racism and prejudice are learned from generation to generation as well, and while overt racist acts have diminished dramatically in the last few decades, the question remains whether Obama's skin color is influencing the polls, and offering more evidence that perhaps we are not a nation of free will voters, but voters who mirror the attitudes and political choices of our parents.

On the other hand, it would have been inconceivable that an African American could win a presidential bid in 1992, or even 2000. Yet, B.H. Obama is pulling ahead in the polls and appears, at this time, poised to win the electoral college vote.

This would lend support to the concept of independent choice when it comes to political choice, at least over generational time; each successive generation becoming more independent of their grand parent's political choices, if not so much their parent's. In other words, incrementally changing political views in response to current and historical events with each successive generation. That however, is a very disturbing notion for democracy, which posits the people with the responsibility of choosing their leadership in the context of current time and circumstance, rather than historical or parental.

The concept of democracy can be just plain difficult, demanding that voters reject the choices of their parent's and come to choices of their own based on their own time, circumstance, and future interest. In a society that changes little across generations, democracy asks little of voters since, what worked in the past can be relied upon to work in the present. But, in America, this is not the case.

We live in a society in which the legal, political, social, cultural, educational, and economic landscapes are constantly changing across generations and even within single generations. Democracy demands very much more of voters in a society such as ours. It demands that voters be alert and attentive to the changing conditions, and that they refashion their political choices to accommodate those changes for their future best interest. It demands a deliberative response of voters, as opposed to a generational learned response.

Are Americans up to the challenge their democracy demands of them in changing and troubled times? Are we habituated or free to choose. Are we short cutting around educating ourselves to the challenges, issues and candidates? Are we relying upon family tradition to make our choices for us, or are we capable of rising to the difficult and effort full challenge of making our political choices independently and in accordance with an enlightened survey of our current times?

Do the campaigns of Obama and McCain reflect these differing approaches to political choice? Are they catering to those whose family's choice is good enough, or to those who acknowledge changed times require different choices?

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on October 15, 2008 1:40 PM.

Does America Have a Future? was the previous entry in this blog.

Obama - McCain Debate 3 is the next entry in this blog.

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