Monday, February 4, 2008

What Happens When a "Weepublican" or "Demoquat" Grows Up?

As I recently switched my voter registration from "Decline to State" (Californian for Independent) to "Republican" so that I can vote for Sen. McCain tomorrow*, I'm the odd one out in my family. They're all Democrats of one flavor or another. One of my brothers totally flipped out when I told him & accused me of being brainwashed (he didn't say by whom, but I suspect he blames DH and/or the Church).

I'll spare you all the rant about how I've never felt like either party truly represents me and how they both seem dominated by special interest groups. The point is that I was raised by liberal parents in a very liberal state (Massachusetts), graduated from a pretty liberal university, and now live in an ultraliberal area. Yet somehow I wound up turned off by liberalism, and the older I've gotten, the more conservative I've become.

I cringed, therefore, when I saw the article on parents trying to "party-train" their kids on They're dressing their little ones in achingly hip partisan clothing:

David Kaplan-Perkins of Chicago wears a "My Mama's for Obama" shirt. He's 7...[David's mom Jackie] Kaplan, a lesbian, also dresses him in shirts supporting gay rights, one of which reads "Let My Parents Marry."

"Sure, we cringe when we see a child wear an anti-choice shirt," Kaplan says. "And I am sure conservatives may do the same when they see David wearing our family's politics on his chest. But we all want our children to share our values, and these shirts are one of the ways we get to express that."

...Nuggets for little ones include dueling digs that read, "I Only Cry When Democrats Hold Me" and "I Only Cry When Republicans Hold Me." There are the basics, too, such as a stick figure holding up a sign that says "Mommy and Me for Hillary!" and a shout-out to the GOP: "Bush is my homeboy."

So what happens if these kids grow up and come to hold different political beliefs from their parents? Is Ms. Kaplan going to disown David if he becomes a "born-again" Christian and votes Republican? What happens to a "Weepublican" who grows up to discover that he/she truly believes that government is the solution and not the problem?

I'm all for parents being free to raise their children in accordance with their own family's values. But I don't think that includes political brainwashing. It's one thing for a parent to say to the child, these are my values and that's why I support this particular candidate. It's quite another to dress a young child as a walking political advertisement.

That also goes for homeschoolers who involve their preteen children in political activism. These kids aren't mature enough to objectively consider both sides and then make up their own minds- they're just parroting whatever their parents are telling them in an attempt to gain parental approval.

*I'm not really pro-McCain as much as I dislike him less than the rest of the candidates running.


Christina said...

The Tshirts are troublesome to me because they make it seem like the child has an opinion, when most are only supporting the parent. (Some kids are politically self-aware pretty young, though.)

But involving kids in political activism? If that means taking them along with you, I'm all for that! Maybe not to live in trees, lay down in front of bulldozers or other dangerous acts of civil disobedience. But taking them to rallies and so on doesn't really seem any different than taking them with you to vote. Voting is the best political activism around. I wish all kids were raised to value political activism, joining their parents, regardless of what topics they focus those skills on once they become politically aware themselves.

My three kids are happily sporting their "I Voted" stickers tonight :-)

Crimson Wife said...

My oldest wore an "I Voted" sticker all day as well :-)

I'm not real comfortable with young children attending political rallies, marches, or demonstrations. Jr. high or high school aged students, fine. They're old enough to start forming opinions independent of their parents'. Younger than that, however, they're just parroting back whatever they hear their parents saying.

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent said...

Great post -

There have been a great many sayings that roughly translate to if you are not democrat at 20 - you have no heart - if you aren't a republican at 40, you have no brain (I tried to attribute this but...ran into a message board that gave 5 different options of who might have said this..)

Anyway, your point about children just following parent's lead falls right in with Classical education's point that until the logic stage starts in middle school, kids are not capable of sorting out political messages.

On the other hand, they are not capable of sorting out religious messages either ..and that doesn't stop us from starting religious training either.

Is there a difference? Are not political views often impacted by our religious views..I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this - I share both religious and political views with my son - I think your post makes me re-evaluate the way I share them though...

(BTW-It seems just about everyone votes for the candidate they dislike least...every time - you're not alone.)

Anonymous said...

With this being an election year, we are studying the structure of American gov't, politics, the Constitution..... I have an 11 yo, 9 yo, and 6 you still at home, and the older two are getting quite a bit in the way of understanding. As they grasp certain concepts, and then hear candidates talk about their platform, the kids have been able to make some very astute observations.

I agree that 'party-training' kids is a bit ridiculous, and has broader ramifications than, say, 'training' them to like a certain football team. I also don't think it is appropriate to treat kids as 'miniature adults', or use them to manipulate emotions.

What is healthy is when kids admire their parents and want to be like them. Kids are going to have role models, and IMO it is best when their role models are mom and dad.

Crimson Wife said...

I'm raising my children in accordance with DH's and my Catholic faith, but we will leave it up to them whether or not they want to become full members of the Church by receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation as a late teen (usually it's done in 10th or 11th grade).

They are aware of the diversity of faiths out there. Within our extended family, there are Protestant Christians, Jews, Unitarian Universalists, and atheists/agnostics. We also have friends who are Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and Baha'i. I stress with my kids that while I may disagree with them on theological issues, I strongly support their right to worship however they choose.