By Susan M. Chilvers, Ed.D.
Being “Politically Correct” is a term and an attitude that has been illuminated and emphasized a great deal over the last decade. One would define the term as having a sensitivity for others who may be different from oneself, racially, sexually, religiously, etc. and not judging, stereotyping or condescending to them. Given this climate it was interesting to be asked by a twelve year old “How come the politicians are so politically incorrect?” and that gave me food for thought. With the amount of media exposure it is impossible to avoid all the political hype leading up to elections and discussing the process of democratic government and how it developed is a valuable educational experience. However it is also a chance to discuss the value of respecting different individual’s ideas and the variety of views and priorities even within one political party. Naturally parents will have their own views and biases as to which party and candidate they plan to vote for and generally younger children will follow their parents lead in their political views. Sadly political discussion often bring out the worst in people and politicians frequently resort to what can only be labeled slandering matches in their campaign advertisements and speeches. This provides great opportunities for educators and parents to discuss not only the content of candidates’ campaigns but also their attitudes to each other which brings me back to the 12 year old who suggested that politicians were not politically correct because they frequently disrespect each other or make generalized criticism about their party beliefs. We need to get children to view individuals in the political arena as human beings with strengths and weaknesses like everyone else but at the same time tell them that we must hold our leaders to high standards of behavior and integrity—in other words encourage children from as early an age as possible to be discerning. When children bring in their parents political views form home, I think teachers should encourage them to express the positive aspects of those they support not the negative aspects of opposing candidates. These can often be channeled through organizing mock elections and it is interesting to observe what ideas children bring to them. Another good topic for discussion is the amount and use of money in a political campaign and how this affects candidates’ exposure to the public. Due to the tremendous increase in media coverage, political candidates are exposed to minute scrutiny on a daily basis and thousands of tweets follow every public appearance or private leaking of information. Parents and teachers can help children to understand why people act the way they do, what are the important things, what is hype and how are politicians using their power, is it unilaterally or responsibly? We’ve all heard the saying actions speak louder than words. This certainly applies to politics and can be a mantra for our children to learn.