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Parent blog: Elections, kids and "Gangnam Style"

Julie Poppen, an editor and writer for EdNews Colorado, wonders how parents encourage kids to think for themselves while expressing their own political views.

Make it end.

Make the “Mitt Romney Style” song leave my brain.

You know the South Korean pop singer Psy’s “Gangnam Style” song – even if you think you don’t. There are spoofs featuring Mitt Romney and Barack Obama lookalikes. Listen to any of them and you will find yourself tapping a toe. You may even lift your knees, cross your wrists and engage in a goofy dance.

Somehow, this song is now irrevocably intertwined with the 2012 general election for me.

Why?

I have a 10-year-old daughter and she watched videos on You Tube with a friend. (How to control what a child sees on You Tube – subject of a future post). And the Romney spoof has entirely shaped her budding political views.

And this is the interesting thing about kids and politics: They soak up everything they see. They soak up their parents’ political conversations. They hear things from friends. Their views are often condensed to the most base assessments: “Mitt Romney will only help rich people.”

Conversations and squabbles break out at school. Living in Boulder, I wonder if the children of Republicans might get bullied and singled out. This is what makes our country great – a diversity of opinion, the ability to speak one’s mind, I say.

For the record, I’m registered as unaffiliated, and my presidential preference is not the point of this post. The point is – how do we encourage our kids to think for themselves and make their own decisions about political candidates while simultaneously expressing our own political views? When do our kids start thinking more critically about issues they care about?

I encourage my daughter to explore issues more deeply and explain that neither candidate can be summed up in such a simplistic way, that she must think for herself. But it seems our kids are reflecting the very real, very deep divide in this country. In this political season, a child’s stance on who becomes president has become bloodsport on the playground.

I chastise my daughter when I hear her making harsh, overly simplistic comments about Romney. We should be respectful and try to understand people’s diverse viewpoints, I tell her.

On Tuesday, she and her classmates will vote at school. And after the results are announced and the final cheers or boos yelled out, life will go on. Regular playground games will ensue. Book reports will still be due – as political stickers and signs come down.

But that song will still come on the radio …

Now here’s a thought: Maybe after the election we should all ditch our political colors and just go outside and do this ridiculous dance – together. What the heck, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was willing to give it a try. Republicans and their kids; Democrats and their kids; Unaffiliateds, Greens, Libertarians and their kids too. Mutual respect through Gangnam Style.

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