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Ask Not What Your Classroom Can Do For You…

Stephen Voss WpN You might be starting to get tired of all of that Presidential campaigning that seemed to have started ages ago. Well, thankfully the rhetoric will be ending shortly with the election just weeks away. Actually the rhetoric won’t go away but at least it’ll change direction and we’ll be free of negative political advertisements until the next one.

But they say that in every cloud there is a silver lining and in this case it’s the teachable moment created by the Presidential election. In today’s (October 23, 2008) Wall Street Journal, Ellen Gamerman wrote an entertaining article titled Pint Size Politician Channel McCain, Obama in School Elections. (free content)

This fall’s soaring political rhetoric is trickling down from presidential campaign podiums to classrooms and schoolyards. As children run for student office, they’re adopting some of the same slogans, symbols and ideas favored by Republican Sen. John McCain and Democrat Sen. Barack Obama. The students, sometimes with a bit of parental prodding, drop in words like “experience” and “change” as they lobby for things like new menu options (strawberry milk) and school perks (relaxed grooming rules on “crazy hair” days).

The economy is creeping into kids’ elections, too. When 9-year-old Scott Lees ran for school treasurer at Chestnut Hill Academy in Bellevue, Wash., he hit some familiar-sounding notes. “It is money — your money! If you vote for Scott Lees, I will look after your money carefully,” he said. “Don’t throw your money away!” Then he threw fake bills at his audience of 100. He got the job earlier this month.

Gamerman doesn’t tell us if she entertained any negative advertising that is so pervasive at the national level in any of her research about school elections. Let’s hope not.

Presidential elections provide so many great opportunities for young people to learn about and participate (short of voting) in the political process. School elections likewise provide incredible opportunities for students to learn important lessons about organization, communication, responsibility and leadership. Of course, many times it boils down to a popularity contest but come to think of it that’s not really different from the process we adults engage in. Here’s a short WSJ video that accompanied the article.

About the author

Peter A. Mello, Founder/Editor Founder of Weekly Leader and Sea-Fever Consulting, LLC, a leadership development and strategic communications consultancy. Previously, CEO of an international nonprofit organization and COO of a national insurance/risk management services firm. Peter has been leading people and managing organizations for over 30 years, writes a leadership column for MarineNews magazine and blogs about maritime culture at Sea-Fever. Follow him on Twitter.

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Posted in Education + Youth, Politics + Government.

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