What We Can Teach Our Kids about the Conventions

Visits to the RNC and DNC.

After five days at the RNC in Tampa, I arrived in Charlotte yesterday to a city rollicking with DNC festivities and tumult. A street fair appeared to strain the city’s security forces as kids with painted faces and their parents filled the streets, along with delegates, guests, and media. I took refuge in the Huffington Post Oasis, where Arianna Huffington greeted guests who were treated to healthy lunch fare, massages, and facials.

The convention begins today with Michele Obama as the headliner. Bill Clinton is the keynote speaker on Wednesday, and President Obama addresses supporters in the nearly 74,000 seats in the outdoor Bank of America stadium on Thursday night. Both parties script their conventions nowadays, and some pundits, like NBC’s Tom Brokaw, have even suggested that the one hour the networks devote to coverage each night is too much. That’s really a shame.

I fell in love with politics as a kid when I first heard the soaring cadence of John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech when he was nominated for President in 1960. I became a political junkie right then and there. I remember watching conventions when the broadcast networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of floor fights, platform debates, and even walkouts on the convention floor — but those days are long over.

More of a shame is the endless 24/7 media spin — telling us what we saw and what to think — ad nauseum — and there’s blame to go around on both the right and the left. In Tampa, I watched the convention each night in its entirety from the convention hall, and I came to the conclusion that I don’t need an intermediary telling me what to think — and neither does anyone else. Perhaps we should all try watching C-Span.

And what about our kids? What can they learn from the conventions and the political process?

They can learn that our two-party system is part of our government’s system of checks and balances. It’s a good thing, and prevents excesses of power.

We should teach them how to observe, fact-check, form their own opinions — and express them fluently.

We ought to stop talking about religion in politics. There’s still way too much interest in a candidate’s theology in a nation that prohibits religious tests. I remember being shocked that Kennedy’s religion was an issue in 1960. After all, half the kids in my public school were Catholic, and I had no idea all the previous presidents had been Protestant. If we stop talking about it, it will cease to be important.

We should impress upon our kids that they can — and should — get involved. I was once part of a group of students that Vice President Hubert Humphrey addressed. He said, “If you think politics is dirty, get in there with your bar of political Ivory soap, and clean it up.” It was a tall order then, and it’s more so now. But it’s not impossible. Informed participation is the essence of democracy, and we ought to encourage our best and brightest to go into public service.

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Joanne Toresko September 05, 2012 at 06:06 PM
The now $16 Trillion Debt is one of the first things our kids should learn about. It will likely impact them for the rest of their lives. We all hope our children become productive members of society. That would including getting jobs and paying taxes. When you look at the debt clock the amount owed per citizen is roughly $51,000. It jumps to a stunning $140,000 for those paying taxes. Tune out the convention spin. Take that time to do some basic math with your kids. Challenge them with all those very big numbers. http://www.usdebtclock.org/
Preliator September 05, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Even Sponge Bob would be smart enough to not re-elect Barack Obama.
North Fork Bob September 05, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Teach them that the media is owned by large corporations to dispense propaganda to mediocre minds.
North Fork Bob September 05, 2012 at 07:00 PM
John how many evil dictators who were slaughtering their citizens has this Country fully supported? As long as they were on our side
Greyboy September 05, 2012 at 07:40 PM
There are no checks and balances in this country and if you taught that to anyone you would be doing them a diservice. When the members of congress have sold their soul to the devil, the members of the so called supreme court have become political monsters who base decisions on being accepted in particular elite circles, the media have become the useful idiots of the left, the president leads in direct conflict to the will of those that elected him, there is no party calling out the DNC for running ads that the only thing we all belong to is the state, we rely on some anonymous fact check and shove it down each other's throats not authentically knowing the truth, there are vast descriptions of heinous insider trading by members of congress that just fade after 2 weeks without anyone really noticing and the above per household debt in the US is over $140,000 with gas higher than ever before in history, healthcare legislation being passed on Christmas Eve using complex maneuvering and bribery and the list goes on and on.There hasn't been a system of checks and balances in this country for decades.
Jaguar-Guy September 05, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Teddy Kennedy is 1098 days dead. Awesome piece of truthful writing. Everyone should go to factcheck.org. All Ryan's statements were found to be truthful.
John Gruber September 05, 2012 at 09:14 PM
that still doesn't mean this one didn't deserve what we did to him. yes the reasons behind it were bs but the fact we did it was still something good for the entire world.
John Gruber September 05, 2012 at 10:02 PM
you mean even the one where he blamed and auto plant closing that happened during Bush on Obama? he's just another snake of a politician, no more no less
Jaguar-Guy September 05, 2012 at 10:06 PM
Bob, actually Ryan's words were "Obama came here and promised to make sure to keep this plant open". It closed, but Obama did not keep his words when he visited in 2008, and it was not kept open by Obama. So, tricky wordsmithing - but true. More true than Obama being Hawaiian . . . ;-)
John Gruber September 05, 2012 at 10:06 PM
democrats control the media as well as gas prices just as much as republicans (little and none respectively)
John Gruber September 05, 2012 at 10:56 PM
every politician lies, otherwise they'd never be elected
Joanne Toresko September 05, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Democrat Disinformation From Charlotte. http://factcheck.org/2012/09/democratic-disinformation-from-charlotte/
JOE September 06, 2012 at 01:19 AM
What can we teach our children . Thats a good question and heres the answer with some FACTS. The republican leaders got together on the night that President Obama was sworn in as President and decided that they would spend the next 4 years blocking any and all legislation that The President wanted to ensure that he would only be a one term President. Almost 4 years later and that is exactly what the Republicans have done . Last weeks convention was nothing but lies and distortions . The republicans care about one group of people . The 1% ers. I teach my children about these crooks who go into companies like bain did , buy them up, strip them down for $$$$$, and them toss them aside when they are done with not regard for the employees or the communities to which they serve. The republicans have shown how little they care about women , minorities , immigrants, working class citizens and everybody else who either is not worth millions or does not own a big corporation. It is a disgrace how low politics has gone in this country. Ronald Reagan's son even stated that his father could not be a republican today because there is no compromise when it come to both sides getting something done. The democrats have their faults as well but the republicans are far worse
Joanne Toresko September 06, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Democrats had complete control over Congress and the presidency for two years. The same party now has retained control over both the Executive Branch and Senate for the last two years. The Senate has aborted it's constitutional duty by failing to pass a budget for 1225 days. They voted 97 to 0 against President Obama's budget. Obstructionists no doubt. One look at the debt clock posted above is chilling. Indebtedness growing at this rate will cripple the futures of our children and grandchildren.
JOE September 06, 2012 at 02:31 AM
The congress is more to blame then the President
JOE September 06, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Yes the democrats had control over the three branches of government for 2 years and one of the things he got done was the passage of Obamacare. something both parties have been trying to do for decades. If you dont think Obamacare can be good then tell the mother who spoke at the convention last night about her child having multiple open heart surgeries that Obamacare should be repealed and that her child could be denied surgery going foward .
JOE September 06, 2012 at 03:31 AM
We can now teach our children that President Clinton is one of the greatest speakers of our generation. President Clinton beat up the republicans on every issue that they have lied about, distorted , and twisted.
Joanne Toresko September 06, 2012 at 03:37 AM
Both parties wanted Obamacare? The majority of Americans don't want Obamacare. See if your local rep is running on it. The plan explodes Medicaid at the expense of Medicare. They'll be 19 million new medicaid enrollees in one year....2014. Where do you think the money's coming from? We're broke and getting broker. http://www.usdebtclock.org/
Joanne Toresko September 06, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Democrat Disinformation From Charlotte. http://factcheck.org/2012/09/democratic-disinformation-from-charlotte/
JOE September 06, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Both parties have been trying to reform healthcare for years unsuccessfully
JOE September 06, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Exploding medicare ? untrue. Heres a fact for you: If romney were to get in and repealed Obamacare the deficit would go up 200 billion dollars
Joanne Toresko September 06, 2012 at 03:53 AM
30.9% reduction in doctors' reimbursement fees scheduled for 2013 under the new law. That's a fact. That's where the "savings" come from. Good luck finding a doctor who'll see you. My facts come from Medicare actuaries. Yours?
JOE September 06, 2012 at 10:30 AM
My facts , independent studies. The reality , some dr's charge way too much to begin with and 30% is a good start. I have a freind who's child was in the hospital a feww years ago for major surgery. A whole bunch of dr's(the surgeon not included) would spend 5 minutes a day checking up on the child once a day for 5 minutes . The cost: $400 a day for each one and they were not covered. Do they need $400 a day for 5 minute consultations ? no. everybody knows that hospital costs are duplicative and out of control so they need to be reduced by at least 30% if not more
Joanne Toresko September 06, 2012 at 02:56 PM
If you want to short your MD's 30%, sit down and negotiate with them. Keep going until you find one who'll meet your price. Doctors work years just to pay off their student loans. Their medical malpractice insurance , especially for surgeons and OBGYN in NY, is astronomical. It's the seniors that will suffer the most from the new law. See what your unnamed "independent sources" say about the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
Richard Brody September 06, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Back to the topic about learning and teaching from these political conventions- Have them understand that MOST of what is stated at either convention is no more than empty rhetoric.Party platforms are almost never paid attention to after the election,+they are put together either to appease a bloc,go on record,or make a point,but almost never results in viable action being taken. Have them understand that political stats often are misleading (for example,any discussion about the percentage of taxes the "1%" pay,without knowing precisely what that 1% represents in terms of percentage of total earnings of all earners. it;s great to say that the 1% pay, for example,25% of all the taxes,BUT how much of all earnings do they also make- That number would help understand fairness!Both parties ignore their responsibility of integrity!
GCBob September 06, 2012 at 04:11 PM
What we should be teaching our kids about these conventions is "Trust but Verify." Don't always believe what you read and hear unless you can varify the facts on your own from credible sources,make up your mind, don't be swayed by others and that the devil is always in the details.
JOE September 06, 2012 at 04:43 PM
My dr's college loan has nothing to do with overcharging me. Most dr's enjoy the fruits of their labor so paying a college bill is par for the course. You must be in the proffession if you think its ok for a $400 - 5 minute consultation to check your vital signs. That works out to $4,800 an hour for a pediatrician?
JOE September 06, 2012 at 04:48 PM
As far as teaching the kids. I teach my children that society is far too complacent with the status quo and that it is pathetic that only 40-45 % of the eligble voting population votes . They should also demand more from their elected officials and constantly contact them about issues that are present in congress and also at the state and local levels as well. Look at the child who was elected to the school board in Syosset. How did he get the inspiration to get there? most of the credit probably goes to his parents the way they raised him . that is what we need more children like that
The College Whisperer™ September 06, 2012 at 05:12 PM
What can we teach our children -- and what can we ourselves learn? How about one simple proposition: That the truth matters! I am reminded of the words of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who so aptly stated, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own set of facts." Facts matter, transparency matters, the truth matters, and not just at political conventions. http://collegeconnection.yolasite.com/the-college-whisperer/in-college-applications-truth-matters And along those lines, regardless of party affiliation or political leanings, we all need to gather facts and examine them, rather than, as we tend to do in our haste, accept fictions passed off as facts, and exploit them in the interest of political or personal expediency. Don't just hear. Listen. Don't just accept. Question. And don't just sit there. Get involved! -- The College Whisperer http://www.TheCollegeWhisperer.com
paul September 07, 2012 at 03:41 AM


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