Tomorrow I am taking my daughter to the local County Convention for our chosen political party. We probably won’t stay long – her little activity backpack doesn’t keep her occupied forever in a crowded auditorium on a Saturday – but I will consider every minute of the experience an important act of parenting.
Democracy is kind of a joke without good citizens and good citizens are hard to find in this day and age. In spite of my tireless efforts to educate the electorate on and around the University of North Texas campus during the early nineties, the majority of Americans still have no idea how much of the real work of democracy is done in the precinct conventions that meet after the polls close in primary election years, and then in the county, state and national conventions of the parties. It is these conventions that truly decide party platforms, presidential nominees and more. They are important, but so poorly attended that it is not uncommon for a precinct convention to be in the position of needing to nominate 18 delegates to the county convention out of a group of five or six attendees. Kind of pathetic, isn’t itall
It is very important to me that my daughter grows up understanding the importance of the democratic process, rather than partaking in widespread apathy. To that end, she has often attended the polls with me over the years and we even snagged her a sample election ballot to take to school for show and tell when it was time to study the letter E at the same time as a local election. She has attended two precinct conventions with me and this will be her second county convention. Maybe not enough involvement to be elected Party Chair, but it’s pretty good for a kindergartener whose parents are not politicians.
We also encourage her to write letters to “her” elected officials when she has a concern, and she is building up a pretty good scrapbook of responses. We have lively discussions about the pros and cons of various political and economic systems, about why children aren’t allowed to vote, about why my husband and I aren’t voting for her friend’s mother…you get the idea.
Good citizens don’t grow on trees; they grow in families who model good citizenship. If our children are the future, they must learn to shape it. We can’t expect civics class to do it if we won’t. We’re the ones they’re watching.