I recently had the privilege of speaking to a group of a hundred or so sixth-graders at Fuller Middle School. Tom Griffin, a social studies teacher there, was kind enough to invite me.
It’s more difficult than you might think to discuss the upcoming election in a way that’s fair, accurate, and (one hopes) interesting to 11- and 12-year-olds. And the part at the end, where the kids got to question me, was even more challenging.
Here are some of the questions on students’ minds as the election approaches. Take a moment to imagine what you might have said in response to these questions when speaking to a roomful of kids:
Why do we have to have a president?
Why should I ever spend my time in the voting booth, since elections are hardly ever decided by one vote?
Do people take the race of candidates into account when voting?
What part of your job is the toughest?
Why did John McCain pick Sarah Palin to be a vice-presidential candidate?
Why are they letting Barack Obama run for president, given his history as a drug dealer?
Are there important differences between the two candidates?
After the talk, two teachers came up to me and told me that they were happy that I spoke to the sixth graders exactly at their level. I am pretty sure that this was a compliment.