Please talk with youngsters about 2018 election

This column appeared in a number of APG of East Central newspapers during November, 2018

Please talk with youngsters about election results

Having taught civics, government and politics classes for more than 30 years at the K-12 and postsecondary levels, I’ve seen the value of talking with young people about election results.

Here are six core lessons:

— Begin by asking what they learned and what they are thinking about election results. You’ll sometimes hear unexpected or surprising reactions. And it helps young people to know that you are interested in what they think.

— Help them understand that despite deep divisions and strong disagreements, no one is going to be sent to jail, or worse, because she or he worked for someone who did not win. It can be useful to point out that this does happen in some countries. But fortunately, not here.

— This year’s Minnesota and national elections show something that’s almost always true. One party almost never wins every election. Democrats won the Minnesota and U.S. House of Representatives. The majority of U.S. and Minnesota senators are Republicans. Both Minnesota Republicans and Democrats won Congressional seats. Yes, Minnesota’s governor and lieutenant governor are DFLers.

— It’s possible to vigorously disagree and still be respectful. Governor-elect Tim Walz and Commissioner Jeff Johnson proposed quite different ideas about the future direction of the state. But their debates also featured mutual respect.

— This election demonstrates how America works – with people elected representing ever greater diversity. More women, more people of color, more people representing gender diversity were elected in Minnesota and other states. One of the strengths of our system is that sooner or later, citizens decide to tap into an ever-wider range of insight, talent and experience.

— Young people can play important roles. Some of the most colorful, creative signs I saw in the campaign were made by youngsters ages 4 and 6. Youngsters have helped with campaign mailings, door-to-door literature distribution and fundraising. Youngsters can be active now — they don’t have to wait until they are adults to be involved in politics and elections.

Regardless of your feelings after this election, as an educator I think it’s valuable to listen to as well as talk with young people about election results.

Joe Nathan, formerly a Minnesota public school educator and PTA president directs the Center for School Change. Reactions welcome at Joe@centerforschool