“I’m a Democrat,” my seven-year-old claimed as he climbed in the car after school.
“Oh, yeah?” I looked around to see if anyone had heard him. I’m not a rabid Republican, but we live in Texas, after all—land of Bush and Perry, the cattlemen who sued Oprah, and lots of anti-donkey bumper stickers. And people here carry guns.
“We’re learning about elections,” Jackson explained. “We picked our parties out of a bowl.”
I thought that seemed strangely similar to how people already pick their political parties, but I kept quiet.
Turns out, the second graders at Jackson’s school were involved in a week-long election unit in which “Democrats” decided between the Cat in the Hat and Arthur the Aardvark as their candidate, while “Republicans” debated the virtues of Franklin the Turtle and Curious George.
Every day after pickup, Jackson gave me updates on the process. He became adept at pontificating about political parties and the priorities for a successful leader—through playing with storybook characters.
Did I mention I love his teacher? This is the dear woman who made Jackson stand on his desk and apologize to the girls in the class after he burped the alphabet. I wonder what she’s doing next year…and the year after that? (One thing I know for sure: she’s not paid enough. Remind me to write my senator about that.)
“We chose Arthur,” he announced on day two, slinging his backpack over the seat. “He’s smart.”
“So, no Dr. Suess for you?” I asked.
“Nope. The Cat in the Hat is too silly.”
I gave him a thumbs up. “Sounds like a good decision.”
When he told me the other party had nominated Franklin, I asked why. “Because Curious George gets in trouble all the time,” he said.
From the mouths of babes.
On Friday of election week, my son and his classmates gave speeches about their nominees in front of the fifth grade, and the older kids decided the winner.
I waited impatiently to find out who would prevail: Franklin or Arthur. It was a tough choice. The Republicans had put forth a gentle turtle with patience and strength of character. The Democrats had nominated a smart, witty aardvark who kept a cool head in times of crisis.
“So?” I asked at the end of the week. “Who won the election?”
“Franklin won,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “Can we go get ice cream?”
I nodded yes and voted for vanilla. My son had learned an important political truth: ice cream, by the bowl.6