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New York City
October 2003

Lessons In Politics
by Dr. Carole G. Hankin with Randi T. Sachs

Every year around this time the posters begin to appear throughout the hallways. In schools at every level from elementary up through college, shortly after students have settled into their classes, attention is turned to student elections.

If your child decides to toss his or her hat into the ring, you may be soon faced with some decisions of your own. First, how do you feel about it? Are you filled with excitement for your child or are you worried about how your child will feel should he or she not emerge the winner? How involved should you get in the campaign?

Most parents will probably have mixed feelings similar to those we just mentioned. Much of it will depend upon our own experiences as children. Did we suffer a traumatic defeat or realize a glorious victory? Were we bystanders to the process who never quite understood what made those other kids want to put themselves on the line by running to office?

As best as you can, try to put aside your own fears and show a strong, positive show of support for your children and confidence that they are capable of reaching their goal.

Any child that does take the initiative to become involved in student elections deserves your help and encouragement. How best to fill your role will depend on what your children need. You want to applaud their good ideas and boost their confidence, but you also want to give the parental reminders that win or lose, this election does not define their entire future and is by no means their last chance to take a leadership role. Your attitude can help them respond graciously to the results of the election, no matter which way the votes go.

When my daughter lost a student election in high school, of course she was disappointed. We showed her that we were very proud of her efforts and she was confident enough to try again in college, where she won student government president. I like to think our counsel and the lessons she learned from her first attempt helped her to be willing to try again.

Student elections, our childrenís first experiences with the democratic election process, should always be positive, even idealistic forums. You can help by monitoring things like posters and speeches and vetoing anything that comes across as negative or criticizing the other candidates. Encourage your children to campaign on their own qualifications and help them to identify what makes them a good candidate.

One piece of advice that is appropriate for any candidate: Explain to your children that the elections should be more about the voters than the candidates. Suggest that they let the other students know that if elected, they will listen to what the students want and do their best to accomplish those objectives. Then on Election Day be ready with a big hug for your children, and let them know they donít need an election to be winners to you.#

Dr. Hankin is superintendent of Syosset Central School District. Randi Sachs is Public Information Officer of Syosset Schools.

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Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 1588, New York, NY 10159.
Tel: (212) 477-5600. Fax: (212) 477-5893. Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2003.


 

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