Kid-sized Commanders-in-Chief

Published 1:44 pm Saturday, November 8, 2008

The 2008 election has come and gone. Favorites kept their seats, new voices will echo in congress and America’s first black president will sit in the country’s highest seat of power.

And while the decisions made Tuesday could decide the new course of change, no single issue split interested voters more than Barack Obama’s love of basketball and John McCain’s fondness for Mexican food.


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While no official votes were sent to the respective government agencies for tallying, Woodson Kindergarten Center students cast their votes anyway, getting perhaps their first educational taste of what it means to be a democracy.

Nothing so tangible was used than a small magazine with a coloring exercise on the back and improvised hats that declared each student in one class “Commander in Chief.” This wasn’t making sure the students understood the various tax plans and government reform.

This was simply making them aware of the change they could be part of in 13 years.

“It’s good to get them that initial exposure of what a president does,” teacher Jason Denzer said. “That it is a big job and voting matters. Being able to choose is an important thing.”

The focus remained always on the little things the students could associated and identify with. There will be plenty of time down the road when these youngsters will have to think about the heavy issues.

“We focus on the little things kids care about,” Denzer said. “There’s not too many politics. They shouldn’t have to worry about that now.”

Yet kids of this age, being who they are, will have questions, especially if there is a voting precinct just down the hall.

“They talk a little bit about the candidates, talk about how important the elections are,” principal Jayne Gibson said. “I think it’s important for kids to see this.”

And so, as the adults of the world walked about Woodson and other spots in Austin, some still figuring on where to put their vote still, the students of Woodson went to work on their ideas.

Perhaps, given how important this election was and how the media handled it, it should be such a surprise that these kids had a fairly good idea who the presidential candidates were.

“I was very surprised,” Denzer said. “It seems like the media covered outstandingly, and parents will talk about the issues. Kids don’t have a problem forming opinions.”

Even more the kids seemed to be caught up in the excitement as well.

“They are really excited,” another teacher, Cori Shellum said, before leading her class on a mini field trip past the voting area. “For a kid to understand that the president is kind of the principal for the entire country, you can kind of see the wheels turning. But yeah, they are really excited.”

Even if they don’t truly grasp what they are deciding, they know their parents.

“My mom and dad know all about these guys,” Gage Johnson said when asked who he would vote for.

And when he was asked if he would vote down the line, it was just a simple answer for Riley Olson, “Yeah.”