As Americans head to the polls to cast their votes in the 2008 presidential election, Rabbi Shmuley says it's important for parents to educate their children about civic engagement and the American political process. He shares ways in which parents can teach children about politics and democracy.
Begin teaching your children about politics when they are about 10 years old, Rabbi Shmuley says. Discuss political stories with them so they have a healthy understanding of politics. Also, get them to read newspapers regularly. "I discuss political stories with my kids on a regular basis," Rabbi Shmuley says. "But I try to find the deeper human story underlying the overt political story. If you make it about people and personalities rather than detached policy, kids get interested."
Give your children a better sense of the America's history, Rabbi Shmuley says. "I regularly take my kids to American historical sites, particularly those of the Revolutionary and Civil wars, for them to understand the sacrifices that were made so that they could be free," he says.
Let your children know that the best way to pay tribute to their freedom as Americans is by exercising their right to vote. Rabbi Shmuley says he wishes his parents or teachers had taken him to see people vote as a child.
Explain to children that politics can—but doesn't need to—get ugly. "Explain to them that it's inexcusable that campaigns get so nasty, placing success ahead of morality," Rabbi Shmuley says. "The fact is that being president is pretty nice, but being decent and moral is even more important than being president. If you end up being a corrupt politician or a disgraced president, no one is going to respect you."
"Election Day in America is a celebration of representative democracy and should thus be treated by children and adults alike as a day of some reverence. Children should, if possible, go with their parents to voting booths to watch the democratic process in action. And parents should give their children a sense of the historical drama of how special it is to vote and what it means to be free."