Dear Political Movements, Stop Using Kids As Props

child-politicsOver these last couple of years since I seriously got back into politics, I’ve seen a number of videos and/or articles with a title like, “12 year old girl SCHOOLS heartless governor” or “This 5 year old boy sums up EVERYTHING that is wrong with the GOP in 60 seconds.” Now while those aren’t exact headlines, they hype up and play to the belief that the opposition is so completely wrong that even a naive child can trump their talking points and policies in just one short video.

In my opinion, this is completely wrong. Of course your child can understand some basic principles such as sharing and caring about others, and I’m not trying to downplay the intelligence of any child. Especially as they get older, it’s reasonable to believe they could come up with their own speech on an issue and really start to grasp the politics surrounding it. But for the majority of them, unless they had rehearsed talking points and were coached how to act in front of a camera, it’s hard to believe that there are all of these child prodigies out there with a greater grasp of how the world works than people who have been in politics for decades.

Using children as a prop isn’t anything new or unique to one political faction or another. Two decades ago, I was coached through public political events for the religious right. I was handed talking points that seemed like this one awkward preteen understood why abortion was a horror greater than the Holocaust, and we went to more anti-abortion protests than I care to remember. In fact, every year we would all bundle onto a bus on a cold January morning and ride a few hours to walk around Washington while carrying pictures of aborted fetuses as various religious figures prayed. Any time there was a TV crew, people were picked to be pushed in front of them for an interview – and children who could recite talking points were always preferred.

It wasn’t just rallies – I was taught how to call in with political opinions on local radio stations, and even stand up in front of an abortion debate featuring someone from the National Organization for Women versus Phyllis Schlafly.

On one birthday, I stood in the freezing rain for hours in front of the largest polling place in my county campaigning for a guy who was considered to be severely conservative by many at the time, and the first Republican to take Virginia’s 6th Congressional district in ten years. That night, I was pushed to the front while my story was told, and he thanked me for helping him win while people applauded.

To this day, these experiences haunt me as to what I was used for – a political prop. I get that we should teach our children the difference between right and wrong and that they should be taught to think for themselves. However, using kids to parrot talking points in front of a TV camera for a political agenda is wrong in my opinion. Let’s let our children form their own opinions and let them have a childhood – it’s the only one they’ll have.


Facebook comments