Kids and Politics: Should They Mix?

02 June 2011
Next week I'm dragging my helpless unborn child to yet another rally. Neither of us have much choice at this stage of the relationship. Already Pinky has had more involvement in politics than most people ever will; rallies, helping out with a campaign, leafleting and handing out how to vote cards, and being along to meet lots of the poobahs in the Greens - and I hope the picture with Bob Brown is something they'll be proud of one day.

There's a school of thought that it's just as unfair and manipulative to raise children with political beliefs as it is with religion - although the former is usually derided by people who have no trouble at all with the latter.

There's been much discussion, and derision, recently of a mother who declared that she was taking her 7 year old daughter to Slutwalk. Whilst much of the criticism came from those who just missed the point - not wanting their children thinking dressing like that is okay - others said they don't feel their child should be exposed to political concepts and women's rights issues at such a young age. Kids have no place at rallies and marches. I can understand this point of view, even though I don't agree with it.

For me, politics is something boring that happens in buildings in Canberra, or an annoying chore that must be dealt with once every three years (but for which you are rewarded with a sausage sizzle). It's something that affects every aspect of our lives, and if you refuse to engage, you're not a responsible citizen. Politics can be the greatest force for good, for social justice, that we have; by deriding politics or dismissing it as boring, people are allowing the triumph of free market capitalism, which isn't very nice to anybody who can't afford it.

So our child will grow up in an atmosphere of lefty political thought and discussion. We can't hide from them something that goes to the core of our beings. I will be taking our child to rallies and demonstrations and political fundraisers. Maybe not Slutwalk - that's the feminist in me, which has one or two problems with the event - but certainly many others. By isolating kids from politics, we breed adults who see it as a thing apart; boring and irrelevant. Kids should be brought up to take an interest in the issues and see them as relevant to their lives. Of course, there is the argument that I should expose my child to the "other" side of politics for a balanced view. I'm not so sure. Should I pop Alan Jones on the radio next to the cot? I don't want a three year old babbling about illegal immigrants or demanding there's an election every time something happens they don't like. Religion is different; I'd happily allow our child to attend a mosque, synagogue or church with friends, explaining that whilst we don't believe in these things, other people do. (SRE at school is a different matter; I don't want to have to explain that some things you learn at school are real, but others are not real; or at least some people think they're real but we don't).

But politics, well that's different. We want to raise our kid to be a good person. To me, believing asylum seekers should be locked up indefinitely; that power bills matter more than the future of the planet; that Australia is vital to the endless, aimless "war on terror" but irrelevant to global climate debate; that whether or not you can get married depends on your gender and that of your partner; and if you're poor it's your own damn fault and you need an ever-harder kick up the backside - well, those aren't the views of a good person. I can't bring up my child to believe these things. So we'll have our little inner-city leftist latte baby, and try to do the best we can.


  1. here here.

    and don't be made to feel like you need to apologise for it either. i bet all those parents who dress up in their sunday best and take the kids to the happy clapper's for their weekly hit don't feel like they need to apologise, or even explain themselves.

  2. I couldn't agree more. Children should be raised from an early age to have an understanding of the political process in this country (and other countries) and be encouraged to be involved. Both my young children take a keen interest in politics. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic. Cheers, Caro


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