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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Women, Politics, and Elementary School

February 7, 2012

Political people are always trying to figure out future voting patterns.

Perhaps the place to start is in the institution where young people are influenced and discovering a thought process to carry them into adulthood.

My advice is to begin at the local elementary school.

Everyone acknowledges the importance of the women's vote. Yet, it may pale in comparison to the influence women are having on future generation of voters, male and female.

That’s because ninety-five percent of elementary school administrators, teachers, teaching-aides, and other personnel are female. The male presence in the local elementary school is close to nil.

For a variety of reasons, men don’t have the interest in an elementary school education, and instead set their sights on business, communications, or law as future vocations.

Parents are not steering their sons' toward an elementary school education, either.

Still, teaching elementary school is tremendously rewarding (and difficult), yet for whatever societal reason, it is overwhelmingly a woman's career choice.

From a political standpoint, the influence of school teachers is important. People vote their attitudes and world view; money, country, security, government assistance, or the lack of it, and these mindsets are learned at an early age.

In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, elementary school children are taught to resolve conflict, tolerate others, adhere to rules and regulations, and respect authority.

Parents have a large role too, of course, but it’s the teacher and school administrators who have the kids for eight hours, everyday. We are entrusting them to help shape the mindset of children, and it will eventually show up in the voting booth.

Visiting an elementary school is an eye opener, especially to see the kids interact with each other and resolve differences, which they always do peacefully.

Teachers refer to their young students by name, but also with an endearment usually reserved for their own children. The elementary school environment is contagious. A teacher put it this way, "At this age they still love you".

Little kids worry about everything, but are comforted in elementary school because they know it's a place of safety.

At this early age, they do not question authority and learn and adapt to systems and procedures as well as to the idea that there is conflict in the world (like whose turn is it to be line-leader).

They also inch toward independence, and beam with excitement when they are entrusted to venture out on their own, even if it is just to drop off a piece of paper at the Principal’s office.

Yes, elementary school teachers convey to school children that they are special, but also that they have a responsibility to be respectful to others and adhere to the rules of the school. The classroom policies are posted everywhere and the kids know what they are.

In a few short years, these elementary school children will be of voting age, and their attitudes and outlook on the world will be near-permanently set.

Those who seek a future in politics or elective office would do well to understand how those mindsets were formed and who influenced them.

To appreciate where the country is headed, elementary school is a good place to start.