Thursday, February 18, 2016

Making Sense of the Political Noise - for Kids and Adults

By Suzanne Morgan Williams

We're preparing for our presidential caucuses here in Nevada - phones are ringing, television and internet sites are full of political ads, and campaign volunteers are knocking on doors. It's no wonder I'm thinking about books for kids with political themes. But I came up short on titles that actually talk about the political process, historical fiction or not. So that's my first question. Do any of you know of YA or children's books that address politics? Elections? I can think of lots of books that have to do with war, homelessness, drugs, and other social issues but very few about the process. Yes, there are biographies of politicians, but what else?

Instead of featuring books about politics this week, I want to recommend a book for eighth grade and up about how to assess the rhetoric and political claims that we're all bombarded with. It's no surprise to me that politics uses the vocabulary of war - contest, campaign, captains, ground game, target precincts.This is serious business that creates fortunes, gathers or shares power, and changes lifes. Our children, the future voters and citizens who will guide the country long after we're gone, need to be educated so they aren't just swept along by the media. They need to think carefully.

So, everyone please read Paul Fleischman's Eyes Wide Open, Going Behind the Environmental Headlines.  It's not directly about politics, and some of you may disagree with his point of view on the environment, but the lessons are clear and can be applied to most messaging, statistics, or claims we hear. Fleischman says on his website: "THE GOAL: Giving readers 14 and up the briefing they need to comprehend their moment in history. And a riveting moment it is."

This easy to understand book is a primer in media, democracy, and how the point of view of those behind the advertisements and articles determines the information they provide. I'd say in this election year, Eyes Wide Open is a must read for all ages. Comments are welcome!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Suzanne - this is a great blog.
    I'll try to remember what I wrote in my earlier comment which vaporated (yes, I know that ain't in the dictionary) when I pressed 'preview'.
    You are so right, Suzanne, our children need to be educated to think carefully and process what they see and hear. Too many teachers are intent on impressing their political views on the children. Both in the classroom and at home the outpourings from radio, television, and newspapers are accepted as Gospel truth. Thus political marketers present scary scenarios as hard facts, and the hordes vote accordingly without stopping to consider the consequences, as manifest in the last two American elections and the recent Canadian one. If Paul Fleischman's book is widely read and he succeeds in getting his young readers (and, with any luck, their media-influenced parents too) to think for themselves he is much to be commended. I hope I can find 'Eyes WIDE Open'. From Global Warming to Carbon Footprint (any media outlet comments on the massive footprints of movie stars and Michael Moore?) to Climate Change - hey, I remember a graph in my 3rd Grade geography book showing the undulations of the climate over several centuries - we are subject to so much pseudo-scientific twaddle it is difficult to sift half-truths,even blatant nonsense, from fact. Kudos to Paul, and to you Suzanne - the manipulating behind the politics in every field of life is much needed middle grade reading material.