Sunday, April 1, 2012

Political Language and Children

            This is just a random thing that shows how learning worked for me as a kid.  I was born in 1985, and don't have to many memories before 1990, and the three strongest memories I have from that year was my brother falling and hitting his head at a house we lived at in Bradenton, moving into our house in North Port (I actually remember saying something like, "I turn 5 next week", in our soon to be living room that was completely devoid of furniture), and a conversation I heard between my parents about the first Gulf War (I remember my dad explaining how little military Iraq had and my Mom being concerned that the war was going to get out of control, I believe she was concerned because my uncle John was 17 at the time and a draft would have been a hard thing for our family).

Yeah, looks pretty bleak.
             The thing is I had no conscious memory of a presidential election, and I had always heard President Bush referred to as a Republican, and when he ran for reelection in 1992 I heard Republican and Democrat a lot, but did not really know what they meant, but I assigned them a definition in my head that I wasn't consciously aware of, I was 7 and really didn't care at the time so it was not something I really labeled out loud.

            Cut to 4 years later and President Clinton was running for reelection against Senator Dole and Ross Perot.  At some point I said this, "So now President Clinton is the Republican." and my dad responded with, "No, son he is a Democrat."  Which confused us both really so I explained my definition of Republican, "I thought Republican meant the guy who was in the office, and Democrat meant challenger."

            I had never heard the word incumbent, and had heard President Bush referred to by party so frequently as a child that I had come to think of the word in those terms.  Conversely, I had never heard anyone refer to President Clinton by his party, he had always been called President Clinton.

            I didn't really realize why that was until I read the book "Bias" Freshman year of college, that this is the sort of thing you don't notice until it is pointed out.  The major networks refer to Republican Presidents and other Republican office holders as Republicans, but they don't do that for Democrats, Fox News refers to Democratic officer holders as Liberal or Democrats, but just refer to Republican office holders by name and title.

            My family didn't have cable and watched ABC nightly news, so my mind had this engrained into it without noticing.  And since read "Bias" I have noticed something more, people in news who are not aligned with the President of the time, Bush or Obama, don't refer to them as President Bush or President Obama.  When Bush was President, ABC would call him Mr. Bush, while Fox would refer to him as the President.  Now things have flipped, Fox calls the President, Mr. Obama, and ABC calls him President Obama.  I am starting to wonder if these things are intentional slights or not, because it is rather consistent, and these "journalists" are reading from a teleprompter.

            Regardless, right now, lots of kids who don't chose what channel their parents watch are hearing either directly or indirectly the President getting referred to a certain way, and it is changing the way they understand the language of civics in the country.  changing the way they understand the words Socialist, Muslim, and Liberal.  I wonder how this will shape them.

Might make them all a bit cynical.

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