Won't Vote!
Off the Wall, Oct 23 2009

Recently, I got an email from a gent who thought I may appreciate what this little story had to relate concerning voting and the best candidate. Reading through to the end, I decided to use part of it, and then go off on my own tangent of thoughts.

This is how it started out. The lesson was held by a third grade teacher, Irene Mazonelli. Since the presidential election was heating up, the topic was raised in her civics lesson. Children at that age in this grade actually showed interest. She began, “I decided we would have an election for a class president,” the young lady noted. “We would choose our nominees. They would each make a campaign speech and the class would vote,” she said.

Further explaining the process, Ms. Mazonelli explained, “We would select our nominees after the presentations were made and the class would vote. To simplify the process,” she commented, “candidates were nominated by other class members.”

The body of students and the teacher discussed what kinds of characteristics these students should have. From the many nominations, Eric Zapunzin and Olivia Stringbotto were picked to run for the top spot. The class had done a great job in their selections. Both candidates were good kids.

“I thought Eric might have an advantage,” remarked the Washington University graduate, “because he got lots of parental support. I had never seen Olivia’s mother,” she said.

The day arrived when they were to make their speeches. Eric went first. He had specific ideas about how to make his class a better place. He ended up by promising to do his very best. Olivia, too, had her proposal and spelled out her plans in a detailed manner.

I could go on and finish the story as was handed to me letting you know who won, but to me, that’s not important. What stands out in my mind is how this election was held and how this university grad master-minded such eagerness on behalf of the students to learn.

First of all, I have to hand it to Ms. Mazonelli. She taught the candidates more than just democracy – she prompted the children to collect datum, and give speeches so as to prove themselves to the student body. The third graders would then vote to determine who the class president would be, “after listening to what each candidate had to say.”

Did the teacher instruct the nine year-olds to make signs with their names on them and plaster them all over the school building? Did she tell the candidates to crayon cards stating “Vote for Eric” or “Vote for Olivia,” and write a little saying underneath each that may be catchy, at best? Or was either of the two students encouraged to approach other classmates and tell them to write in a name without knowing anything about the persons running? None of those. The candidates were told to make speeches. Eric said “he had ideas how to make his class a better place.” His reference in doing his very best was his admission that he stood behind his promises. And even though I never met him, I believe there is something about this little guy that struck a positive note in me. He had a vision and goals to go with it. Just think about that for a minute – a third grader standing in front of his class telling the boys and girls, “I plan to make this class a better place.” He could have gone on to do exactly what he meant. However, by the looks of things, I think Ms. Mazonelli had everything under control and pointed it in the right direction. With Eric possibly winning, maybe the two of them could work well together for the good of the class and the projects forthcoming.

Shouldn’t our candidates running for offices this election do as these children did, voice their platforms and tell the constituents how they can do better for the community in which they live? It would make a whole lot more sense to me, rather than plastering signs of all shapes, colors and sizes all over the sides of roads, in people yards and on bumper stickers.

If Eric and Olivia can stand before a group of third graders and tell them where improvements can be made, and how it can be done, then adults must do the same, as I see it. Unless something is done along those lines, you can count on me staying home this Election Day!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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