Archived Story

The political arena resembles schoolyards

Published 11:22am Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Column: Guest Column, by Peggy Bennett

He took my ball!

She’s a liar!

They cheat!

The list goes on with the litany of schoolyard accusations and name calling that I hear each day as a first-grade teacher. Those of you who have young children could, I know, add more to this list.

As a teacher, it is my privilege to assist my young scholars daily in sorting out their issues, arguments and dealing with name calling. I am charged with the goal of helping them see their world from other perspectives and teaching them to treat each other with common courtesy.

Peggy Bennett
Peggy Bennett

Just the other day, I saw two boys running full speed from different sides of the playground on what I could see was sure to be an intersecting course. Neither boy was looking where he was going. Before I could intercede, Johnny slammed into Billy’s backside and both boys went flying.

Without a word or a glance at Johnny, who was still on the ground rubbing his bruises, Billy came running to me in tears, crying that Johnny was a bully because he had pushed him.

Isn’t it interesting how assuming intent in a situation can change one’s whole perception? A total accident became an intentional attack. That incident was the perfect teaching moment, as we teachers call it, for some good life lessons.

Fast forward in life to adulthood. Instead of the schoolyard playground, we witness the political arena. I often chuckle, while shaking my head, at how very similar politics can be to the schoolyard. The name calling and vilification that comes from many on both sides of the political aisle can rival that of even the most proficient schoolyard bully.

Liar, extremist, Nazi, racist, monster, political jihadist, anti-American, communist … the list goes on.

It’s rather sad, really. What we try to cure in our children on the schoolyard is appallingly abundant in the world of politics.

It seems that many in politics would rather scream out names, assigning what is often untrue intent, rather than work together on issues and solve problems. All name calling does is close the door on communication. It shuts off legitimate debate and discussion which so badly needs to happen in the political arena. Perhaps, instead of trying to look for ill intent and vilifying our opponents, we would be better off finding common goals and common ground and working together from there.

I have many friends and acquaintances, among whom are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and independents. All are good, caring American citizens who desire the best for their community, their state, and our nation. None of these people is Nazis, racists, extremists, monsters or any of the other names we hear. They’re all Americans with differing ideas.

That’s part of what makes this country great. The political world needs to take advantage of this diversity of thought instead of demonizing it.

Name calling has gone on since the beginning of politics, but it certainly seems to have intensified of late.

The polarization and alienated entrenchment that we currently have in government is paralyzing our ability to work together and get things done. There are some good politicians on both sides of the aisle who stay out of the name calling game, and who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get some work done. We need more people like that.

It’s time to bring some common sense back to politics. Let’s rise above the schoolyard playground and bring back healthy debate and discussion to the political arena. It’s time to quit the name calling and work together to bring the best to our state and nation.

 

Peggy Bennett resides in Albert Lea. She is an elementary school teacher in the Albert Lea Area Schools and has enjoyed teaching children from Albert Lea and the surrounding areas for more than 30 years. Peggy is also a member of Grace Christian Church in Albert Lea, where she serves as director of Christian education and church elder.