The most eye-opening civics lesson I ever had was while teaching third grade. (That was 2000.)
The presidential election was heating up and some of the children showed an interest. I decided we would have an election for a class president.
We would choose our nominees. They would make a campaign speech and the class would vote.
To simplify the process, candidates were nominated by other class members. We discussed what kinds of characteristics these students should have.
We got many nominations and from those, Jamie and Olivia 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 Jamie might have an advantage because he got lots of parental support. I had never seen Olivia’s mother.
The day arrived when they were to make their speeches Jamie went first.
He had specific ideas about how to make our class a better place. He ended by promising to do his very best.
Everyone applauded. He sat down and Olivia came to the podium. Her speech was concise.
She said, “If you will vote for me, I will give you ice cream.” She sat down.
The class went wild. “Yes! Yes! We want ice cream.” She surely could say more. She did not have to.
A discussion followed. How did she plan to pay for the ice cream? She wasn’t sure.
Would her parents buy it or would the class pay for it? She didn’t know.
The class really didn’t care. All they were thinking about was ice cream.
Jamie was forgotten.
Olivia won by a landslide.
When a candidate opens his mouth and offers ice cream the majority of the people react like nine year olds. They want ice cream but at some point someone is going to have to feed the cow and clean up the mess.