The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

From the Mouths of Junior Citizens

April 21, 2008

Peter recently urged me to report from the Pittsburgh grassroots on the Pennsylvania primary. Well, word from Frick International Studies Academy in Pittsburgh is that middle-schoolers are split on who they hope will win tomorrow, and the divisions cut across grade-level.

According to my twelve-year old daughter, lunchroom polls at Frick last week reported a majority of 6th-graders support Obama; a majority of 7th-graders support Clinton. The big issue in the lunchroom: neither race nor gender but which candidate will do most to reverse President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, which is generally thought to “suck.”

If accurate, what can we conclude from this?

A) That it’s a close race in both age groups and the variation is simply chance.

B) That parents who tend to send their kids to an International Studies Magnet school care about foreign policy and multiculturalism, and are therefore likelier to be Obama supporters; 6th graders ally with their parents, but 7th graders, slightly older and sassier, use politics to rebel against them.

C) That citizens over the age of 12 are at least as qualified to vote in our Presidential elections as certain adults. At least my daughter’s classmates are talking about the issues, rather than making a big deal over fashion choices, what someone’s neighbor said, or who’s the bigger “copycat.”

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Charli Carpenter is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is the author of 'Innocent Women and Children': Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians (Ashgate, 2006), Forgetting Children Born of War: Setting the Human Rights
Agenda in Bosnia and Beyond (Columbia, 2010), and ‘Lost’ Causes: Agenda-Setting in Global Issue Networks and the Shaping of Human Security (Cornell, 2014). Her main research interests include national security ethics, the protection of civilians, the laws of war, global agenda-setting, gender and political violence, humanitarian affairs, the role of information technology in human security, and the gap between intentions and outcomes among advocates of human security.