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The Ira Glass Infatuation Post/This American Life Review: Kid Politics

When Ira introduced an episode that descended the disorienting cloud of politics onto the world of children, I wasn’t expecting to hear any revelations about people’s relationships to their governing systems–how could a child possibly make more naive decisions than Daley? But on the contrary and as to be expected, this week’s show, Kid Politics, zooms in on individuals’ responses to being a part of a system, and reveals how moldable a person’s analysis is by sources of information.

Ira opens the floor with a PBS plug for the doc they aired, Please Vote for Me, on Chinese babycakes running for class offices and implementing negative campaigning that results in tears. Most interesting is the chirping of little democrats trying to balance their power hunger with their comrades demands in a leader; most naturally, the first thing to go was Honest Abe politicking.

Act 1: That is another correct response according to President Reagan.

A rare treat these days, Jewcy interviewee Starlee Kine returns to WBEZ with a darling childhood recollection of idyllic field tripping to the Nixon Library. Her memories of meeting Nixon aide H.R. Halderman that day gave hope that the oblivion of future generations might erase the burden he still carried from Watergate.

Jumping to the Reagan Library today, equal portions of propaganda are rationed out as fifth graders play a choose-your-own-adventure with Reagan’s invasion of Granada. In a cheery voice, the library’s tourguide uses good old circular logic to steer the tabula rasas to anti-pinko, anti-journalist conclusions.  In this vein, an intimidating alarm goes off each time non-Reagan choices are made by the mini-mes. As reporters are demonized and indirectly blamed for the death of soldiers in Grenada, “one by one you can see it on the student’s faces, how it could have been perfect if it weren’t for the press.” It can be argued that the library’s bias is obvious in the very name of the building. It’s just that they pass these conclusions off as products of the students’ own critical thinking that is misleading and so very Reaganite.

Act 2: Global warming is propaganda, that’s what I believe.

Ira speaks to unicorns in the form of Glenn Beck-loving teenagers at his DC rally. Our host beautifully uses his role as journalist to connect skeptic with expert to instigate dialogue. as global warming nonbeliever Erin Gustafson, high school freshman, speaks with Dr. Roberta Gustafson for a stance on warming Glenn Beck shits on daily. Gustafson’s skepticism is promising brain activity, and it seems that hers is not a closed mind, yet. After Ira asks if she could picture her reevaluating her stance, she says,

If I saw both sides arguing both completely side by side, then maybe I can see how it would be true, or even more definitely, how it isn’t true. I just personally feel like this is almost like evolution where people will say, ‘Yes, this is fact and this is what happened,’ and there are other people who would say that this is theory…and then there would be people who say this is completely untrue.

Meanwhile, Ira poses the root question to the doctor: Do you think it’s hopeless to reach certain people once they are skeptical?

There’s a spectrum of belief. I have to remain hopeful that when people have open minds and are equipped to analyze evidence that they’ll come to rational conclusions.

We can only hope.

Act 3: What the hell is a whore?

A similar craving for open minds continues and is satisfied in the environment of the Brooklyn Free School. There, where “the inmates run the asylum,” Jyllian Gunther brings us an excellent story on democracy in action in the ungraduated. The decisionmaking power and advocacy allowed to the students makes for a totally different democratic atmosphere that generally resides in utopia. As active as kefir culture, their democratic meetings have put the students in the habit of not falling asleep at the wheel. Such delving questions are posed by the kinder, as when voting on whether to continue to implement “No Screens Week” (when digital screens of all types are outlawed in the brownstone school), “If you can trust someone to learn what they need to know without encouraging them, shouldn’t you trust them to know when to turn a computer off?”

In dialogue with the last act, these students, when faced with disagreeable issues, are not afraid to speak up. In contrast, when Ira asked Gustafson if she ever brought up her counterpoint on global warming with teachers, she answered no, that she simply regurgitated that which she knew was expected of her. This lack of opportunity to put ideas in conversation is probably the most un-American thing of all.

The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. -Abraham Lincoln

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