Goodman: Support kids in the political process


Meredith Goodman, Columnist

When I first heard the story of a fourth-grade class proposing an actual bill to the New Hampshire legislature to make the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor, I was pretty jealous. I would have loved to do something like that when I was in fourth grade. The kids got to stay inside from recess, which I didn’t particularly enjoy as a shy elementary school kid, to draft a bill that made it through committee and was set to be approved by the legislature.

But that was where the fun ended. When the bill came before the legislature, it was surprisingly hotly debated by state representatives and ultimately failed to pass. Representatives questioned the need for an additional state symbol and made fun of the fourth graders’ raptor suggestion, joking that if they approved a state raptor, they might as well also select a state hot dog. One representative even strangely went so far as to make an anti-abortion joke about the raptor, saying that its method of tearing prey apart limb-by-limb would make it an appropriate mascot for Planned Parenthood.

I was very angry while listening to the story on NPR. The class’ teacher Jim Cutting described how his students felt discouraged – one of them asked the teacher why people were laughing at them. They had worked for weeks to research the red-tailed hawk and help draft the bill before it was submitted. They wore adorable t-shirts that made a pun on New Hampshire’s state motto, Live Free or Die, saying “Live Free and Fly,” and handed out flyers to the representatives before the voting period.

I’m not sure why there was so much opposition to a bill that I believe required almost no debate. Maybe New Hampshire state representatives felt they have more important state business to consider, like bills about education and public services. Maybe they were fed up with the bureaucracy of the state government, having to approve countless state bill efforts by elementary school kids.

What saddens me most about this whole incident, besides the fact that a state representative thought it would be appropriate to make an abortion joke in front of children, is that this could have been an opportunity to inspire these kids for the rest of their lives. I would imagine New Hampshire lost out on at least one future representative in Cutting’s class because their political experiences have already been tainted at the tender age of 9 or 10.

I ask these representatives how hard it would have been to devote about half an hour to approve this bill and recognize the students for their accomplishments. Politics is disgusting enough today, with bipartisan brinkmanship and a loss of decorum. The representatives had a chance to show the true meaning of politics, to listen to the voices of the people and act on their demands. Instead they further contributed to the cynical climate of our nation’s current political system.

If I believed the fourth graders in Cutting’s class had any chance of reading this newspaper — feel free to share this with them if you went to Lincoln Akerman School in New Hampshire — I would tell them to continue the work that they put into the red-tailed hawk bill. I would encourage them to do their research, support legislation they believe in and continue to be active in the political process. Perhaps one day they will become representatives who will do the right thing and encourage children to be involved in democracy.

Meredith Goodman is a Weinberg senior. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].