When Tierney Cahill told her sixth-grade civics students that anyone could run for Congress, they scoffed. You need to be a millionaire, they insisted Not so, she countered.
Prove it, they said (politely).
Teachers often talk about the importance of capitalizing on a teachable moment. Ms. Cahill has taken the concept to a new level.
What started as a class on the emergence of democracy in ancient Greece resulted in Cahill's run for Nevada's Second Congressional District seat.
The Democratic candidate's salary ($30,000) and war chest - about $6,000 - have dispelled her students' views that only the rich can run. But that's the least of it. Her students are going door to door and enthusiastically boosting a teacher who jumped in to show them the importance - and fun - of political participation. And she's polling well enough for her opponent, GOP Rep. Jim Gibbons, to take her run seriously.
Young people come in for their share of criticism when it comes to their lack of political involvement and low turnout on election day. (Leave aside for a moment the record of many of their parents.) But any number of educators are convinced that apathy doesn't have to win the day. Kids just need to learn early that civics - routinely voted the most boring class in school - can involve more than dry lectures about government and the Electoral College.
Cahill's enthusiasm to drive home the point with a campaign is, granted, unusual. But around the United States this fall, teachers and students have gone to bat to prove that political inv
olvement can be exciting - especially when it looks like the real thing.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society