Montana Politics

A Snarky Post About Using Kids As Political Props

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This evening I received an e-mail from the Pam Bucy campaign about her plans to file for office at one of the administrative offices of the Helena School District, using a collection of high school and middle school students as a backdrop for the media:

To demonstrate the benefits of online access and proficiency, Bucy will file for office online with a group of middle school and high school students. A former prosecutor, Bucy and members of local law enforcement will then demonstrate and test actual online safety curricula with these students to gain feedback for the development and implementation of eSm@rt Kids in middle school classrooms statewide. The curriculum will focus on the ever-changing social media landscape, online predators, and online bullying.

The event will take place at 10:30 tomorrow morning. I’m not sure about other students, but mine will be in third period tomorrow, hopefully learning some critical thinking skills in their English class.

As a teacher, I think that a better message for high school and middle school students might be to stay in school rather than act as props for a political campaign. I also think it’s unlikely that any group of adolescents is going to learn an appreciation for “the benefits of online access and proficiency” by watching someone fill in an online form. I imagine most will be underwhelmed.

Is this a big deal? No, but it’s frustrating—and unnecessary, especially given that students in Helena won’t be attending school this Friday, which would have presented a perfect opportunity for this event, if its real purpose was education, not exhibition.

As a teacher, it also makes me uncomfortable that a school is being using for a transparently political event, especially by a candidate who will need to be upholding the law if elected.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

43 Comments

  • FIELD TRIP! Sheesh, Pogie. I nearly ALWAYS agree with you, but not on this one! Hey, even teachers like to get outta class sometimes! Wet blanket much? As Moses would'a said, let my students go!……or sumthin' to that effect.

    • Really Larry? Is this all you know how to do? You lack even the ability to form a coherent and educated response to a blog about the negative effects of using kids as campaign tools. Please, just leave this blog. Now.

  • Well thank you for taking the time not to review and comment on the substance of Pam's eSm@rt kids initiative, but rather make a snarky remark about props. For those readers who want to learn more about what Pam Bucy is talking about, you can read more here: http://pambucy.com/2011/10/esmrt-kids-empowering-

    In light of the news of the missing, but now found 12 year old Kalispell girl who went to meet a sexual predator she met online, this kind of meeting of law enforcement and middle and high school kids seems very timely and relevant. (http://www.kaj18.com/news/details-emerging-in-kalispell-amber-alert-case/)

    But please continue to serve up the snark…

    • Two things make this more than snark.

      1) A candidate for Attorney General should know the law. That Ms. Bucy was not allowed to file at the HSD today makes it pretty clear that this was not an appropriate use of school resources.

      2) That someone took the time to have two "students" post critical remarks about this blog post before the event happened this morning, both using District Internet, shows just how politicized this was.

      It's a total red herring to suggest that criticizing Ms. Bucy's campaign stop is a criticism of keeping kids safe online. In fact, the only people politicizing the campaign to protect children are on Ms. Bucy's staff.

  • Wow. Snarky indeed. And just as I was beginning to read your blog again, after being turned away by some of your past ridiculousness. We all know you’re a Laslovich guy, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but posts like this come across as childish and nit-picky at best and detract from some of the good things you write about.

    A couple of questions for you, Pogie.

    Have you never taken your kids out of class to take part in a unique experience? Or are our kids supposed to sit, stay and be quiet as teachers lecture?

    Would you approve if she were to discuss her program to a group of grown adults? To me, she’s showing respect by taking it directly to the ones who are the focus and will receive the benefit?

    Pam's a good woman, and her program sounds like a good one. The bigger thing to do here, Pogie, would be to either give credit where credit is due, or simply stay out of it.

    • Excuse me, sir, but i think Don's point is not the fact that kids should be shut up in schools, but that they should be exposed to these types of learning experiences in an unbiased atmosphere. This whole event is a campaign launch, and is not necessarily something that kids should be exposed to, due to the risk of them being used as campaign props. If it is the education system's desire to immerse students in the experiences of the operations of government at the state level, then let the campaign hopefuls schedule private sessions with students, making sure that the events are as media-free as possible. Then we can really see how devoted these people are to their campaign objectives.

      Furthermore, the attack on Don's blog as being "childish" and "nit-picky" is nothing more than a pathetic reach for an argument based in the weak hope that you can augment your hastily-prepared points and detract from the viewpoint of what is clearly a teacher expressing concern for the education of the youth.

      • Why should kids not be "exposed" to a campaign event if it's their choice to attend or not? I simply don't see why that is so terrible? And no one has been able to make that argument yet.

    • "We all know you’re a Laslovich guy, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that, but posts like this come across as childish and nit-picky at best and detract from some of the good things you write about."

      Ad Hominem fallacy.

      "Have you never taken your kids out of class to take part in a unique experience? Or are our kids supposed to sit, stay and be quiet as teachers lecture?"

      False Dilemma, the second half of which is a Loaded Question.

      "Would you approve if she were to discuss her program to a group of grown adults?"

      Since that question completely avoids all parts of Pogie's complaints, that also sets a False Dilemma. And for the record, these kids can't vote for the AG. I'm going out on a limb and suggest that she's gonna have to talk to 'grown adults' about it at some point. In fact, since this is a campaign event, she already is directing this to adults which validates Pogie's assessment of this being a prop driven stunt.

      And let's be clear. This isn't Pam Bucy's program, just because she spells it with an @. The eSmart initiative (not the energy education one, but the 'be smart on the Intertubes one') was a product of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation in Australia. It is a good program, well past it's 'pilot stage' and already implemented country wide down under and in several US states; though to be fair it is often championed by education departments instead of justice departments. I know it's a good program because I read about it on Boing Boing several years ago. Seriously, you can go to http://www.amf.org.au and download the pamphlets.

      Pam Bucy is definitely to be commended for seeking to foster the program here in Montana. However, the pretense that this event is to get feedback from middle-school kids for development and implementation of a program already well established lends a helluva lot of credence to what Pogie wrote here, that the event is a stunt and the kids are being used as props. Derailing the inevitable Ad Hominem, I have not made up my mind between Laslovich and Bucy for AG. But I have to say that someone trumpeting their fresh new view while standing on the shoulders of giants leaves me pretty underwhelmed.

      • I enjoyed this, i really did. it gave me a good chuckle. If you decide to address any of my actual comments, i'm all ears.

          • Pointing out alleged "fallacies" does not address anything but your simple opinion, without any substantiating comments of your own. But irregardless…

            "I'm going out on a limb and suggest that she's gonna have to talk to 'grown adults' about it at some point."

            Really? Wow, I bet she's glad you pointed that out.

            "In fact, since this is a campaign event, she already is directing this to adults which validates Pogie's assessment of this being a prop driven stunt."

            Welcome to the real world. All campaign events are stunts. I disagree these kids were "props" – or, perhaps I disagree that it's such a terrible thing to be a part of a political event for a candidate you agree with. If Pogie walks in a parade with Jessie, does that make him a prop?

            • Mike, it appears that you could use an education in critical thinking yourself. You don't know what a fallacy is. They are not a matter of opinion, mine or anyone elses. Those would be insults. A fallacy is a statement or claim in which the truth value is not only indeterminate, but completely indeterminable by the nature of the claim itself. Pointing out that you are using fallacies is exactly addressing your 'actual comment'.

              I also addressed very directly the idea that kids are being used as props, and you're avoiding it. Bucy's own mailer says:

              "Bucy and members of local law enforcement will then demonstrate and test actual online safety curricula with these students to gain feedback for the development and implementation of eSm@rt Kids in middle school classrooms statewide."

              Perhaps you can clarify exactly what "feedback for the development and implementation" is needed for a program already well developed and widely implemented?

    • How about my original point, Mike?

      Why not do it on Friday when kids aren't in school anyway? Why combine this proposal with the overtly political act of filing for office?

      There was no reason to do the second.

      • The obvious answer is because there wouldn't be kids there.

        What's so terrible about a political event at a school? The kids were not forced to attend, they chose to. If politics is something they're interested in, why shouldn't they not be allowed an opportunity to take part?

        • Your answer contradicts itself. If they are interested, why couldn't they be there on Friday? It doesn't make any sense.

          Additionally, I think the fact that Ms. Bucy was not able to file her campaign registration today is evidence that I am correct.

          • I simply fail to see what is so terrible about a political event at a public school, no matter if school is in session or not, as long as students are not forced to attend – and I think you've failed to make a compelling argument to your point.

            • No, you're continuing to shift your argument.

              It's bad, because a candidate talking about education pulled students out of class for three hours for a campaign event rather than doing in on a day when they were not in school.

              It's bad, because it used a school inappropriately for a political event. So bad, in fact, that Ms. Bucy was informed she could not talk about her campaign or filing.

              Again, as I noted in the original post, it's probably not that big of a deal–but it does show some bad judgment.

  • Excuse me, I am one of the "adolescents" involved in this experience, and honestly i am excited to learn. Your childish blogs about this situation are unnecessary, you have no other way of expressing how you feel then by a stupid blog. Now that's pathetic. Who says we aren't learning anything? Well, we are, thank you very much, and i would be very appreciative if you would stop your snippy, two-faced blogs.

  • where was this post when Denise Juneau's graduation matters campaign took children out of school, bussed them to the University of Montana campus and told them the importance of staying in school?

    • I actually don't know what you're referring to, which could be my ignorance, but even if what you described is what happened, I think what Juneau did was great. It sounds like a great idea, when so many Montana students don't seem to see the value of graduating.

  • Mr. Pogreba. Props? You think the kids are props? so basically you're calling us property. Props for what? Are you saying that we're being forced to play a role in this campaign? No, we chose to be apart. We chose to be involved. If you believe that we are forced to sit around and look cute for the press then you are SOOOO wrong! We are here because we want to make a difference and we think that Pam could be out difference. But, Thank you for showing me how much free time you have on your shoulders to make blogs that show how ridiculous YOU are!

    • Shouldn't you be at the press conference right now? How are you posting here and at this event? You must be paying a lot of attention.

    • The best part of this comment? That two people, using different names, both posted right before this politicized event, using the same IP address.

      What IP address? One from the Helena School District.

    • Dr., could you provide us the details of what happened on Weds? Did Pam actually file at the school? Announce her candidacy? If not, why not? According to post above, she was supposed to.

  • I think Pogreba's point is a good one. Bucy is using kids as props and, as he points out, kids won't be in school on Friday. If this is a purely "educational" event, which it obviously isn't, why not do it on Friday?

  • I like the idea here – have kids be present when someone actually files for office. It's fun, and it encourages kids to get involved. But there's three problems with it –

    1. It's using kids to make an event for a candidate, and calling them out of school to do it. this wouldn't be in the news if kids weren't involved, and thus it seems like she's using our students to get herself more newsprint.
    2. This should be done with seniors in government class, and they should be learning how to register to vote before they learn how to register to run,
    3. Like Pogie said, why not do this Friday? The schools will be open for meetings and the like anyway.

  • COMMENT EDITED. If you want to make personal attacks, you can do it with a real name. Otherwise, visit another site.

    Want to make substantive arguments about Bucy/Laslovich/anything else? You can do it anonymously.

  • I think people are missing a key element here. According to the post, Bucy was supposed to file while at the school, but wasn't allowed to. Not sure what the details are here, but it sounds like Bucy's campaign was up to something they shouldn't have been doing.

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