Six-Year-Olds Complete Florida Ballot

By Cheryl K. Chumley | July 7, 2008 | 8:27pm EDT

( - It was a lesson in disbelief for fourth- and first-graders in Louisiana who spent about a minute Thursday correctly selecting Democrat Al Gore or Republican George W Bush from the list of candidates on copies of the controversial Floridian presidential ballot.

"I went to the Internet and printed a copy of the ballot, and passed it out to my students," said Lisa Burns, a fourth-grade teacher at Stockwell Elementary School. "I gave them a blue marker to vote for Gore and a red marker to vote for Bush. They did, and I realized 100 percent of my class had been able to vote for the correct person."

A first-grade teacher mimicked the test in her classroom, asking her students to darken the bubble that corresponded to Gore's name. It took her six- and seven-year-olds about "one minute" to complete the ballot, Stacey Robinson said, with 19 of 24 selecting the Democratic candidate's bubble.

Robinson said she pointed out Gore's name to her students via an overhead projector displaying a copy of the ballot because the majority just learned to read.

"I said, boys and girls, each bubble belongs to a name," she said. "There's some grown-ups in South Florida who can't find Al Gore's bubble. Here's his name. Can you find his bubble?"

Nineteen correctly darkened Gore's bubbles, three selected Buchanan's, and one "voted" for another candidate further down the page.

"One voted for Bush, but I had my suspicions about him," Robinson said, explaining how that student was under the impression he was actually voting rather than participating in an experiment, and was reluctant to select the Democrat.

The nine- and 10-year-old students, all 22 of whom completed the ballot "immediately" and correctly, were shocked and amazed to discover adults in Florida had claimed confusion with the placement of the bubbles, Burns said.

"They were surprised about that," she said. "They were also saying that the adults should have been responsible, asking for help with the directions if they didn't know. One of the things we constantly talk about in this class is if you don't follow directions, and don't ask for help, you don't get a second chance.

"So they were saying, why should the adults get a second chance [voting]," Burns continued.

Burns and Robinson initiated the tests purely for educational purposes and as a prelude to civics and current events discussions, they said, and not to make a political statement.

"If nothing else," Principal Tim Thompson said, of the current presidential ballot situation in Florida, "this has been a great civics lesson for the whole United States. I would hope most of the schools are using [this controversy] like that in their classrooms."

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