Fourth graders from Lincoln Akerman School in Hampton Falls received a warm welcome at the State House last Thursday. They and their teacher, James Cutting, were guests in the Gallery. That reception quickly turned chilly as students got a glimpse of the cold, harsh realities of politics in the Granite State.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) got into a little trouble recently, not for making a series of false claims, but for telling a three-year-old New Hampshire girl her "world is on fire." Even in 21st-century politics, there's an expectation that when elected officials are delivering messages to children, they'll show some restraint.
As it turns out, she wasn't the only kid in the Granite State last week hearing tough talk from Republican politicians.
The idea seemed pretty straightforward. The fourth-grade class, made up of nine- and 10-year-olds from the southeast corner of the state, worked on a proposal to make the Red Tail Hawk the official state raptor of New Hampshire. The kids and their teacher brought their proposal to the state capitol, and it was approved by the Environment and Agriculture Committee.
But as the report from NH1.com's Shari Small makes clear, on the floor of the state House, the children ran into unexpectedly fierce Republican opposition. The kids heard one GOP lawmaker argue, for example, in reference to the Red Tail Hawk, "It grasps them with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood."
Those comments, from state Rep. Warren Groen (R), were apparently the harshest of the debate, but he wasn't alone. In fact, the Republican-led New Hampshire state House killed the proposal from the 4th graders on a 133-to-160 vote.
What better way to inspire young people about the vitality of American civic affairs than to have far-right politicians mock and defeat an innocuous bill written by children?
Incidentally, if this sounds at all familiar, it's because an interesting pattern is now emerging. We talked last year about a young student in South Carolina who wanted her state to designate an official state fossil, which ran into trouble when creationist lawmakers objected.
Earlier this year, a teenager in Idaho asked lawmakers to designate the Idaho giant salamander as the official state amphibian. Republicans killed the proposal, fearing it might lead to environmental protections for the animal.
And now, 4th graders from Lincoln Akerman School in Hampton Falls have run into similar trouble.
I guess the lesson for young people is, in an era in which one of the major parties has moved in a rather extreme direction, the legislative process can be a little brutal?
Update: Some Kentucky high-school kids also had an unpleasant experience in the state legislature.