So, the truth is, I was really struggling to explain to Bo* how the electoral college works. I was helping him with his U.S. history homework and his assignment was to use a glossary of political terms in sentences. I realized how I had never fully understood how the electoral college functioned either. The truth was, I didn’t even get to start voting until I had become a U.S. citizen in 2008. That was the year I wanted Obama to win – but I couldn’t cast my vote, having remained registered for the wrong county and it was too close to the general election to change it.
“General election” was also one of the terms Bo had to use in a sentence.
I doubt he had never heard this jargon before, let alone spell the words correctly. It wasn’t because he didn’t like his U.S. History class, or didn’t pay any attention. And even if he didn’t, I wouldn’t blame him.
After all, it wasn’t his history he was learning, so how could I convince him to care?
Bo is a refugee from Burma. He is actually Karenni, and his people have been displaced time and time again due to the irrational, racist actions of Burmese extremists whose aim is to rid the Karenni entirely from Burma.
Ours is not the history he needs to preserve. All this political terminology he’s tasked to learn may never even apply to him in his world, at all.
I understand why it’s important. To this day, I wish someone had clearly explained to me what “plurality” really means in the context of the political process. (I still don’t actually know what it means.)
Bo deserves someone far more competent than myself, teaching him these terms.
Frankly, I’m unsure how he’s going to pass this class. The concepts can be quite abstract, even for someone who’s grown up their entire life in this country, and harder to grasp for someone like me, who’s only lived half his life here. What more for a kid like Bo, still getting his feet wet for America? Still learning its language, its customs? And like any teenager his age, still figuring out what’s really worth his time and attention?
It’s too early to tell how much he really cares to know these things, or how important he deems them to be. And if he didn’t think much of it at all, I just couldn’t blame him one bit.
*I’ve changed his name so as to keep his identity private.