In school and at home we teach our kids about the values of respect, fairness and caring. We encourage treating others like we would like to be treated. We ask them to be honest and to not use hurtful language. We encourage them to be cooperative, friendly and helpful.

So what do we say when campaign ads pop up that present negative language or have hurtful meanings, as they are doing with increasing frequency and ferocity at this time of year? You can’t avoid them. And you can’t really explain them very well either without talking to our kids about how mean and dishonest some adults can be. Can you imagine letting school elections deteriorate to that kind of name-calling and small mindedness?

What you CAN do, as any good teacher or mentor does, is redirect. Why not use campaign ads as an educational vehicle? Ask your child to evaluate how the ad makes them feel through the use of music, images, etc. Ask if they think it is fair to use scary music or cross-looking photos to make someone seem scary or mean. This will help students to examine how the media often manipulates a viewer’s emotions to sway opinion.

Compare other types of ads. Ask, “Do you believe that this hamburger place is the best just because the ad says it, or do you think that place just wants you to buy their hamburgers?” This will help students to not accept information at face value.

For older students, you might even help them do some research to see if claims really measure up to actual voting records, or whether quotes were taken out of context. This will help them learn to do their homework before they form opinions.

One of the objectives of Core Curriculum is developing critical thinking skills. You can use the negative of nasty campaign ads to develop positive skills that develop critical thinkers and informed citizens.