Grade-school student wins essay contest
Maggie Barnett doesn't understand why 50 percent of America's eligible voters chose not to cast a ballot in last month's presidential elections.
"I think it's wrong because one of our rights is to vote," the Woodsonia Elementary fifth-grader said. Barnett takes the rights and responsibilities of citizenship seriously. She thinks deeply enough about them to have earned first place in an annual Kansas PTA citizenship essay contest.
Her teacher Roy Whitley said the essay was an extension of the class' course work.
"We happened to be studying the Constitution because of the presidential election," he said. "The topic was consistent with what we were studying in class. She took the topic and moved out with it."
Barnett said she wrote about the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedoms of the press, speech, religion and assembly.
"What was interesting was how she developed the interconnections of all those," Whitley said. "It was the thought process of a very mature person and excellent citizen.
"She's unusual and exceptional in every way possible. She's just an exceptional citizen."
Barnett and Whitley attribute her interest in citizenship to the influence of her parents, Liz and Denny Barnett. Barnett said there is regular discussion of current events and public affairs around the family dinner table.
"I just think it's interesting, but they do encourage me," she said.
So what does the award-winning essay writer think of the recent election deadlock?
"I think they could have handled it better," she said. "They followed the Constitution, but there were some twists in things before it was settled."