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4th-graders eat up Hill debate on vending

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The fourth-graders from Leo J. Muir Elementary School in Bountiful were on their lunch break when I caught up to them yesterday at the State Capitol. They looked as contented as a legislator who just got front-row Jazz tickets. If you want to see happy kids, catch them at lunch on a school field trip.

Ms. Bradshaw and Ms. Miller had loaded all 72 of their 9- and 10-year-olds, along with eight parent chaperones, onto two buses earlier in the morning and traveled to the Utah Capitol for their Utah history and social studies field trip. They spent the morning in the balcony of the House watching lawmakers on the floor below debate whether vending machines should be put in elementary schools.

"Their ears really perked up when they heard it was about vending machines in schools," said Ms. Bradshaw. "One of the legislators asked them if they had vending machines in their school. They said, 'We have one, but only the teachers get to use it.' "

I asked the kids how they would vote on the vending machine issue and, not surprisingly, they were mostly all for the idea, enthusiastically so, especially if the machines are loaded with pop.

"They should have some pop in them and some water and some root beer," said a kid named Kade.

"We need like more apple juice," said another kid named Tevin.

But there was one girl, Rachel, who said of the vending machine issue, "Uh, I'm against it."

From a few feet away, a woman spoke up. "I think I influenced her vote," she said.

So who was this anti-vending machine person? The director of the school lunch program? A dentist? Mrs. Ralph Nader?

"No," she said. "I'm her mom."

World's most powerful lobbyist.

The kids seemed to have a good grip on what goes on at the Capitol. Ms. Bradshaw and Ms. Miller have obviously been doing a good job. Their students spoke eloquently about the political process without sounding like politicians. A boy named Landon summed it up thusly: "This is the place where people help the state. So, like, when they want to have a law like whether all schools can have vending machines, they have a place to, like, vote on it."

A girl named Erika was even more succinct: "They do important things here."

Erika said she doesn't want to be governor when she grows up, or any kind of politician for that matter.

"I want to be an FBI agent," she said.

A boy named Brad, on the other hand, thinks being governor would "probably be real fun."

This is how Brad describes the governor's job: "I think he, like — how would I say this? — if a law passes through the House and the other place, I forget what the other place is, he gets to decide whether it's a law or not."

Obviously, Brad has not heard that our governor is now a she.

Another who aspires to be governor is Braeden, who said, "You get to help make laws that are good for your state, sort of."

Braeden also said, on the vending machine issue, "They ought to be filled with healthy stuff, cheese sticks and V-8 juice, stuff like that. Because if you eat healthy stuff, in class you'll be smarter, sort of."

Maybe the most likely future governor presently at Muir Elementary School is Nathan, who, when asked his favorite part about Monday's awesome field trip to the Utah State Capitol, said, "We get to miss math."

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.