|The air in Room 3 hung heavy with tension. 5th grade Carter had just let the cat out of the bag. It was only a matter of time before the others were going to have to come clean as well. Dionne shot him the look of all looks. Her eyes imploring, “Why’d you have to go and fess up?”
Why did he? For a split second he wondered the same thing. Then stopped wondering. Because he was taught to tell the truth. Even when it wasn’t easy. Gathered for the routine business license check, he wasn’t prepared for questions. So when Ms. Cirino, the MicroSociety coordinator, asked, “How long have you owned your business?” he panicked.
“You mean Zoom Racers?” he responded, buying time.
“Well, that is your business isn’t it? How long have you owned it?”
“Um, well, it’s kind of not my business.” He could feel the crimson rising in his cheeks. He knew that kind of not my business would not satisfy her inquiry. So he continued, abandoning all caution. “Shelby really owns this business. She paid me to put my name on the license and go to meetings like this one. I actually work for her.”
Shelby was a second grader. With big ideas and a touch of defiance. Students in the lower grades were not supposed to own businesses in this Nevada MicroSociety.
Ms. Cirino’s face wore shock for just a second. Regaining composure, she then asked, “How many of you are being paid by students in the lower grades to be the face of their business?”
Raul raised his hand. So did Maya. Anthony, Crystal, and Jack did too. Dionne, placed an elbow on the desk, and then reluctantly raised hers as well. Her anger towards Carter replaced by sheepishness.
Scanning the room, Ms. Cirino nodded her head, “I see.” She took a sip from her water bottle and then proceeded. “Clearly, we have a problem here. What do you think we should do?”
“I think we should invite the little kids in,” said Dionne, redeeming herself. “It’s not really fair for us to do anything without getting their input. I mean, they are citizens too.”
She was right and thus, a Town Hall meeting was scheduled for one week later. Young and old were asked to attend and participate. And so they did.
Cole, a 3rd grader, with the slightest hint of a lisp, stood up first. “I’ve been wanting to open a garden and farmer’s market for two years. I’ve written a business plan. I’ve come up with a budget. I have kids who want to work for me. The only thing getting in my way is this rule that says I’m too young.”
Others came with similar stories. Limited by nothing else but the numbers in their years. Carter got the last word in the meeting. “As a fifth grader, I’ve worked for like 8 different bosses,” he recalled, “and all of them were older than me. Except for one, Shelby. And she was the best boss that I have had. Anyone who shows ability should have the right to own a venture.”
Their words lingered. Long enough to enact change. The Legislature convened and decided that the old way was discriminatory. Thereafter, both the ownership age AND the voting age were lowered to 1st grade. The vote was 4:3 that kindergartners needed a year of experience before diving right in.
One month down the road, Zoom Racers was sold. CO2 cars were cool but personally, Shelby thought that soda bottle lava lamps were even cooler.