Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Election on our Nation's Schools

If you are frustrated, anxious, or even disgusted  by "The Trump Effect," imagine its impact on innocent school children, especially if people of their ethnic backgrounds or immigration status are the specific targets of Trump's hateful and obscene rants. Imagine what it is like to try to teach a classroom full of those vulnerable children about the meaning of democracy, citizenship, decency, and respect for individual differences.

Well, you don't have to imagine, because you can find out by reading the report of that title distributed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and its Teaching Tolerance Project, which "combats prejudice among our nation's youth, while promoting equality, inclusiveness, and equitable learning environments in the classroom." It sent out a survey to 2,000 elementary and high school teachers on this topic and received 5,000 responses.

Here are the highlights:

1) More than two-thirds reported that students--mainly immigrants, children of immigrants, and Muslims--have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families  after the election.
2) More than half have seen an increase in uncivil political discourse
3) More than one-third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment
4) More than 40 % are hesitant to teach about the election

Out of the 5,000 responses, more than 1,000 mentioned Donald Trump. In contrast, a total of fewer than 200 contained the names of Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. "My students are terrified of Donald Trump,." says one teacher with a large population of African-American Muslims.
They think that if he is elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa." A North Carolina high school teacher says "she has Latino students who carry their birth certificates and Social Security cards to school because they are afraid they will be deported." A Tennessee kindergarten teacher says a Latino child--told by her classmates that he will be deported and kept behind a wall--asks every day, "Is the wall here yet?" in Pampa, Texas, where half the students are Hispanic, according to a middle school teacher, "The word 'Trump' is enough to derail a class."

Perhaps most disheartening of all are the number of teachers who lament that they used the 2012 election as a "real time case study in civic life. Not this year!! Not touching it!!! Not touching it,!!! Not sure what's worse, the candidates or what they stand for." The usual course of an election "does not apply here," wrote a Pasadena, California high school teacher. "The sad part is that the students are losing respect for the office of the president" according to  "They see the candidates as jokes (they have obviously been watching the Republican debates), a high school teacher from East Hartford, Connecticut says, "and are offended and dismayed for the future." The extreme rhetoric, says a New York high school teacher "is not helping their ability to utilize reason and evidence, rather than replying in kind."

There are a lot more egregious examples. You can download the entire 15 page report at <>


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