Home > Uncategorized > Leaders Set the Moral Tone for Schools, School Districts, States… and, alas, Presidents Set a Moral Tone for Nations

Leaders Set the Moral Tone for Schools, School Districts, States… and, alas, Presidents Set a Moral Tone for Nations

In public education, leaders provide a moral compass. Principals set a moral tone for schools. Superintendents and School Boards set the moral tone for districts. Commissioners and State Boards set a moral tone for the schools in the states they lead.

In education, the way leaders react to crises are often defining moments in setting a moral tone. If a school is struggling and the Principal’s reaction is to fire teachers or the Board’s reaction is to close the school it sets a different moral tone than if leaders work collaboratively with parents and community agencies to help struggling students.

Now imagine a situation where a neo-Nazi student organization announced it would be holding a rally to celebrate the heroism of civil war generals who supported slavery in a school where racial harmony existed. And imagine that the neo-Nazi student organization goaded peaceful demonstrators with hateful chants, lit torches, and menacing behavior. Finally, imagine that one of their group members drove a vehicle through the crowd of counter demonstrators leaving the demonstration killing one of them and hospitalizing scores of others. Surely the leadership of the school, the district, and state would condemn the behavior of the hate-mongering group and particularly the driver of the vehicle that plowed into group of counter demonstrators as they dispersed. And imagine the fall out if the leaders tried to appease the neo-Nazi student organization by asserting a study was needed to determine culpability because both groups attending the rally behaved in the same fashion.

As readers undoubtedly realize, the scenario described above occurred on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. The mayor of that city and the Governor of the State showed their moral fiber, decrying the actions of the new-Nazi demonstrators and condemning the driver of the car for his despicable act. Bt as descried tersely in Diane Ravitch’s initial post yesterday, “August 12, 2017, A Shameful Day for America and Trumpour President’s moral compass was shown to be lacking when he responded to this incident. Like the spineless leadership described in the scenario above, President Trump attempted to appease the neo-Nazi organization who organized the demonstration in opposition to the removal of a statue of a civil war general by asserting a study was needed to determine culpability because both groups attending the rally behaved in the same fashion and were therefore equally culpable.

It is likely that some of the counter-demonstrators used profane language when they were confronted by the neo-Nazis and various white supremacist groups gathered in support of the statue. It is also possible that some of the counter-demonstrators pushed back when they were shoved and bullied by members of the neo-Nazis and various white supremacist groups. But it is abundantly clear that the counter-demonstrators were victimized by the actions of a sympathizer of the neo-Nazis and various white supremacist groups and that they did nothing comparable.

The narrative that will likely emerge from the “study” will be that the violent behavior of the driver was not condoned by the neo-Nazis and various white supremacist groups and therefore those groups should not be held accountable for the actions of a “lone wolf”. Moreover, apart from this one outlying and outrageous act, the neo-Nazis and various white supremacist groups lawfully exercised their free speech rights in the same fashion as the counter demonstrators. And just as predictably, when the counter-demonstrators express their outrage in the same fashion as the neo-Nazis and various white supremacist groups they will be broadly condemned by the press.

How would a moral leader behave in this situation? If President Trump had a shred of decency he would acknowledge that his inflammatory rhetoric encouraged this misconduct. He would pledge to abandon his fiery rhetoric in light of how neo-Nazis and various white supremacist groups used it to justify hateful and divisive demonstrations and to justify the death of a peaceful demonstrator. And he would condemn the actions of the neo-Nazis and various white supremacist groups. That didn’t happen and won’t happen.

President Trump’s reaction to the crisis in Charlottesville was a defining moment in setting a moral tone for this nation…. and it was a shameful day for America and Trump.

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