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What Trump is Teaching Our Children… and What Schools Are Teaching Our Children

July 18, 2019

What Trump is Teaching Our Children“, Charles Blow’s column in today’s NYTimes, decries the lessons our children are learning from our current President’s conduct. It describes the lessons parents try to instill in their children and contrasts those lessons with the lesson President Trump is teaching:

…He is everything we teach our children not to be. In Trump’s world of immorality, the lessons being taught undo all the principles parents struggle to instill.

He is teaching our children that there is no absolute truth, there is “alternative fact.” It’s not what you say, but how you say it and how vociferously you can defend it.

He is teaching little boys that women’s bodies exist as playgrounds for privileged men, and that there is no price to be paid if you are popular enough or rich enough.

He is teaching little girls that if they are ever victims of sexual assault by a popular, wealthy boy and deign to reveal it, they will likely to come under withering verbal assault.

He is teaching our children that the color of one’s skin does indeed supersede the content of one’s character. He is teaching them that there is a skin-color hierarchy in which whiteness is perched on top.

He is teaching the black and brown children that their citizenship and connection to this country is tenuous and fractional, not like white children.

He is teaching them that it is a perfectly normal to separate some children from their parents, put them in cages, and argue that they don’t need soap, or toothbrushes or have the lights turned off so that they can go to sleep.

He is teaching them to never acknowledge an error, that apologies are for suckers, that what’s right is whatever you say it is.

And, here’s the thing: The children growing up in enormous portions of American households accept, defend and even applaud Trump’s behavior. What lessons are those children absorbing? What behaviors will be modeled on Trump’s example?

In an ideal world public schools would be reinforcing the behaviors parents want to emphasize, things Charles Blow describes in his opening paragraphs:

We try to teach them to always tell the truth, to be kind and generous, to be brave enough to do the right thing even if others aren’t as brave.

We try to teach them empathy and compassion, that caring about the less fortunate betters society and is also self-edifying.

We teach them to have self-respect and to respect others. We teach them that everyone is equally worthy and valuable, no matter who they are, what they look like, how much or little they have or to which God they pray, if they pray at all.

We teach them to be gracious and thankful and not to brag or bully. Also, don’t lie, cheat or steal.

And public schools DO reinforce these behaviors in their conduct codes and in the expectations they have for student decorum. But the way we “measure” student and school performance makes the lessons more difficult. If a school or student is deemed “failing” and students are categorized based on their “ability” it sorts students and schools into pecking orders whereby groups are “superior” to others. We can never create a world where everyone is equal… but we can create a world where everyone has the same set of opportunities over time to master skills and learn about themselves. The best way public schools can teach children that “…everyone is equally worthy and valuable, no matter who they are, what they look like, how much or little they have ” is to set up a system based on that premise… and not a system where the children raised in affluence attend “high performing” schools and children raised in poverty attend “failing” schools.

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