I mentioned to a teacher friend of mine this past summer that if I were still in the classroom, I’d be fired…or dead.
I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut with Trump crisscrossing the country on his Ignorance 2016 Concert Tour, and some angry Trump parent/supporter (I guess that’s redundant) would have me up on charges; or since Trump has already placed a bounty on Hillary Clinton, would have exercised his Second Amendment right to check the range and accuracy of his long gun.
Since the summer it’s all become worse, and Trump’s continuing efforts to belittle anyone who is not him are provoking real problems in schools—problems that exceed simple classroom debates. Intimidation, given renewed license by Trump and his lackeys, has begun to reestablish itself as typical childhood behavior, kids being kids—this after decades of painstaking efforts to diminish it. Imagine what it’s like these days when youngsters—especially those whose parents subscribe to the Trump outlook—encounter a Middle Eastern girl, an overweight boy, a student who speaks with an accent, a child in a wheelchair.
And that’s not even the worst of it: children of color and children of immigrants, even those who have not reported being bullied, are confiding in teachers and counselors a growing anxiety. What will school be like, they wonder, what will America be like with a president who disrespects everyone but himself (and a few white males, and, oh yes we know now, white females under 35)? And what can school administrators do? In our faces every day struts Donald Trump, a blatant endorsement for how not to lead one’s life; and yet to castigate him publicly as the hatemonger he is would be construed as a political stand—an invitation to trouble in any school district. When this is over, there’ll be a lot of repair work to do, much of it among children.
Toward the end of my spell as yearbook advisor, I began writing a yearly colophon—a little statement at the end of the book in which I thanked the students who had helped create the publication. At the end of my piece in 2001 I slipped in the phrase Gore won in (I think) 8-pt. type. You needed a magnifying glass to see it and very few people noticed it. Those who did—students and teachers, Democrats and Republicans—all had a little laugh at my expense—Gore supporter that I was. But there was no anger or bitterness, not even from the losing candidate for that matter—Bush was the president and that was the end of it. It’s fifteen years later: I can’t imagine anyone joking like that in some 2017 yearbook, not without engendering anger and hostility and even more openly accepted intimidation.
What will America be like, those kids want to know, with a president who disrespects everyone but himself?
Kind of like that.