The first piece I wrote for Political & Otherwise in early October 2015 was called: "2016 Campaign and our Kids". The presidential debates had begun. The stage was already set for what we've seen and heard since. Especially from Donald Trump. I wanted to raise concern about the outrageous vitriol and bullying that was spewing forth and it's potential impact on our children:
"Do we really want our kids to learn that the way you get to be President of the United States, the highest political office in the land, is by bullying, bigotry, prejudice, sexism and anger? Think big sandbox. Think role models."
The October concern was justified then and born out today. The Southern Poverty Law Center has released a new study, "The Trump Effect - The impact of the presidential campaign on our nation's schools". It produces findings that are both powerful and sad. Almost two thousand K-12 teachers were surveyed without mentioning specific candidate's names. Out of 5,000 comments, more than 1,000 mentioned Donald Trump.
That Trump's name was so prominent is no surprise to anyone who uses a hashtag, listens to or reads any form of media. Or has ears. Donald Trump, the Republican presidential frontrunner and in all likelihood nominee, has made it clear by the continuation of his unfiltered mouth that he has no concern about positive role modeling for anybody let alone very impressionable kids.
The "Trump Effect" report finds that our current presidential primary season is having a strong negative effect on our kids and their classrooms. Unlike any in recent history:
"It's producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported. Other students have been emboldened by the divisive, often juvenile rhetoric in the campaign. Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail."
Our classrooms have traditionally been the place where children learn about a presidential election, its process and role in our democracy. But thanks to campaign 2016, more than 40% of the teachers surveyed are now hesitant to teach about the campaign. "The word Trump is enough to derail a class" says a Texas teacher. Another from Oklahoma says, "My kids are terrified of Trump becoming President. They believe he can/will deport them - and none of them are Hispanic. They are all African American."
If anyone wants to be outraged about something, this is it. We have a political season that has fostered one of the most negative Republican frontrunners in history and is blind to seeing itself through the eyes of a child.