Teaching Kids in the Time of Trump — We All Need to Act

Children are impressionable, especially with someone they love, admire or who holds a position of authority.

That’s why it is important for teachers to not only teach subject matter, but also to show respectful behavior.

All adults in children’s lives are teachers. People in public positions are a special kind of teacher – ones we are taught to revere.

That’s why President Trump’s appearance in front of 40,000 Boy Scouts Monday is so disappointing and damaging.

He demeaned the office and exploited the young men who attended.

Scouts are trained to be citizen leaders, and to know what respectful behavior looks like. They had been admonished to avoid a campaign style rally. But, faced with President Trump who veered from his prepared remarks (much to his staff’s chagrin, I am sure), and solicited praise for himself and ridicule for others, many responded to please him.

It was destructive to the Boy Scouts’ brand and to the boys’ character building to promote taunts against a former president and opponent. Trump used them for his own petty political posturing.

It says more about Mr. Trump’s character to need that kind of response than about the scouts’ potential to become respectful people. But, it tells a story of how easy it is to turn minds to negative rather than positive.

It doesn’t take long for your brain to get used to reacting negatively and hatefully.

And, in this era of 24/7 social media messaging, negative, hateful comments – even from @realDonaldTrump – bombard us regularly.

Can our civilization stand this? I think so, but it will take each of us to act, to demand better of our public officials, and of this president. It is clear by now that he won’t change unless he feels he must.

I don’t think I am being too dramatic by including here a Facebook post from this week by a dear friend who is a social studies teacher. She has been studying the Holocaust. She posted a photo of the wall of beautiful faces from the D.C. memorial museum and wrote:

“Do not teach or imply that the Holocaust was inevitable. The Holocaust took place because individuals, groups and nations made decisions to act or not to act.”

People learned to react negatively toward groups of people. That negative attitude turned to hate. Too few people acted to reverse that trend.

Let’s get our act together. Stand up to this type of behavior, which seeks to pit us against each other, even, or especially, when it’s hard or uncomfortable. Think about what you say and do. Children are always watching out for who they want to be.

If you missed President Trump’s Speech at the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, here’s a transcript:




About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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4 Responses to Teaching Kids in the Time of Trump — We All Need to Act

  1. Paul Wesslund says:

    Peer pressure, groupthink, and the closely related phenomenon of being intimidated by authority are powerful forces. From Boy Scouts defying the core spirit of their oath (an Eagle Scout quoted in The New York Times: “Based on my experience with Scouting, the point is you’re supposed to grow up to be someone not like Donald Trump”); to someone as seasoned as James Comey having to equivocate then fall back and regroup in private rather than standing up immediately to The President of the United States pressing him for loyalty to a person rather than duty or country; to security guards and airplane passengers watching and carrying out the manhandling of a fellow flyer, standing up for what’s right can be hard, but is necessary. Some deference to authority is required for a civil society to work, but in times like these, as this column points out, we need to stand up and speak out even if it means sticking out.

  2. Bill Allison says:

    Great article Debbie. We are all going to have to be on Constance vigilance against this guy & his copy cats like Bevin. Bill

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Janet Leitner says:

    Debbie, thank you for writing this article. As you illustrate, we must stay alert and not allow ourselves to become accustomed to vile and hateful speech; particularly from the most powerful ofAmerican citizens. When we accept without questioning, we allow Trump to make ever deepening cracks in the bedrock of democracy.

  4. Rita Hines says:

    Debbie: as a high school social studies teacher I must teach tolerance, inclusion, respect and fear of power mongering, bully pulpits and people giving up rights. This has been a scary ride with my students since November 2016- they are scared, and I believe rightly so. It will take ALL of us to participate in the civil and civic process we know as democracy.

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