What Are Kids Thinking Under those Make America Great Again Hats?

I saw a couple groups of students touring Washington D.C. with their schools while I was with some cousins on a trip there to see the sights.

The students looked middle school-aged, and some of the boys in each group had on nice, new “Make America Great Again” hats.

I did a double take on that scene, surprised by what I saw. It’s one thing to see the hats at political rallies, but on kids on a school trip? After I thought about it, however, I figured of course that’s going to happen.

But what does it mean? What are students learning and expressing about this president and his administration?

Both times, there were teachers talking with the students, explaining where they were and the history they were viewing.  There was nothing unusual in the presentation of the lessons.

One of the student groups was in the U.S. Capitol and the other was in front of the White House. At that spot there were some small but energized groups of protestors. One group displayed big letters spelling out, “Cover Up.” I wondered what the kids in hats thought about that. Was it that these people were expressing their freedom of speech, or was it, “Here’s what the angry mob looks like?”

We have always looked at things through our own lens; from our own perspective.

What is the perspective of these kids as they navigate adult citizenship? I hope – and I believe – most of the teachers out there encourage critical thinking. I know the educational goal is to turn out graduates who will use discernment to make decisions.

But kids don’t only learn in school. They learn from their families, their friends, their communities, and from their leaders. They also learn more and more from social media, where they can access communities that reinforce what they already think.

That’s where I worry about the hats. No one wears a logo they don’t identify with, or do they?

I am going to bet most people – even supporters of this president – don’t want their kids following the example he sets when he performs at political rallies and posts tweets.

We want American to be great, of course. But the message on those hats has been co-opted by someone who doesn’t bring people together. We’re better when we work together to get to good solutions, and when we look out for each other whether it’s our neighbor next door or across the ocean.

We depend on our young people growing up to value everyone, and to be listeners and learners before forming opinions. We also need them to lead dignified lives and know that what they say and how they say it makes a difference.

That has always be the great thing about America. Valuing diversity, fighting for freedom, and expanding opportunity while making sure we are good stewards of the planet and don’t leave anyone behind.

We all need to stay aware that these values are bigger than a slogan on a hat.

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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