Trump as Role Model for Children
Donald Trump, as we know, is given to off the cuff remarks as a staple of his mien as a candidate. His speeches and interviews are freighted with exaggerations, insults, threats, lies, and wildly inaccurate pronouncements about domestic and international issues. While most adults have the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff in Trump's remarks, children, by and large, do not. In fact, they are trusting of adults, especially those in positions of importance. Donald Trump, whether he knows it or not - or whether he cares at all - is making an impression on America's youth.
The responsibility of the adult community to is to demonstrate, by our actions, how to conduct oneself in a civil society and how to be a contributing member. We have provided a laboratory for delivering that message - our public schools.
A mainstay of public school instruction is character development, which equips young people with the tools for getting along with others - whether at home, in the workplace or in the public square.
Another priority in schools emphasizes an appreciation for, and an interest in, the complexities of knowledge acquisition. Successful students understand that reading and research, i.e., doing your homework, informs your opinions and deepens your knowledge of subject matter.
Mr. Trump is woefully under-resourced in both areas.
Whether we like it or not, Trump's comments and behaviors are being absorbed, either directly or indirectly, by our children. Many adults are nonplussed by Trump's meteoric rise to the top of the Republican ticket. For the most part, adults have the skills and experience to navigate the choppy waters of politics. It is the effect downstream that is disturbing. Which begs the question: What are children learning about public behavior and thoughtful opinions from the incipient leader of the free world?
On the matter of character development, Trump has made fun of a reporter with a physical disability, hurled insults at women, promised to build a wall to keep others out, incited his audiences to violence to target those who do not agree with him. Bullying is a tactic that has reaped him rewards. Each salvo he launches is accompanied by a self-centeredness that is breathtaking.
What would happen to students who exhibited these behaviors in school? First, they would earn a trip to the principal's office where, not only would their parents be called, but they would face a school suspension. And, what's more, they would be subject to the rules and sanctions of The Dignity for All Students Act, a New York State regulation which seeks, as described on the department website, " . . . a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property."
A narcissistic child, one who is so self-centered that he/she monopolizes the classroom conversation, boasting "I am the only one who knows what the answer is", would be referred to the school psychologist. Students who are sarcastic, snide and dismissive of others, would be asked to apologize to students for inappropriate behavior.
What about depth of knowledge on topics you should be studying?
Expert teachers know how to coax even reluctant leaners to use habits of mind which produce thoughtful answers to complex questions. For example, if students in a social studies class were asked to explain the impact of the Constitution on the citizens of the United States, the teacher would expect a considered perspective, based on a thorough investigation of the topic, taking into account a broad understanding of the sweep of history.
If Mr .Trump were asked the same question, would we be surprised if he answered: "The Constitution is a great, great document. Millions and millions of people have benefited from it."?
How would a teacher respond to a student who gave such a simple-minded answer to a profoundly important question? A remedial session might be arranged to review the function of inquiry and the importance of preparedness. If the student's work remained poor, he/she might have to repeat the course in summer school.
For those who clamor for more respect from our youngsters and more rigor in our schools' curriculum, maybe we should take a hard look at whom we lionize as leaders. If Mr. Trump is elected president he will not only be the commander-in-chief, he will be the role model-in-chief as well.
A constant stream of degrading remarks and glib answers from a person seeking the highest office in the land will, at best, confuse our youngsters and, at worst, discourage them from civic participation.
Few would argue that our schools are incubators for the next generation of thought leaders. Strong role models - who exemplify wholesome and thoughtful behaviors - are essential to sustaining a thriving, democratic society, one that leads globally by example.
Yes, let's Make America Great Again, but let's choose a leader who leads by example.
Our kids deserve no less.