Donald Trump proclaims that he is qualified to serve in the highest executive position in the land. But in this election season we have heard Trump refer to women as “fat pigs” and seen him mock a reporter with a disability. We cringed when he insulted a Gold Star family. We have witnessed in our communities and even in our schools how his words perpetuate hate and advocate violence. It’s no wonder our children think politics is a dirty game that they want no part of.
A big part of my job as a social studies teacher for the past 16 years has been to teach students about our beautiful democracy and all the blessings of liberty it grants us. I educate future citizens. I teach them as much as I can about the past, our political system, and the world around us, and then I send them off into the world hoping they will contribute as productive citizens.
What I want my students to learn right now though, is not how to emulate the corrosive behaviors of people like Donald Trump, but rather how to work together to achieve real, lasting change in this world.
Some of my students will be voting for the first time this year. The rest will be voting in the next election. My students sometimes ask me why they should bother voting, why any of it matters since nothing ever seems to get done. When they turn cynical toward democracy itself because of the mudslinging and caustic language they hear, I tell them to accept the challenge. Accept the challenge that this isn’t how it has to be, and that we can make America stronger together instead of complaining separately. We can make democracy whatever we want it to be. It just takes vision and a desire to make change happen.
Donald Trump’s example is not one I want for my students. It will continue to discourage them from engaging in our political system. Trump’s behaviors – the bullying, harassment, and name calling – are downright dangerous to our children and their futures. Hillary Clinton encourages the American people to stand together instead of divided. This is what we need our students to see and aspire to.
I want so much for my students. I want them to value knowledge. I want them to achieve their own personal success. I want them to find beauty in the world around them. I want them to help make the world a better place. Disengaging from our political process is not the answer. Let’s remind our students that they can make democracy whatever they want it to be. It just takes vision and a desire to set a better tone for our future.