During the Vice Presidential debate, an 8th grader asked why American citizens can’t get along. She said all she sees is arguing between Democrats and Republicans, citizens fighting citizens and two candidates trying to tear each other down. She asked if they can’t get along, how do we [children] get along?
I taught eighth-graders and love the inquisitiveness of that age group. I appreciated her question. Elections always involve debates and disagreements, but our current situation is different. It has to do with President Trump.
Here’s why adults are at odds with each other more than usual at this important time in history.
President Trump exhibits bullying behavior, even though his wife, the first lady, has an anti-bullying program. I haven’t always agreed with Presidents we have had in both parties, but I can’t recall any who bullied. President Trump displayed bullying debating V.P. Joe Biden. Biden showed some bullying too, but it seemed to be more out of frustration.
Schools aren’t supposed to condone bullying. President Trump’s bullying sets a terrible example for young people. It brings out the worst in everyone. Bullying is wrong no matter who does it. That citizens would condone electing a President who bullies is shocking.
2. Mocking Those With Disabilities
Donald Trump mocked a disabled person before the 2016 election. The person he mocked was a New York Times reporter, a critic of the president. But mocking someone with a disability is taboo. How Donald Trump could act this way and still be elected President astonished many disability advocates.
Also, Disability Scoop last February noted Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal included reductions to Medicaid, food assistance, state councils on developmental disabilities, university centers on developmental disabilities, and protection and advocacy programs.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has not been supportive of students with disabilities in their public schools.
3. Politicizing Covid-19
The President knew about the dangers of Covid-19 yet he didn’t inform Americans of the dangers. He insisted children return to school. He and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos still threaten to take funds from schools that refuse to open due to the dangers of the coronavirus. He put America’s children, teachers, and families in danger. His son attends school virtually.
The President himself was reckless about this disease, caught it himself, and may have spread it to others. He creates confusion. He has not always supported the scientists who understand the seriousness of the disease. Many have lost loved ones to the coronavirus.
4. School Privatization
President Trump has not been supportive of democratic public schools that serve all children. He advocates school choice which is unfair and doesn’t serve students well. Even with a voucher, most parents will not be able to afford a quality private school. Nor will those schools accept every child who applies. It’s the school’s choice more than the parent’s choice. Parents will be left with the choice of charters or a public school that is underfunded. This divides us as a nation.
The President has made disparaging remarks about schools. In his inauguration address, he said we have an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge. Both of these statements are untrue. Many teachers purchase their own materials because they lack funds. And many students graduate and do well with a public school education due to good teachers.
There are concerns that President Trump is racist based on a variety of statements he’s made and his actions. Concerns surround civil rights, endangering decades of progress against voter suppression, housing discrimination, and police misconduct.
The President has stated that public schools are teaching kids to “hate our country” with a “far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.” This has to do with the removal of the statues of Confederate generals.
The President has stirred the divisiveness among us and has not worked to better understand the concerns of groups like Black Lives Matter. He has not sought to bring children together in their public schools.
6. Children at the Border
The Trump administration intentionally separated parents from their children at the border to try to keep migrants from coming to America. Americans responded with fierce opposition. These children deserve good schools too. How can you learn when you’re separated from your parents?
The New York Times recently reported in ‘We Need to Take Away Children,’ No Matter How Young, Justice Dept. Officials said that there were those in the administration who said it didn’t matter how old the children were when they were taken from their parents, all to prove a point.
Children don’t understand politics, and this cruel act resulted in a humanitarian disaster. Most of us have parents or grandparents that came to America from other countries, or we moved here from other countries ourselves.
7. Failed to make schools safe.
After the school shooting incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, President Trump met with parents and officials and it sounded like he would make schools safer. Instead, his administration did little to protect our young people from gun violence. They did nothing to address gun control.
8. Climate Change
President Trump doesn’t respect scientists on issues including climate change. It’s difficult to watch the fires in the western states and not wonder what is going on with the weather. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes and many lives have been lost.
Recently the President visited California and he said it would get cooler. The head of the California Department of Natural Resources said I wish science agreed with you. The President responded I don’t think science knows, actually.
I hope that you attend a school that has an interesting science program and that your generation will take science seriously.
9. Women and LBGTQ
President Trump has made disparaging remarks about females, and he has not supported those in the LBGTQ community. I’m embarrassed to describe the actual comments that the President has made about women. His behavior has not been Presidential and is not a good example for children.
Every citizen in this democratic land has the right to life and liberty.
10. Health Care
Many people are worried that they won’t have good health care with President Trump. Children need to be healthy when they attend school.
Health care is critical in this country, and for those who have been sick in the past, the fear is that they won’t be covered by insurance in the future if President Trump continues to be President. Most Americans believe all people have the right to quality health care.
11. The Poor
Many people have lost jobs due to Covid-19 or they didn’t have good jobs before the pandemic happened. Many children and teens found themselves homeless before the pandemic hit. The difficulties of attending school when you are homeless are insurmountable.
Meanwhile, those who are wealthy get more money and do not pay their fair share of taxes.
It’s important for young people to understand that, while American debate is healthy, the country’s current volatility is worse than usual. I hope that come November this changes.
Thank you for your question, and maybe someday you will be a leader who works to unite and not divide, who will care for your fellow Americans and the world. I hope so and I wish you well.
Miller, Greg. “Allegations of racism have marked Trump’s presidency and become key issues as election nears.” The Washington Post, 23 September 2020.
Strauss, Valerie. “Trump’s newest assault on America’s public schools: They teach kids to “hate their own country.'” The Washington Post, 5 July 2020.
Shear, Michael D., Benner Katie, Schmidt, Michael S., “‘We Need to Take Away Children,’ No Matter How Young, Justice Dept. Officials said.” The New York Times, 6 Oct. 2020.