March SOLC–Day 10
I hesitated about sharing this and still have some reservations. I do NOT want to wade into political waters and I tried hard not to do so. But I also know that it’s important to write about those things that linger in our hearts and minds. And what I heard on the radio yesterday has lingered. So, I’m taking a deep breath and posting.
Though I vote regularly, I hate politics. I’ve given up listening to the radio on my morning commute and picked up a pile of audiobooks at the library. Rather than tuning into the unrelenting coverage of coarse and vulgar political discourse, I’ve chosen to listen to a thriller featuring an Israeli assassin group. Really it seems much more civilized. But tension was building in my thriller this morning, I was getting stressed anticipating the imminent violence and having to lower the volume to “skim” through those scenes, so I clicked it off and turned back to NPR. I tuned in just in time to listen to a broadcast about some recent basketball games in the midwest, the so-called Heartland of America. Sounds innocent enough, right? In retrospect, I should have continued to listen to my audiobook.
Here’s the scene. Two midwest towns. Two high school basketball games. Two disturbing incidents. Four days and 400 miles apart. Both games involved one team that was heavily minority and another that was not. During one game one team brandished photos of Donald Trump and chanted “Trump! Trump!” and “Build a Wall! Build a Wall!” at their heavily Hispanic opponents. During the other game, there were no signs, but “Trump! Trump! Trump!” was shouted over and over at the minority team.
I am bone-deep disturbed at the image of high school students chanting hatefully and using a presidential candidate’s name to intimidate and insult. Is this what today’s youth is learning from our political process? I am appalled that political candidates have been modeling divisive, argumentative and crass interactions rather than demonstrating how to create a meaningful, civilized dialogue. Where is their sense of responsibility?
My colleagues and I often remark that the dialogue in America’s political arena would not be acceptable in our classrooms. As I pulled into the school parking lot today, deeply disturbed by what I had heard, I was struck again by about how important the work is that we do with young children everyday. We work so hard to teach our students to get along, to accept each other, and to solve disagreements respectfully. We teach tolerance and empathy. We say, “You don’t have to be friends, but you can still be friendly.”
My school has invested a great deal of time and energy into developing a cohesive school-wide approach to peer-to-peer aggression and to building a positive culture that supports and includes all students. “We don’t do that here!” is our school’s refrain when faced with inappropriate behavior, like persistent taunting, name-calling, and intimidation/threats. (And, yes, there are protocols and rubrics in place when that is not sufficient.) With scenes like those basketball games and recent political events in mind, I want to stand up and proclaim “We don’t do that here in America!” But sadly, right now, it appears that we do.