Thursday, November 10, 2016

Discussing Election Results with Our Students

The 2016 Presidential Election was an incredibly tough one. It was long, it was drawn out, and it was ugly. It also had an outcome that a lot of people--and a lot of our students--didn't want. How can we talk about this with them? I take some time in this post to explore the meanings of "tolerance" and "love" and how we can have open, respectful discussions about the election results in our classrooms.I want to preface this by saying that this is not a political post. This is a post about how I am dealing with the 2016 election in my classroom. If I am going to be honest, some of my views will come out, but I will in no way demean the side I did not support. I do think that 2016 has been particularly challenging for educators, and I think that we will all benefit from discussing it honestly, yet kindly.

This election season was ugly. I cringed during all of the debates. There was name-calling. There was fear-mongering--from both sides.

I live in the deep South, and I teach at a diverse school. I teach children of immigrants who felt vilified by Trump. I teach white students identifying as "rednecks" who felt like Clinton had placed them in a "basket of deplorables." I teach African-American and LGBT students who feel marginalized by both sides. I teach females--and I am one.

This might seem like an odd and somewhat personal place to begin this, but twelve years ago, I had some health issues that prevented me from having children. There are far more difficult things to go through in life, but I was pretty low. My aunt sent me a sermon of C.S. Lewis's called "The Weight of Glory."

I read it each night before I went to bed. It made me cry. It comforted me. It helped me get through a tough time by looking at other people in a new way. Regardless of your faith, there is a valuable message in this sermon.

 Essentially, Lewis argues that we should do more than merely tolerate each other as human beings. We should love each other.

Think about it. Merriam-Webster defines tolerate as "allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference."

Tolerate almost means to disregard. Sure, you disagree, but you let it happen. You coexist, but you don't interact.

Love means "an intense feeling of deep affection." You may disagree, but you care about the person. You interact.

Maybe all the talk of tolerance is part of the problem. Why would you stand up for someone you merely tolerate? They have become "the other," the "out group." We don't mind building a wall around them or putting them in a basket and sending them down the river.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up optimistic. I began to realize halfway through the day that it was because I was convinced that by 10 PM EST, we, The United States of America, would have our first female president.

I grew up in a society that marginalized women. Women were mothers and wives. We had a place, and we should not deviate from it. I always believed that it was a mistake, and it made me angry, but it was the way things were.

When Trump said the things he did about women, it made me extremely angry. We aren't merely decorative and sexual beings. We have intellects. We can be leaders. I am truly, truly indignant that the only value he acknowledges in women is beauty. (BTW, even Lewis in his profound sermon said that women should submit to their husbands--I love you, C.S. Lewis, but I am not a child).

So, when I thought Clinton was going to win, I was ecstatic. When Trump actually won, I was devastated. I actually stayed up most of the night crying and texting my dad (a reluctant Trump supporter). I did not post on social media. It was way too personal for me.

I am still coming to terms with the result. But I have realized a couple of things: 

1. I often feel disenfranchised as a woman. That's one reason I so desperately wanted Clinton to win.

2. Many of my students and their parents obviously feel the same way, which is why they voted for Trump.

3. If we're all feeling disenfranchised for one reason or another (Black Lives Matter, The Wall...) then we should listen to each other. And empathize. And NEVER assume that just because we're not experiencing it that someone else isn't.

I don't agree with Trump supporters, but they deserve a voice. We all do. So we talk about the election in my classroom--from all sides--as long as we can keep it nice. I will not tell them how to think. I love them too much for that.

2 comments:

  1. I really appreciate what you've said here. This is a great post, and I couldn't agree more.

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    1. Thank you so much, Betsy. That means a lot to me.

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