A Lesson I Learned From Donald Trump

WHY LISTEN TO THIS MAN? Like him or not,  he defines the problems the USA faces now. Censorship obscures the solutions to the issues.

Donald Trump’s campaign… What else can possibly be added to the conversation regarding this tsunami of stupidity?

Has it only been ten months?  June 15, 2015 seems like a lifetime ago. I snorted when I heard who was announcing his 2016 campaign for President of the United States. I thought it was a replay of a “Saturday Night Live” skit because the announcement seemed better suited for NBC’s “Weekend Update” than the “Nightly News” show.

I wondered if he realized elections are won through a democratic voting process, and not by proclaiming ‘You’re Fired’ to the people running against him.  I was convinced this was a publicity stunt to boost ratings for ‘The Apprentice’ and soon he would drop out. Because, really, WHO would vote for him?

It turns out a lot of people would. I was shocked. Not in a grrrr…. raise my fist in anger way. But in a hard to breath…how is this happening way. I listened to his ridiculous quotes which masqueraded as answers during the debates.   The daily comments against women, Muslims, and immigrants never stopped…. I looked into the crowd of his supporters and wondered who ARE these people? Since they hopelessly agree with his tactics, I stopped listening because I figured they were all crazy bigots.

I was wrong, because his supporters aren’t crazy or bigots. Okay, some might be, but mainly they are angry and scared. They unashamedly laugh off his chauvinistic bigotry and forgive his lack of knowledge of economics and foreign policy. I also noticed they don’t defend him. When I talked to his supporters, the conversation ends with some version of the statement:

“I don’t know really what he stands for, but he’s different. And something just has to change.”

I realized, they aren’t voting for Trump, they are voting for change. His supporters aren’t hopeless. They’ve lost hope.

Their world has changed.  The only jobs left for them are temporary (AKA consultant) or part-time. The promised pension evaporated.  The home they saved for has become too expensive to keep, but they owe too much to sell it. They keep hearing the economy is getting better, but it isn’t for them.

Trump gets angry for them. He says the same stuff out loud they don’t dare to. It doesn’t matter if his supporters don’t understand how he’ll fix things, because they can’t understand how things became so broken in the first place. Trump feeds into this hopelessness by placing blame instead of creating solutions.

Will transforming our neo-liberal economics and learning to develop sustainable global relationships build a healthier future? No! Build a wall. How should we decide if a candidate is able to successfully manage the responsibilities of the office of President? Look at Carly Fiorina’s face, or Trump’s hands, then decide!

My basic instinct is to run far away instead of listening to Trump and his supporters, so I  understand why protesters blocked access to a Trump rally in Arizona. But I don’t agree.  History has tried to teach us the danger of silencing voices we don’t agree with.

The solutions to the complicated issues plaguing our economy, race relations, global interactions, and gender issues are found during   open discussions. A problem cannot be solved unless all the voices are heard and valued.  It is the silenced and neglected voices which turn to anger and violence.

Blocking access to difficult viewpoints shuts down the avenues which leads to solutions. We have so much more to lose than an election if we refuse to listen to uncomfortable views. Trump makes us cringe, but he shows us the ugly truth of how our economic uncertainty is creating a culture of divisive prejudice.

It’s impossible to make any advances towards justice without listening to some very uncomfortable viewpoints. Our nation’s problems can’t be solved until we honestly listen to the explanations of all the views.

I won’t vote for him. But he has explained our problems in no uncertain terms to us, and we must listen.


What I Learned From the Chicago Teacher’s Union Walkout

teachers strike 2The “teachable moment” is a fleeting opportunity teachers seize on in order to offer insight to their students. This moment transcends the lesson plan. Teachers recognize it as the ideal moment to enhance the educational experience of the classroom.

It’s a miracle this moment ever occurs because it depends on a convergence of events. During an ordinary day, out of nowhere, a question is asked, and a deeper explanation is needed. Like a ripple changes the calm surface of a lake, the atmosphere in the classroom changes.  Books are closed. The teacher is called on to teach a lesson, without a plan.

These moments are valued foundations of education, as much as Math, English, and Science, because the teacher uses the present moment to prepare the students for the future. Kindergarten teacher Jenne Parks  explains, “Teachable scenarios can extend beyond cognitive development to address social and emotional development.”

Successful teachers recognize the value in an education which goes beyond the lesson plan.

In class, students read biographies of Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela for inspiration. Within these pages, they learn how to reach beyond society’s narrow cultural, racial, and gendered definitions and expectations.  They are instructed to use their education to build on the achievements these ancestors fought for.

How do teachers explain the basic necessity of a good education when the students ask?

“Why is my school closing?”

The answer they receive is the reason I stand in awe and in solidarity with the Chicago Teacher’s Union (CTU). Instead of giving up, teachers recognize the   ultimate “teachable moment” because the answer goes deeper than a lesson plan, and is outside of the classroom.

They close the books and walk out.

This is not a temper tantrum. The teachers are not giving up. They are fighting Governor Rauner and the state Legislature’s practice of  defunding the schools. They are also “addressing the social and emotional development” of their students which  depends on an adequately funded public school system.

Politicians make so many campaign promises and pledges using the old tired adage of “being for the children.” The CTU has historically fought to hold them to their promises.  When they went on strike for smaller class size, it wasn’t to create an easier job for the teacher. Smaller class size is proven to “narrow the achievement gap between students of color and their white peers,” because teachers are able to spend more time on teaching and less time on classroom management. Even though most of the time they are ignored, teachers never give up demanding extracurricular activities, art, music, and physical education for our children.

The politicians get pay raises, and programs are cut.

“Why is my school closing?”

The teachers closed the books and transcended the lesson plan. The Math, English, and Science lessons will continue on Monday. Right now, their students need a lesson on how to protect their future when it is in danger of being stolen from them. April 1, 2016 was the time to teach the students how to face a challenge and fight for basic human rights, like their education.

Thank you CTU.