I yield the floor to my friend Joseph Berns, who is a teacher and most certainly not a loser, to analyze Donnie Jr’s attack and explain what teachers really teach:
Donald Trump, Jr, addressing young conservatives: “Keep up that fight, bring it to your schools. You don’t have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you socialism from birth.” (El Paso speech, 2/11/19)
I would be very curious to know what specifically Mr. Trump, jr. is referring to here. What does he mean when he says teachers are “trying to sell you on socialism?” What does he mean by socialism? And is it just some teachers? Phrases like “take it to your schools,” and “from birth,” make it sound like he’s accusing all schools and teachers at all levels, K-12 and beyond.
Schools do put a lot of emphasis on things like equality and empathy. They teach kids to dream big and make a difference. They teach kids to question and think critically. Are these radical concepts? Let’s break it down:
—Equality: recognizing each person’s worth and dignity as a human person, regardless of their skin color, religion, intellectual ability, or legal status. Honestly, this is just “How to not be a Dick” 101. We’re all human beings here. Picking on someone because they’re different is wrong. Period.
—Empathy: imagining yourself in someone else’s situation. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read, fiction or non-fiction, that expanded my human experience and made me feel what someone else felt. From grade school through college, I read stories from slaves, soldiers, Holocaust victims, refugees, and more. This experience changes kids. It helps them understand and care about the situations of others.
—Dreaming big: imagining what a better world looks like, not just for ourselves, but for all. Teachers show student’s what’s possible. They show students what they can achieve and who they can become. No teacher in their right mind would tell a kid, “Stay home. Don’t develop your talents. Don’t think you can ever contribute anything meaningful to this world.” Teachers deal in positives: “Be all you can be, kid!”
—Making a difference: hands-on service projects that improve the lives of others. While in school, we actively worked to improve the world around us. Litter around town? Organize a cleanup day. Flooding in Fargo? Bus west and help sandbag. Starving communities in Africa? Bag dry meals at the community center. These activities taught me, in very tangible terms, how important and worthwhile it is to sacrifice time and energy for the sake of others.
—Critical thinking: questioning the ideas and systems we take for granted – even those we hold sacred. Allowing, even daring students to ask “Why?” Asking, “Can we do this better?” All I can say is thank you Mrs. Sedivy for that college-level literature analysis course. You got me hooked on critical thinking and equipped me with some very effective mental tools to do so.
Are these radical concepts? Well, yes. They kind of are. An administration that wants to erect a wall on our southern border will not easily accomplish that unless it can convince us that immigrants crossing the border are “Illegals” rather than human beings. It will certainly have a hard time putting up a wall if Americans empathize with families fleeing to the US from hardship. Americans thinking critically may question the cost, effectiveness, and ethical implications of putting up such a barrier. And citizens who dream big and want to make a difference may concoct solutions to help our southern neighbors which involve sacrificing American resources – a possible threat to the wealthy and powerful in this country.
To Mr. Trump, Jr: our teachers are not preaching the Communist Manifesto here. They are, however, helping children grow to be good and righteous human beings. If that scares you, then I seriously question your values and your motive in this speech.
[Joseph Berns, special to Dakota Free Press, 2019.02.19]
Naturally the elitist and ignorant Trumps dismiss equality, empathy, and critical thinking in the same casual and incorrect way that South Dakota Speaker of the House Steven Haugaard dismisses preschool as socialism. The Trumpists cannot defend their policies and “values” in any way that would pass muster in a regular teacher’s classroom; they must thus resort to cheap and uninformed insults to insulate themselves from thoughtful, honest critique.