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From The Mouths Of Babes… And Noam Chomsky

Tuesday, November 15, 2016 15:18
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(Before It's News)

I was just watching a giant L.A. school district walk-out on TV, tens of thousands of students protesting Trump's odd and very questionable ascension to the presidency. L.A. students I've spoken with are worried about Trump's intolerance, xenophobia, racism, misogyny and homophobia and how that mindset may manifest itself as part of a policy agenda sure to be rubber-stamped for the next 2 years by a Republican Congress. But the other topic I heard from the majority of students I spoke with in the last week was Climate Change. These young people take it a lot more seriously than my older friends do. As Noam Chomsky pointed out in an interview Monday, there was something at least as consequential as Trump's election last week. On the same day “the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22) which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28 percent below the average of the previous 29 years, not only raising sea levels, but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts… [the same day that] the most powerful country in world history, which will set its stamp on what comes next, had an election. The outcome placed total control of the government– executive, Congress, the Supreme Court– in the hands of the Republican Party, which has become the most dangerous organization in world history… The Party is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life. There is no historical precedent for such a stand.”

My friends in their 40s and 50s often say, half in jest, “we'll be dead before the catastrophe comes.” These students in their teens and twenties won't be.

Teaching Tolerance, a nonpartisan organization under the umbrella of the Southern Poverty Law Center, neither endorses political candidates nor engages in electioneering activities. They put out a study last spring asking something like 2,000 teachers how the presidential campaign was affecting their students and their teaching, something they called The Trump Effect:The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools.

The results indicated that the campaign is having a profoundly negative impact on schoolchildren across the country, producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported. Many educators fear teaching about the election at all. Teachers also reported an increase in the bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates.

“We’re deeply concerned about the level of fear among minority children who feel threatened by both the incendiary campaign rhetoric and the bullying they’re encountering in school,” said Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen. “We’ve seen Donald Trump behave like a 12-year-old, and now we’re seeing 12-year-olds behave like Donald Trump.”

The online survey was not scientific, but it provides a rich source of information about the impact of this year’s election on the country’s classrooms. The data, including 5,000 comments from educators, shows a disturbing nationwide problem, one that is particularly acute in schools with high concentrations of minority children.
More than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students– mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslims– have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.
More than half have seen an increase in uncivil political discourse.
More than third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment.
More than 40 percent are hesitant to teach about the election.

While the survey did not identify candidates, more than 1,000 comments mentioned Donald Trump by name. In contrast, a total of fewer than 200 contained the names Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. More than 500 comments contained the words fear, scared, afraid, anxious or terrified to describe the campaign’s impact on minority students.

Educators, meanwhile, are perplexed and conflicted about what to do. They report being stymied by the need to remain nonpartisan but disturbed by the anxiety in their classrooms and the lessons that children may be absorbing from this campaign.

“Schools are finding that their anti-bullying work is being tested and, in many places, falling apart,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello, author of the report. “Most teachers seem to feel they need to make a choice between teaching about the election or protecting their kids. In elementary schools, half have decided to avoid it. In middle and high schools, we’re seeing more who have decided, for the first time, not to be neutral.”

The long-term impact on children’s well-being, their behavior or their civic education is impossible to gauge. Some teachers report that their students are highly engaged and interested in the political process this year. Others worry that the election is making them “less trusting of government” or “hostile to opposing points of view,” or that children are “losing respect for the political process.”

They may have something else to worry about that wasn't talked about all that much during the campaign– the antipathy many of the people around Trump feel towards public education. As Rudy Giuliani crowed to the NY Post on Monday, Trump is going to be the best thing that ever happened for the charter school movement. “We’ve spoken about it. Donald is going to create incentives for that promote and open more charter schools. It’s a priority,” said Giuliani, a longtime charter school advocate.

During the campaign, Trump proposed a $20 billion federal block grant for states to use to provide school choice to 11 million students living in poverty.

“As your President, I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice. I want every single inner city child in America who is today trapped in a failing school to have the freedom– the civil right– to attend the school of their choice,’’ Trump vowed in September.

Trump’s plan would redirect money from the federal budget to create the $20 billion school choice block grant.

“Distribution of this grant will favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws, encouraging them to participate,” Trump said during the campaign. “Each state will develop its own formula, but we want the dollars to follow the student.

“This $20 billion will instantly extend choice to millions more students.”

Trump will have a Republican-controlled Congress [very hostile to public education] to push through the school choice plan.

Charter school advocates are giddy. Trump will clearly be much more supportive of charter schools than Hillary Clinton.

One of Clinton’s earliest backers was national teachers’ union boss Randi Weingarten. Following the teacher union endorsements, Clinton was muted on her support of charters and even parroted union talking points that the alternative, mostly non-union schools serve fewer needier students than traditional public schools.

Trump won’t be beholden to the unions, charter advocates said.

“We think Trump will be great on charters. We have made tremendous progress bringing real school choice to families who can’t afford private schools or fancy neighborhoods. We think the new president will continue and accelerate that,” said Jessica Mokhiber, spokeswoman for the Northeast Charter Schools Network.

“Interestingly, it’s an issue where the new President and Governor Cuomo share common ground. Just this year, the Governor, the Republican Senate, and Democratic Assembly doubled the amount of money in the budget for charter funding. We’re very optimistic that this kind of bipartisan support will continue.”

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis

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