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This D Blog Gives the Election a D

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What About the Children?

As a lifelong elementary school educator, I am often surprised at how many enlightened well-informed parents still think that children are not listening.  That school-age children are not picking up content when you’re whispering to their teacher. That when you spell words to another adult they didn’t get a message that you’re doing something secretive.  That when your vitriolic anger or despairing sadness is displayed, they don’t internalize.  While sincerely innocent intentions often drive those parental communications; the impact on kids is often unrealized.  Except by us. Your teachers, your administrators, your counselors. Lately, with an election as its backdrop, what we in schools are witnessing is just short of deplorable.

In a California school where predominant political beliefs are liberal ones, children are acting out.  In our school of largely privileged families with caring and charitable minds, the children are becoming mean with each other.  Name-calling has returned to a decades old standard.  And duplicitousness as far as deceit towards adults has escalated. A 10 year old white child targeted a child of color for heinously befouling a school bathroom when it was well-proven that the black child wasn’t even there at the time. An eight year old said if he could, he would “pee” on Donald Trump.  Children are regularly declaring the end of friendship, the wrath of retribution and the exclusion of others.  The mad passions of vociferous endorsers cloud the mood of the country, and moods are palpably felt by young minds.  Election-fueled anger and meanness in the political rhetoric has been replacing civil discourse. While hateful speech continued to proliferate, we forgot the children were listening.

While I plan to cast my vote for a candidate whose career spans a lifetime of impressive service to children, my point isn’t partisan.  The worry is that we’re passing derogation onto the next generation.  That our division as a country feeds children the right to divide themselves and dislike those they barely know.  Or degrade those they do know just because they don’t agree.  The once national values of love, service, devotion, inclusion and goodwill have been tarnished by our disagreements at dark and ignoble levels. 

The elementary school in which I share in the raising of children doesn’t believe in letter grades for children.  We want them to keep challenging their challenges and growing their strengths.  But if I were to “grade” the election, I’d give it a “D.”  It has nearly failed the nation and most assuredly will fail the children if the aftermath doesn’t address with deep reflection the errors of its process.  With faith and hope that we remember the children, we have got to pull ourselves together.  What would you say to a child who exclaimed that his mother should be “locked up” or one who called his parent a “disaster?”  The children inherit the outcome of this election, its violence or lack thereof, its hate or lack thereof.  Who do we want our children to be?  Those who spit in the faces of others or those who share their recess games?

The election and its audibility have not been soundproofed and your children are listening. If ever there were a time to sit down with children and apologize for hostility and intolerance, this is it.  Tell them we’re counting on them to grow up with open hearts and sound minds, to reason thoughtfully and disagree mindfully. We'll need them to be our teachers.  If any of our wisdom remains, we'll respectfully listen.