Day after day, day and night, pundits (some of the actually in the know) emit a steady stream of commentary, analysis, and a heaping dose of allegations and insinuations, one candidate in particular garnering disproportionate attention. With all we have seen and heard about the 2016 election, has anyone asked how this very unfunny circus show is affecting children? Well, at least one group has, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which recently released a survey, The Trump Effect: The impact of the presidential campaign on our nation’s schools, also available online.
The report is the result of a week-long survey, in which nearly 2,000 people submitted more than 5,000 comments. SPLC admits that, with its non-random sample, the survey cannot be entirely scientific; the responders all have signed up to receive newsletters and e-mail updates.
Though students have been “…increasingly political (which is good), …the extreme rhetoric being modeled is not helping their ability to utilize reason and evidence, rather than replying in kind.” Furthermore, many students “…see the candidates as jokes and are offended and dismayed for the future.” Even more disturbing are the deeper and long-term consequence, namely that more than two-thirds of teachers reported that many of their Muslim and immigrant students have expressed stark fear about what will happen to them and their families. Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in the schools of more than one-third the respondents, in many cases involving students being at the receiving end of bullying, with all that involves, from crying in class to sleepless nights to sharp declines in feelings of self-worth and even suicidal thoughts.
There is no doubt that the current toxic political environment is having a deleterious effect on our children. Somehow, beyond this valuable report, this topic has not made headlines, somehow deemed less of concern, less worthy than juvenile comments about genitalia, which are anything but child’s play.