Another Look at “The Day After” and “The Trump Effect”on Our School Children

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Font cover of new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center

Since wondering “What do we tell the children?” in the aftermath of the 2016 election, much has been written about the sharp increase in bias incidents.  In fact, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported 867 hate incidents in just the first ten days after the 2016 election, of which 183 took place in schools.  Earlier this year, this civil rights organization published a report on the deleterious effect of the open bias and bigotry that characterized much of the campaign; the results of which have been summarized in this space.

Some 10,000 people submitted more than 25,000 comments in this follow-up survey. Most shocking is that many teachers and other educational professionals who participated in the November 14 survey expressed the observation “The ugliness is new,” noting that they have not heard these statements of bigotry earlier in their careers.  Hateful and hurtful words have accompanied Nazi salutes and swastikas, and Confederate flags, also reported in Education Week and the Huffington Post.  (Colleges are also seeing an uptick in bias incidents, raising concern, especially among Jewish students.)  The climate of fear has been affecting teachers and students alike.

Recommendations, with links, are given at the end of the report; they include the following:

  • Administrators should communicate their school’s commitment to acceptance, inclusion, and safety.
  • Ensure students undergoing trauma (eight in ten students from marginalized groups) have the support they need.
  • Enforce anti-bullying strategies.
  • “Encourage courage,” urging all members of the school community to speak up and speak out against hate.  In other words,  “Neutrality won’t work.”
  • Prepare and know how to respond to a crisis.

A photo at the end shows a child holding a hand-written sign reading, “Dear Donald Trump, Please let Mexicans stay here because they may be our parents.”

 

Also noteworthy:

“We Need to Talk” – Post-election support and resources for educators and parents.

Actor and writer George Takei pleaded, “They interned my family.  Please don’t let them do it to Muslims.”

Is this your America, asks a Washington Post reporter.  “If you have never faced discrimination, you don’t get my fear of Trump.”

Schools across the US report an increase in post-election bias.

Comedian Sarah Silverman tells why learning to empathize is critical to our future.

Students and teachers wear safety pins in face of harassment: You are safe with me.

Jonathan Kozol speaks out: “I fight back.”

The City of San Francisco passed a resolution to stand up for all citizens and resist any Trump Administration threats.

A recent NPR piece reports on the problems and challenges of media literacy of students.

“America is worth it, our children are worth it, believe in our country, fight for our values, and never ever give up.”
– Hillary Clinton

 

 

Welcome Home: Hillary Speaks at CDF, Where She Began Her Work on Behalf of Children

On Wednesday, November 16, 2016, the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)  hosted its 26th Beat the Odds Celebration at the Newseum in Washington, DC.  CDF honored Children’s Defense Fund Alumna Hillary Rodham Clinton for her dedication and contributions to child advocacy and the Children’s Defense Fund throughout her remarkable career.

“The Children’s Defense Fund is honored to celebrate and recognize a life-long champion of children who never gives up and never stops working to change the odds for children. Never has there been a more urgent time for all of us to help bind our wounds and heal our divisions and work for a nation and world where all children are respected and protected and no child is left behind. We thank Hillary who has been a tireless voice for children from the Children’s Defense Fund’s beginning as a young staff attorney, then board member and board chair,” said Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Secretary Clinton spoke passionately about children and the scourge of childhood poverty.

– See more at: http://www.childrensdefense.org/newsroom/cdf-in-the-news/press-releases/2016/CDFCelebratesHillaryRodhamClinton.html#sthash.mtxugJdB.dpuf

The Day After: “What Do We Tell the Children”?

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A very strange party (if one can call it that) went into the wee hours of the morning after Election Day 2016.  Many adults have been behaving very badly.  And, soon, the children will be up, getting ready for another day of school in the middle of the week.  Oh no!  What do we tell the children?  And embarrassment should be the least of our emotional worries.

As this blog covers issues pertaining to the welfare of children, the extraordinarily hurtful dialogue (if one can call it that) and public commentary has been a notable concern for the actual harm it has been doing on children.  This concern was discussed in a Southern Poverty Law Center report, “The Trump Effect,” and addressed in a May 30 post here and revisited in an editorial by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times.

To be clear, this is not a comment on politics or an ideology.  Those topics are off topic here and, anyway, have been discussed elsewhere.  The purveying of fear and hate by public and private figures, and its effect on children are not Republican or Democratic, conservative or liberal.

Teaching Tolerance, via the Southern Poverty Law Center, has always offered civics curricula for teaching the election and the importance of voting.  This year, for the reason just mentioned,  is not at all like the other ones.  How do teachers tell students about something that will have a profound effect on them, yet something in which they had no say?  In other words, what do teachers do on “The Day After”?

First, “keep politics out and values in.”  That starts with the teacher.  How do current events make me feel?  How am I coping with them?  Keeping a journal and talking with others are good ways to process feelings.  After that, it is time to think about how to make “core values and democratic ideals” a part of the classroom culture.  Suggestions from Teaching Tolerance include:

  • Defend equal voice.  Every student gets to speak and deserves to be heard.
  • Teach democracy.  This is a classroom of, by and for the students.
  • Make my classroom cafe. We will establish norms that create a safe environment for all students.
  • Ensure fairness.  I will speak up when I hear or see bias, exclusion, prejudice and injustice.

The organization urges teachers to “Publicly commit to these values in your classroom and encourage students and colleagues to commit to them, too.”  Offered are contracts for civility in the classroom and civility in the school.  In addition, further resources are available for teaching the facts about current events, civics, and history.  Above all, “let the students speak.”  

It should be noted that the parent organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center, reported an unprecedented surge in hate incidents over the first two days of the election, with anti-Black and anti-immigrant in the lead, followed by anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ.

Rethinking Schools, part of the Zinn Education Project, also offers resources that can be used in constructing lesson plans.  It should be noted that this organization also fosters an activist teachers view; that type of involvement is up to the individual teacher.

PBS talked to teachers and other education professionals around the country to ascertain their reactions and, more important, how the election has affected their students.

Finally, Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, presented in her Child Watch column her views on “bringing America together for our children’s sake.”   

A future column will be devoted to children and young people with disabilities.

 

 

Some other thoughts:

A father, Dana Milbank, of the Washington Post, pens a letter of fear and hope to his daughter.

Says Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, what Abraham and Sarah can best teach us is that parenthood is a means of imparting goodness and justice, one of our greatest blessings.

We need to strengthen communities, say The Huffington Post and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

Children around the understand the power of love, singing the Beatles’ famous classic, as well as the one day in December 2009, when children were joined with adults in 156 countries.

Remembering and Appreciating Natalie Babbitt

Readers of Natalie Babbitt’s classic learn that immortality is not all it’s made out to be.  However, this gifted author’s classic, Tuck Everlasting, will live on in the memories of readers young and old who are lucky enough to have read this classic.  Natalie Babbitt is also one of a select group of great children’s authors who won the Janusz Korczak Medal for children’s literature.  These books embody the empathy for the child for which Janusz Korczak will be remembered for generations to come.  The New York Times published this heartfelt obituary.

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This is the cover of the special 40th Anniversary Edition of Natalie Babbitt’s classic.

 

When I Am Big Again: A Friendship Spans Several Generations

Janusz Korczak was famous for his ability to connect with children, his most poignant example being his treatise, When I Am Little Again.   This time, in a heartwarming recent article, it was a four-year-old girl whose empathy for seniors led her to connect to Mr. Dan, who in turn was ready to open his heart to someone several generations younger.  Their bond grew strong and life-changing, for both.

840c1ebf931fd103b3677ce2ab5ede849caeeb33Two strangers, a little girl and an elderly man, at least two generations apart, open their hearts and find companionship.

 

Remembering the Man Who Remembered Korczak

Andrzej Wajda in 2012,

Andrzej Wajda in 2012, the Year of Janusz Korczak. This photo is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Though Andrzej Wajda, Poland’s most well-known film director is best known for The Promised Land and three other award-winning films, for me his 1990 film, Korczak, has the greatest meaning.  Mr. Wajda, who the New York Times called “a towering auteur of Polish cinema,” died earlier this month, so this is a good time to remember him.

French poster of the Wajda film Korczak

This French poster advertised the then new 1990 film. The irony is that a French reviewer’s negative article created damage that took a long time to undo.

Korczak, starring Wojcieh Pszoniak in the title role and Ewa Dalkowska as Stefa, documents Janusz Korczak’s efforts, twice, to re-create his orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto after the German invaders forced him out of his building at 92 Krochmalna.  Although run-down shells of buildings were a poor comparison to the original home, Korczak did succeed in creating a humane refuge for the orphaned children in his care.  In the hell that was the Ghetto, Korczak continued with his extraordinary pedagogy, children’s self-government (including the Children’s Court), teaching, and mealtimes.  Korczak sets out to document the man and his heroic work during his last two years, from 1940 to 1942.  “I think I committed to Korczak all my talents and skills,” he said.  Like Schindler’s List, this movie was filmed in black and white, showing the stark contrast of good and evil.  (Steven Spielberg considers Korczak “one of the most important pictures about the Holocaust.”  Noteworthy is the fact that Wajda did not succumb to the temptation of showing the orphans at the Treblinka death camp, claiming he had no right to do so.

Andrzej Wajda was born in 1926, in Suwalki.  His father, Jakub, was a victim of the Katyn massacre in 1940, the subject of his 2007 film of the same name.  In 1942, he joined the Home Army (Armia Krajova), the Polish resistance, of which Irena Sendler was also a part.  After the War, he studied painting at the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, before enrolling in the Lodz Film School.  The 1970s was a lucrative time for Wajda, and his 1981 film, Man of Iron, told of a wedding during the Solidarity movement.  Andrzej Wajda passed away in October 2016, in Warsaw.  He was 90.