When I was growing up–admittedly, sometime during the Ice Age–children were admonished to tell the truth by being told the story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree.
Granted, it turned out that the story was a fable, but it was widely believed because George Washington was considered an admirable man, an excellent President and an all-around role model for the nation’s children.
Donald John Trump, not so much.
And that’s a problem, because it turns out that Presidential behavior really does encourage imitation. It can normalize ugly behavior, and not just in the already flawed/racist adults that comprise Trump’s base.
A regular reader of this blog recently shared this article with me. After I stopped puking, I decided to share it.
Evidently, it isn’t just Trump’s constant lying, with the implication that “truth” is whatever you want it to be. The article referenced studies that find America’s children using Trumpian rhetoric to bully their classmates–mostly Latino, Muslim and Black classmates.
Children across the US are using Donald Trump’s rhetoric to bully their classmates, a report has found.
The Washington Post reviewed articles throughout Mr Trump’s presidency that reference elementary, middle, or high school bullying and found students using the president’s inflammatory statements, which are often described as racist or xenophobic, to bully.
The newspaper analysed 28,000 articles starting from the beginning of 2016 for its research relating to bullying in the classroom. It found Mr Trump’s words, chants at his campaign rallies, and even his last name were used by students and staff members to harass other people in more than 300 reported incidents.
Of those incidents, 75 per cent showed inflammatory language relating to Mr Trump directed at students who are Hispanic, Muslim or black.
The article recounts incidents in which Latino students were subjected to taunts of “build the wall” and “Make America Great Again.” In one particularly horrific account, last year in New Jersey a 13-year-old boy told his 12-year-old Mexican American classmate that “all Mexicans should go back behind the wall”.
The classmate’s mother approached the bully the next day about his comment and was beaten unconscious by the child.
Buzzfeed also analyzed the impact of Trump’s words and their use to bully other students, and found 50 incidents in 26 states where students who were intimidating or harassing other children used phrases frequently employed by the president.
One incident happened at a high school in Shakopee, Minnesota, where boys in Donald Trump shirts swarmed a black teenage girl and sang The Star-Spangled Banner. But instead of singing the correct lyrics, they replaced the closing line with “and home of the slaves”.
There are multiple reports of native-born white children telling Hispanic or Asian classmates that they will be deported, that they aren’t “real” Americans.
While on a school bus in San Antonio, Texas, a white eighth grader told a Filipino classmate, “You are going to be deported.” A black classmate in Brea, California, was told by a white eighth grader, “Now that Trump won, you’re going to have to go back to Africa, where you belong.”
As incredibly corrupt as he is, as horrible as his policy positions are, and as hurtful to the nation’s most vulnerable children, the emerging research about Trump’s effect on the lessons we want to teach the young about civility, morality and ethics–not to mention racism, sexism and other assorted bigotries– is arguably even more damaging.
Assuming we soundly defeat this crude, ignorant, semi-literate buffoon in November, we will have a lot of remedial work to do. If we don’t, it will be too late to save the children.