Friday, June 7, 2019

Open Letter To Educators Supporting President Trump by Laurie McGuire

The Trump administration is a symptom of substantial problems in our country and as such I generally prefer not to devote my energy into simply fighting against the President and his rhetoric. However, I noticed several South Jersey educators over the past couple years showing their support for President Trump and his policies in online spaces in various ways. Although the conflict between nurturing and protecting students and supporting this President seems obvious to many, some South Jersey educators continue to support this administration. Recently, I had an online encounter with a teacher who posted a photo of someone holding a Trump 2020 flag at a public gathering of some type. The teacher explained that the person pictured was a member of her family and it was posted to show pride in supporting the President. Other educators made positive comments echoing approval of Trump. This was not an isolated incident. As a result, I wrote this letter to educators who support President Trump.
In the letter below, I ask that you consider the term “educator” in the broadest possible terms. In my perspective, educators are all of the folks who work in a school and interact with students in some way. Educators include bus drivers, custodians, school secretaries, social workers, guidance counsellors, psychologists, administrators, paraprofessionals, and teachers.
Open Letter to Educators Supporting President Trump:
As an educator you have an immeasurable impact on students throughout the school day and beyond. Your philosophy of education will certainly guide your interactions and decisions. Many educators are required to write a philosophy of education during their teacher preparation courses. Can you recall your philosophy of education? If you did not write a formal philosophy, can you remember how you felt as a preservice teacher? Your philosophy may have included some thoughts similar to these, “create a haven for students,” “ensure ALL students feel safe and ready to learn,” “cultivate a rapport of mutual respect,” “advocate for the needs of students,” “demonstrate integrity,” “build student confidence,” or “encourage acceptance among peers.”
Educators want the best for their students and strive to create a positive school experience. Your students depend upon you not only for instruction; but for emotional support, to build their self-confidence, and to have a sense of safety and security throughout their school day. Students deserve to feel valued and respected. Students also deserve adult examples of integrity, respect, and honesty. Please consider for a moment how your support of President Trump impacts your students and public education. If you are feeling uncomfortable, please stay with this because discomfort is part of growth. As educators we are continually growing and learning.
President Trump’s Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, is working to destroy public education. She is slowly taking away protections from students, shifting funding to charter schools, creating allowances for for-profit colleges to take advantage of students, and taking no action to protect children from gun violence at school. She is making it more difficult for victims of sexual assault to report the assault. Would you want it to be more difficult for your student to report their sexual assault at college? Are you comfortable with the threat of gun violence we are facing in schools? Do you endorse the continued transfer of funding from public schools to charter schools and voucher programs that lack public oversight?
President Trump has publicly mocked people with disabilities demonstrating his disrespect and lack of compassion. Can you consider the impact his negative actions directed towards folks with disabilities have on your students with disabilities? Do you want students with disabilities to feel supported and respected?
President Trump has made repeated racist and xenophobic demands to “build a wall.” Is it possible to imagine the fear of students whose parents are undocumented? They may come home one day from school and their parents will be gone. This is not an irrational fear. This is actually happening in towns and cities all over our country as a result of the Trump administration’s policies. Can you image how this may impact your English Language Learners’ feelings of safety and security?  
Your female students have heard Trump describe sexually assaulting women, rating women based on their physical appearance, and showing complete disregard for women in general. Do you want young women and girls to believe their worth is based upon their looks? Do you want them to think that sexual assault is to be expected and accepted? Would you want them to expect respect from the President and others in power?
Your Black students and their parents saw Trump’s response to Charlottesville, which upheld white supremacy. They saw that he refused to meet the Teacher of the Year who is a Black man. They heard his comments about primarily Black countries. Are you willing to support this emotional damage to your students? How can you expect someone who shows his overt racism to implement policies without a negative impact on Black students?
Your students with healthcare needs saw this administration repeatedly attempt to permanently remove their health care coverage. Those students and their families feared for their future in the wake of such revocation. Were you not concerned, because you have health insurance and dismantling the Affordable Care Act would not impact your future? Do you have concern for the health and well-being of your students?
Your LGBTQ students and their families watched this administration repeatedly attack transgender Americans and saw his opposition to the Equality Act. Have you considered the shame created when students see politicians saying they are a burden? Or a leader who believes that LGBTQ folks do not deserve equality?
Your non-Christian students (e.g. Jewish, Muslim, atheist) watched this administration support white nationalists in Charlottesville who chanted anti-semitic propaganda. They saw this administration support more Christian schools and “protections” that negate the freedom of religion and separation of Church and State. They watched the President call for a Muslim ban in our country. Do you recognize the impact these actions have on students who are not Christian?
All of your students have witnessed the President lie repeatedly about a variety of issues from the most trivial to more serious issues. According to The Washington Post, Trump has lied over 10,000 times since he took office. It works out to about 22-23 lies each day. Do you want your students to believe that lying is acceptable? How would you feel if your student lied 22 times each school day? What consequences would they face?
By supporting this administration, you have chosen to align yourself with a powerful adversary of your students. Your politics represents your overall philosophy toward education and life. Politics has serious implications on the daily lives of our students and their families. You are fortunate and probably will not have to stay in this place of discomfort or fear, but unfortunately many of your students are afraid, do not feel safe, and cannot escape the fear and real danger that faces them and their families. Can you turn toward empathy and compassion and consider how your decisions and support of President Trump impacts your students?
Laurie McGuire


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