I used to be a teacher. I used to spend a lot of time ruminating about what my kids were learning. I used to evaluate my lessons in order to carefully measure the exact idea that was being taught, and how well each child had mastered that concept.
I know, after thirty or so years of teaching kids, and after raising three of my own, that kids learn a LOT from what they observe. They don’t always grasp the fine points of the various graphs and pictures in their text books, but they do learn from what they see and hear.
So I’m wondering.
I’m wondering what our 8-16 year olds are learning in the age of Donald Trump. What are they taking away from the ongoing drama that keeps unfolding on our TV’s, in our social media, on the front pages of our newspapers? What have they figured out about successful behavior from the actions and reactions of their parents and other adults?
I have a few guesses, based on my decades of assessing children’s learning. See what you think, and let me know if you agree.
1. Lying is a powerful tool
Even though I’m sure that every kid in the country has gotten into trouble at least once for lying, they must be learning that if you lie often enough, your lie will be accepted.
I’m sure that our kids are watching as their President makes claims that are OBVIOUSLY lies. He claimed that thousands of Muslims were out on the streets of New York cheering when the towers came down on 9/11. There is no proof, no evidence, no pictures, no reports, no corroborating reporters. But Trump repeated the lie so many times that you can find people on Twitter now who repeat it as fact.
Our kids are learning how to lie. Do it often. Repeat as needed. Act completely convinced of the righteousness of your lie. Repeat again. Never back down.
Bam. Your lie has won the day.
2. Bullies Win
Donald Trump appears to have won the most important and powerful job in the country by being what every elementary kid would recognize as a bully. Our children have learned that its a good idea to call people ugly names. “Crooked Hillary”, “Little Marco”, “Slippery James Comey”.
Every kid at recess must be thinking about the social stature he can earn by making fun of “Fat Georgie” or “Jimmy the Fag.”
They must be wondering why their teachers pressure them to accept their disabled peers. I mean, Trump was applauded for publicly mocking a physically disabled reporter. Why should they be kind to that weird autistic kid in their math class?
Teachers and parents can’t really compete with the image of the most powerful man in the country and his powerful bullying attacks.
3. Blame everyone else
What can I say?
Donald Trump is happy to blame his spokespeople for repeating his bullshit. He is delighted to blame nonexistent voter fraud for his loss of the popular vote. He blames the “fake media” for pointing out his many lies, distortions and screw-ups.
The lesson for our children surely must be that best way to avoid the consequences of bad behavior isn’t to behave well. It’s to do whatever the hell you want, and then point the finger at someone else.
4. Take NO responsibility for any error. Ever.
Trump and his team have absolutely mastered the skill of looking right into the camera and saying, “I forgot.”
“Did you or any of your staff ever meet with any Russians, anywhere, at any time?”
“No, no, again we say, no!!!!”
And then when it is proven that your campaign manager, your top advisor, your own damn SON, actually met with a whole boatload of Russians on a whole boatload of different dates, you just shrug your shoulders and say, “Gosh. We forgot.”
Never mind the fact that if you guys actually are so addled and mentally deficient that you DID you forget, then you aren’t in any shape to be running the country.
Never mind that you are clearly demonstrating dementia.
You have taught our kids how to respond if we ask them, “Did you eat that chocolate cake I left on the counter for my office party?” Our kids will just give the big eyes and say. “Nope.”
When we point out the frosting smeared across their faces, they will just shrug their tiny shoulders and say, “I forgot.”
None of this is funny, although I’m trying my best to make you laugh.
None of this is normal.
We will be working hard for the next decade, at least, to undo the damage done by this lying, self absorbed, irresponsible blowhard and those who follow his lead.
This is awful.