I used to be a teacher. For many years, I was one of those people charged with keeping our children educated, safe, confident and skilled. One of the many charges that I took so seriously during those years was the charge to prevent children from bullying each other.
I was a fifth grade teacher. My students were ten and eleven years old. I was told that if they bullied each other, part of the fault was mine.
I understood. My classroom spent time every single day talking about how to interact with civility, with kindness, with generosity. I remember talking to them about the fact that they did NOT have to be friends. They did NOT have to like each other.
“But, here’s the thing,” I would tell them, “You are all members of this very same classroom community. You must treat each other with respect and care. If you don’t, our entire community will suffer. We will not achieve our goal of learning what we are supposed to learn if you are mean to each other and if you fail to support each other.”
And I taught them that if anyone of them became a bully, they all had a moral obligation to stand up to that bully and to protect the victim. I taught them not to be bystanders. I taught them not to let the bully get away with intimidating the weaker members of our community.
Those children understood what I taught. More importantly, they carried out those lessons every single day. To quote one of my students, some five years after he had left my classroom: “We learned that we were all really friends. In Karen’s classroom, everyone stood up for each other.”
So here I am. Four years after my retirement. Wondering how it is that we expect ten year olds to understand and carry out lessons that our actual highly paid, internationally renowned leaders fail to grasp.
How is it that we ask our fifth graders to stop being bullies, to stop intimidating each other, to stop calling each other names, but we let the most powerful people in the country do exactly that? How is it that we expect our youngest children to act in ways that we don’t demand of our so called “leaders”?
When Donald Trump calls his adversaries names, when he labels them as “enemies”, when he asks his followers to attack them, he is behaving in all of the ways that we won’t allow our children to do. He is the absolute epitome of the ignorant, hateful bully on the playground.
The bully that every public school teacher is expected to stop in his tracks.
Where is Congress in this current bullying situation? Where are the leaders of the GOP? Where are the people who we expect to protect us from the ignorant, hateful bully on the national stage?
Why are they acting as bystanders, those silent observers who encourage the bully by not stepping in?
If we can demand that our public school teachers stop bullies, we can damn well demand that our members of Congress do the same. We can demand that our nation’s governors stand up the bully. We can demand that our media outlets stand up to that bully, and that they label his lies as lies.
If you all can ask the average classroom teacher to do it, then you better be absolutely sure that on Nov 6 you will be voting for people who will do the very same thing in Washington.
Bullying is wrong. It’s wrong on the elementary school playground and it’s wrong when it happens on the national stage in front of hundreds of people at a political rally.
Our leaders should be held, at the very least, to the same standards as our public school employees.