SACO – As a teacher, I try not to comment about specific politicians in my classroom. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times, “our room should be a place where we can talk about almost any idea or belief without the fear that we’ll be ridiculed or looked upon in a negative way.”
Somehow that ended this week when Donald Trump’s ideas about race, religion and safety landed on my desk.
The students wanted an explanation about Trump’s comments toward banning anyone from entering the country because of their Muslim faith.
“Did he really say that?” they asked. “Yes,” I said, “but the worst part is that he repeated himself when he was asked for clarification and to this day, he stands by his comments.”
Somehow, these questions and ideas then led to a number of other outrageous comments that have been attributed to Mr. Trump. We talked about immigration in general and that led to a heated discussion of Trump’s plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and then to convince the Mexican government that they should pay for the construction.
“Really?” one of the 16-year-old girls asked, looking at the map of the United States that covered one of my walls. “The whole border?”
This conversation quickly led to someone else in class commenting on the way Trump made fun of a disabled reporter at one of his press conferences.
“Apparently the reporter works for the New York Times,” I said. “He had written a number of stories about Donald Trump in the 80’s and 90’s. But after complaints started to appear in the news, Trump claims not to know him or know that he suffers from a chronic muscular disease.”
This brought about more than a little laughter as the students talked about the comments. But the laughter died down quickly as many of them looked in the direction of Stephanie (not her real name), a 17-year-old girl in my class who cannot walk to class or move about the hallways on her own because of a muscular disorder.
Finally, someone else said, “I heard he was disqualified from running. Can you be disqualified?”
We talked about the process of running for office and the comments that were made on the floor of Congress about Trump and his views. In the end, we understood that another politician was simply saying, he should be disqualified because of his views. He should not be allowed to run.
“Let him run,” a boy who hardly speaks during class said. “Doesn’t mean I’m voting for him. He’s an idiot.”
I just smiled, not because I necessarily agreed with his conclusions about the politician, but because this student was somehow engaged in the political process. I hope that continues.