Wednesday, February 13, 2019

"Loser Teachers"

On Monday, while speaking at a campaign event for his father in El Paso, Texas, the President's son said, "Keep up that fight. Bring it to your schools. You don't have to be indoctrinated by these loser teachers that are trying to sell you socialism from birth." Later at that event, his father verbally attacked journalists, stirring his crowd into a frenzy, prompting one of his supporters to physically attack a BBC cameraman who was just there doing his job. This is not the first time, the President's supporters have attacked journalists. Are teachers next?

This is dangerous. It's dangerous for not just for teachers, but for the children we teach. I don't care where you stand politically, there can never be an excuse for inciting violence against our fellow citizens, and especially those doing the important work of the press (the only profession specifically protected by the Constitution) and teachers (the midwives of democracy). These are attacks on democracy itself: indeed, a free press and an educated population are two of the pillars upon which self-governance is built.

I don't know a single teacher with the time or inclination to indoctrinate children as socialists. Indeed, it's clear from the man's comments that he either doesn't know what socialism is or is intentionally misunderstanding it. I do know a few teachers who identify as social democrats, people who believe that government (the mechanism democratic societies use to do those things we need to do together) should work to level the playing field for those who need help. What upsets authoritarians is that teachers are teaching about equality, fairness, and cooperation. What teachers are doing is helping children achieve their highest potential, to become critical thinkers, to think for themselves, to question authority, and to stand up for what they believe in. These are democratic values.

And even if there were a teacher or two attempting to turn children into socialists (something for which he ought to be fired, just as he should be fired for indoctrinating them as capitalists), this kind of highly charged language condemns an entire category of people (teachers) for the behavior of a few, which has become a hallmark of this administration. Words like "loser," "socialism," and "indoctrinated" are designed to spur hatred. It's called bigotry and it leads to violence. Since these people have come to power, there has been a sharp increase in violent attacks on journalists, asylum seekers, immigrants, and people of non-European backgrounds in general, not to mention against those who do not fit into the straight-jacket of traditional sexuality or gender identity.

I am one of those loser teachers, yet I will do more good in one day for the children I teach and for our democracy than this pampered billionaire will in his entire life. If I'm a loser, then what does that make him? I will not indoctrinate children, but I will help them acquire the skills and habits and knowledge that will allow them to know when someone is trying to indoctrinate them, especially when they are doing it with the tools of ignorance: name-calling, bigotry, and hate.

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