13 November 2017

Educating in the time of Trump


At this time of year, I would usually write about a less controversial topic, yet I feel I need to address recent events in the US from an educator's point of view.

On Wednesday 9 November, at lunch break the BRC was unusually busy, not that it is not a hive of activity in a normal lunchtime, yet this was different. Around 100 boys were in the space, glued to the five differing news networks from across the globe.

I refer obviously to the US election of President-elect, Donald Trump. The 45th President of the USA is the now the Republican, reality TV star, billionaire businessman who has divided not only the people of the US, yet public opinion the world over.

Aside from the obvious advantage of having the ability to instantly compare the differing views of the BBC, CNN, Fox News and Al Jazeera, to which I will add one student quipped, 'He is ahead on Fox Sir', it was clear the students had an invested interest on the outcome of this election.

At times like this we stop and pause, as the boys in the library did, and try to process what this means. The result is just the beginning, as a teaching point this undoubtedly will fill the pages of future History and Politics & Law courses, our future economists will scrutinize the impact on world markets and our English teachers will unpack the literature that presents itself in outcry against some of his more controversial policies.

Yet what about education more generally? What role does education play in helping our boys process a democratic system that sees a candidate lose the popular vote, yet take the mantle of the most powerful person in the world? How do we teach our students about our Christian values of Integrity, Service and Stewardship in the face of misogyny and racism?

We openly promote qualities such as equity and respect at the College, so how do we balance a political result like this with the need to maintain these qualities? The sense of fear in the US and beyond its borders is palpable, how do we explain this to our boys and re-assure them in the face of such negative media reaction?

To prove that this reaction is not an exaggeration, questions from our younger boys included, do you think this could start World War III? Social media feed filled with memes of border protection, anti-Islamic policies and sexist administrations also reflecting rejuvenated antiquated organisations such as the KKK.

While education possesses the tools to disarm those who preach and potentially practice racism, sexism and essentially xenophobic attitudes, it is important to discuss with the boys the fact that whilst the world has presented many leaders with polarizing views, the world is still here.

Through education, we can inform boys that many of the speeches made by Trump will remain exactly that, blocked by a system where a balance of power gives hope that some form of common sense will prevail. We need to encourage students to educate themselves and find out more about events in the US, not less, by talking to the boys as educators and parents we can arm them with knowledge regarding international responses to this bizarre election.

The International Baccalaureate Mission statement provides some solace in the face of Trumpism (it will become a word), 'The International Baccalaureateaims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.'

Through the Learner profile attributes such as being principled, open-minded and caring are represented in all that we do at Scotch. With that, the future leaders that we are creating are the opposing force that the world will need in the face of The Donald.

We look forward to continuing to work with your boys in 2017, in order to educate beyond grades, rather to educate and prepare them for what can be, a confronting world.

Have a wonderful Christmas with your families and I thank you for the ongoing trust you place in us to work with your sons.

Mr Peter Allen
Director of Teaching and Learning