On November 9, Amy Cook asked Prof. Tom Nichols this question on Twitter: “Would appreciate your thoughts on what to tell our kids, daughters in particular.” Prof. Nichols replied, “That their mothers and fathers will handle the world of politics, that their world is not going to change, and to do their homework.”
Apparently Los Angeles school officials didn’t read that tweet. Wednesday the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced that they had set up a hotline for students and families stressed out over Donald Trump’s election. The district will also disperse counselors throughout neighborhoods to act as anti-anxiety SWAT teams. LAUSD Board of Education president Steve Zimmer compared Mr. Trump’s election to a natural disaster, saying the district would take similar actions in the event of such an event.
Meanwhile, across town at the World City Center preschool in the West Adams area of Los Angeles, the kids are getting a confusing message. On November 10, PRI’s “The World” aired a segment by Deepa Fernandes titled, “Listen: A Preschool Lesson in Sharing Those Post Election Feelings.” Teachers are crying in front of their classes. Students at the preschool are as young as three. School founder and director Rebecca Bernard:
Yesterday we were so excited to go over to the polling place and really encourage a spirit of … political engagement with them and teaching them that they are part of this democracy and that their vote counts and that it matters and then to be … so devastated the next day … We all, you guys were so excited yesterday and today everybody’s crying. What’s happening, even my parents are crying. Why?
Interviewed by KPCC’s Alex Cowen on “Take Two” Mr. Zimmer explained the school board’s actions:
Well, what we do, what we are experiencing is a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress. Students who are directly affected or students who have family members that are potentially affected by this and just general sense of anxiety … and a sense of not knowing what’s next and uncertainty and so we as a school district the school district very concerned about our kids, their families on their dreams in their future. [We] really felt like we had to take some very intentional steps to make sure our kids and their families know that we are standing with them in this potentially very difficult moment.
Apparently the delicate snowflakes attending classes in Los Angeles are unable to cope with an election whose outcome they don’t like. Ms. Cowen followed up, asking, “I could see parent calling up and saying, ‘Hey, you know what? I wasn’t a huge fan of Barack Obama when he was elected, but there wasn’t any hotline set up then.’ What do you say?” Mr. Zimmer replied,
Well, I mean, again I think it’s very important to understand this is not about politics. This is about the emotions that were generated particularly among young people. It’s about increases in instances of bullying. It’s about making sure that all children feel safe. And that is the responsibility of the school district. That it happens to be over presidential election may be interesting or controversial to some but it’s not to us. If this was a natural disaster we would be doing the same thing. If this were an issue over climate change, if this were about something else like that we would be doing the same thing. So, no, this is the first, this is, of course, it’s the first time in recent history over the words that were employed during a political campaign that this much fear and this much anxiety is present. Yes, I think that’s unprecedented. But we have done this in the past over all kinds of issues that create anxiety, fear, and threaten to interrupt our mission around every child having access to public education and every child reaching the graduation stage prepared for college and a career.
I wonder where those kids got the idea that they might be in danger if Mr. Trump was elected? Parents? Teachers? Friends? Most likely all of the above. Three year olds don’t care about politics. They’re only frightened and confused because their supposedly adult teachers are acting frightened and confused. Crying in front of a classroom is completely unprofessional and unacceptable. If one of the kids in that class was my child I’d sue for educational malpractice.
But the real topper is this quotation from “The World” website:
“The thing that you can’t lie about is the fact that everybody is devastated this morning. That we’re all sad,” Bernard said of her staff.
She spent time searching around online for some help. “The thing that I read for the 3- to 4-year-olds was, ‘Wow, they elected a president, and you know, some of us feel like that was a bad choice. It’s a silly country that we live in some times.’ It just felt inauthentic to me.”
So teachers at World City Preschool spent time talking about what it means to have emotions, and why they were upset. Listen to the audio above to see how it went.
If you had any remaining doubts about how essential public school reform is, this should sweep them away.
Notes and sources: Audio from KPCC interview available here. Audio from PRI’s “The World” available here. Transcriptions done by the author with the help of Dragon Dictate. I have the audio files for both shows here. One added note: I listened to both shows live. And I would bet some money that Mr. Zimmer compared the election to a terrorist attack. But that phrase does not appear in the audio I downloaded.