This is not going to be like one of my usual blogs. I just think it’s important that I tell this story because although I found it disturbing at the time, it’s still sticking with me after a couple weeks. I just can’t seem to shake it. In fact, I’m finding it very upsetting. However I do want to preface it by saying this is not in any way meant to be a political commentary. I really don’t care what side of the aisle you associate yourself with. That is not the point. What I am addressing here is not about whatever is going on in the news today, but rather how kids are being affected today…
I decided to play a new game with my class. In this game, the players get their who, what and where like a normal improv exercise. However, they were not to speak for the first thirty seconds. I instructed them that they were not speaking for a reason and that I wanted to feel the tension. Once I able to feel the tension between them, I would ask a member of the audience why they weren’t speaking. On top of this, I used a list I have of over 120 “character flaws.” The kids choose at random.
First I called back the girl and her character flaw was “overzealous.” Then I called the boy back, an 11-year-old, and I asked him to pick a number. He did so and his word was “bigot.” He looked at me and asked, “What’s a bigot?”
What I was about to say to him, perhaps unwisely, was “Trump is currently being considered a bigot because…” However, as soon as I started to speak I only was able to say the word “Trump” when the boy said, “Oh, okay I got it!” I said that I didn’t even get to say anything yet. But by this time he was already walking away. He turned back look at me and said, “That’s okay, I got it.” He was so anxious to start to scene.
At first I was going to say something about this but then I thought I wanted to see what he thinks he had. Because if he didn’t have a clear understanding, I was going to say something to him about not letting people finish what they were going to say. So I took my chair and I turned to the group and said, “Okay, who are the they, where are they, and what are they doing?”
The response was that they were a couple of high school seniors in the high school auditorium decorating for the prom that night. The scene started with them both decorating the room but not speaking. She was looking at him frequently like she wanted to say something but didn’t know what to say. She also seemed very upset. He, on the other hand, just stood there blowing up balloons, nothing seeming to bother him at all. After a few minutes of this, the tension certainly did build so at that time I turn to the audience and I asked, “Why are they not talking?” The girl in the back of the room said, “They’ve been dating for a long time but he just asked somebody else to the prom.”
Oh my, this is a good one! I couldn’t wait to see what was gonna happen.
I told them they could start talking whenever they wanted to and just sat back and watched. As the scene progressed, you could see that the tension was building within the girl until she finally spun around and said, “Okay, why, huh? Here we have been dating for months now and you asked somebody else to the prom? Why, why did you not ask me!”
The boy, without batting an eyelash or looking up from his balloon, just shrugged with no hesitancy and said “You’re Muslim.”
She was stunned. When she caught her voice again, she said, “But you knew that all along and you were still dating me for how many months, so what difference does it make now?” His answer was, “Well yeah, I can date you but I certainly couldn’t take you to prom.”
The kid nailed what a true bigot was, and all I said was the word “Trump.” I find this deeply disturbing. What are these kids thinking right now about us and our politics? I have heard conversations amongst them and I can tell you, they absolutely do not like Trump. At least the kids out here don’t. And believe it or not, it isn’t just because they’re overhearing their parents or are watching the news. These children are currently going to school with other kids who are probably friends they grew up with and who are afraid their parents and older siblings may be taken away when they get home. One kid actually told me of one kid who was told if somebody knocked on the door unexpectedly that he had to answer it because he was born here and his parents had to go run and hide. I have not heard of this happening since what occurred in Nazi Germany.
Now, I think it’s important that we all just stop for a minute, take a breath and just consider what these children are picking up from the current social and political climate around them. Because believe me, they are picking up more than you may realize. Perhaps we need to take a minute and ask them. When was the last time anybody took the time to ask them what they think? Or about how they feel about the world is affecting them and the friends around them. I think that right now is time for us to think about this sort of thing. Don’t forget, most people don’t include their children in conversations about how they feel about what’s happening, and so the kids are overhearing what their parents think, and what others are talking about. Then, they go back to their friends, and try to make sense of what they’re hearing with their peers. They wind up discussing it amongst themselves, trying to make heads or tails out of what’s happening right now. Isn’t it kind of scary to think, that what they may actually be coming to?
Fear is a powerful teacher and opinion setter. In fact, during my conversation about this with the kids, one of them mentioned that a lot of their friends stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, but they don’t speak. They refuse. Once again, I looked around the room and every kid confirmed this. They all live in different areas and go to different schools. This is happening all over. Perhaps we need to stop and consider what they are actually experiencing for themselves right now. Every day.
Consider this. Our kids are in school right now, having to take a civics class, so they can learn about American history, how our government works, and what America is supposed to stand for. We teach them about the Constitution and what it stands for and what their rights are. We begin to instill in them the reasons why what America stands for is worth fighting for and dying for. They go to history class and learn about past wars and why we were in them and why it was important to us as Americans. However, we don’t really teach them in class that a lot of the soldiers were also children of immigrants who came here illegally but enlisted to die for our country if need be. But they may have members of their own family in the military, and they’re still scared. They’re living in fear of their parents being deported no matter how hard they work, or how hard they fought for us. They feel just as American as the rest of us do. Here we have kids all around us refusing to take the pledge because they don’t believe in the words they’re being told to say, and no one but the other kids are noticing.
What are these kids going to be taking with them as they get older and become voters themselves. How is this going to taint our youth’s opinions of America and the very meaning of what we stand for? Not just the kids who are actually living in this fear, but the other kids who are standing by and watching, afraid for the friends they care about.
Again, I don’t want to focus on the political aspect of this. I’m not picking a side. Some of these kids are living every day in fear from all the rhetoric they are overhearing from both sides of the aisle. So we can’t blame just one side. There is so much going on that is confusing them. But when it comes to the topic of immigration, they get it because they or someone they know is living it right now.
I decided to ask my students if they knew anybody who was afraid that they’re family members might be taken away? Every last student in my class raise their hand. Every last one. They’re painfully aware, that good, hard-working, upstanding people who they may have known all their lives and who themselves having done nothing wrong, are being snatched from their families and sent to countries that they are unfamiliar with, when they were raised here just like them. Soccer coaches, scout leaders etc. who they all may have interacted with personally. They know that they are now living with a threat a being taken away from their families without ever breaking any laws or doing anything wrong. Every child is painfully aware of the threat and every one of them is scared.
Kids are being shaped by this experience and by what they are seeing and hearing. It has become a very scary debate for a lot of people these days. Everyone in the house, however young or old, can hear the discussion either in person, through conversation, or on TV. What is the butterfly effect of this going to be when it comes to how this perspective and experience influences their attitudes about our nation, and their future here? Not to mention, how it will affect their mentality and outlook of what kind of world they’re living in.
The political climate that is currently being displayed in our government, with our politicians seeming to act in stark contrast to the ideals these kids are being taught in their school every day, is frustrating and terrifying to me. There is absolutely nothing I can do to help them except…encourage you to listen to them. Give them information, knowledge, experience. Hold a conversation with your kids. I mean a real conversation. No need to dumb anything down. Talk with them not at them. Give them an even playing field. Also, and above all else, please, please listen, not only to what they have to say on the surface, but really probe and dig deep to find out what they really are thinking. Ask them pointed questions and learn about how they actually see the world around them right now and how they feel about it. Just talk to them and have a conversation. You might be surprised what they might say. I always am. I am often in awe of the wisdom and the fairness of their comments. I have found that children can have quite a strong moral compass and a solid sense of right and wrong in fairness.
Thank you for reading this. I hope it helps make you a little more aware of what’s going on in their lives. Talk to them and help them. Let’s all work together to bring back the world, this country to the ideals we all learned about in civics class.
In the meantime, take a look at this clip from Jimmy Kimmel Live where he asks kids about Trump. They’re paying attention…