Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Reflection

I knew today would be nuts at school. This election was huge to the students. Plus, most of them, my seniors, are eligible to vote. In their government classes and history classes, they were able to study the candidates' platforms. Student council held a mock election, and the journalism class polled students, passed out surveys, and reported statistics and observations.

Our school is very diverse. We don't really have a "majority" when looking at any demographic. Our school is made up of wonderfully colorful students who represent many cultures and religions. They are from all kinds of socio-economic circumstances and are involved in all kinds of different programs.
I love my school because of this diversity. Most of the time the kids get along really well - they date outside of their demographic, they are mostly tolerant of each other (though still somewhat self-segregated outside of the classroom), and are generally willing to listen to opposing viewpoints.

When it came to this election, however, the kids got lost in the chaos that they saw/heard on their televisions, in the rumor mills, and in their homes. Several of my students (who are quite easily influenced, as most teens are, and who are still very literal thinkers) feel like they have had the rug ripped out from under them. Some of them came into my classroom angry about their candidate - the one they had hope in and were confident about - not getting elected, vocally wondering things like, "how the anti-Christ" got elected. They walked through the halls yelling out things like, "Welcome to Communist America, people."

One of the boys sneered in a most hateful tone, "I can't believe that black Muslim got elected." The sweet little girl sitting next to him - who was wearing her hijab as she does proudly everyday- said in a deflated tone, "He isn't Muslim, first of all, and why do you say that, like it is such a horrible thing if he were?" The hateful boy ignored her, turned to me, and spat, "Would you want a Muslim president?"

I said in what I hoped would be an even, measured tone (though I was raging inside), "First of all, what you are saying is not OK. It is not truth and is completely out of line, so please stop talking."

His voice rising, the boy tried again. "So you don't care if the president is Muslim!"

Again, breathing slowly, fully aware of the Muslim students in my class listening in, I said, "No. I wouldn't mind if the president were Muslim. It is not a factor in my decision making."

And honestly it doesn't matter to me. I don't buy into that stigma, and frankly it pisses me off when people use a person's religious belief as an insult. I firmly told the boy who continued to belabor the point to stop talking, that his remarks were racist and therefore not welcome in my class, and that the topic of the election was off limits. Whispers continued. I tried to go about my lesson ignoring them, reminding them a few times to stop discussing the election.

I usually have fairly open discourse in my class. One of my goals as a teacher is to get our students to listen mindfully and speak prudently. This is extremely difficult for high school students to do since their whole world is divided into absolutes: black or white. This election defied that assertion. Somehow, passion overcame reason for a lot of people in this country, not just in high school students. I had to shut them down because there was no intelligent sharing of ideas, only illogical, truthless rants.

I am proud that a great majority of our country is color-blind enough to elect the first African American president in history. On the news, I am hearing that maybe there will be some unification of our partisans. I hope that the rest of the world sees that we Americans are coming together in an effort to elicit change.

But I am truly sad that as a casualty to these things, our kids have learned that hate speech is OK. And the worst part is, I am almost certain that they don't know what they are saying. In fact, the majority of people who fill their mouths with hate, don't really know what they are saying.

I hope.

6 comments:

Bonnie said...

Unfortunately comments like that are happening in the elementary setting as well. I had to put a stop to election talk in my 3rd grade classroom because one student came in saying that we were all going to be in big trouble now that a black man was going to be president. In the case of my class, they repeat what they hear at home! I asked him why he thought that, and he replied "because my dad said so!"

tara said...

Hi there! Found you through NaBloPoMo, and am so happy that I did!

I applaud your ability to remain even headed in the face of teenage bile. I really think that high school teachers must be saints or something. I will never have that sort of patience.

Amy said...

Wow I am so proud of you Ginger for the way you handled the whole matter. I was shocked to read that Bonnie has 3rd graders talking so hateful also. As a new parent my hope is that Alyce has a very open mind to things and is not hateful. Oh wait I am raising her and she will not be that way. Great work to both Bonnie and Ginger. We need teachers like you in the class room.

1220092589s2809 said...

I echo what Tara said. Teenagers are extremely hard to deal with at times (and I know this because I am one, a freshman, to be perfectly concise :)). I can't believe you could answer his in such a civil tone, I would have completely exploded. It's a good thing I'm not a teacher. :)

Ginger said...

The sad thing is I'm still waiting to get in trouble for calling him out. I said his remarks were racist. He heard, "You're a racist."

Whatever. I'm too tired to fight him.

Laura said...

you are on the front lines G! :-)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Reflection

I knew today would be nuts at school. This election was huge to the students. Plus, most of them, my seniors, are eligible to vote. In their government classes and history classes, they were able to study the candidates' platforms. Student council held a mock election, and the journalism class polled students, passed out surveys, and reported statistics and observations.

Our school is very diverse. We don't really have a "majority" when looking at any demographic. Our school is made up of wonderfully colorful students who represent many cultures and religions. They are from all kinds of socio-economic circumstances and are involved in all kinds of different programs.
I love my school because of this diversity. Most of the time the kids get along really well - they date outside of their demographic, they are mostly tolerant of each other (though still somewhat self-segregated outside of the classroom), and are generally willing to listen to opposing viewpoints.

When it came to this election, however, the kids got lost in the chaos that they saw/heard on their televisions, in the rumor mills, and in their homes. Several of my students (who are quite easily influenced, as most teens are, and who are still very literal thinkers) feel like they have had the rug ripped out from under them. Some of them came into my classroom angry about their candidate - the one they had hope in and were confident about - not getting elected, vocally wondering things like, "how the anti-Christ" got elected. They walked through the halls yelling out things like, "Welcome to Communist America, people."

One of the boys sneered in a most hateful tone, "I can't believe that black Muslim got elected." The sweet little girl sitting next to him - who was wearing her hijab as she does proudly everyday- said in a deflated tone, "He isn't Muslim, first of all, and why do you say that, like it is such a horrible thing if he were?" The hateful boy ignored her, turned to me, and spat, "Would you want a Muslim president?"

I said in what I hoped would be an even, measured tone (though I was raging inside), "First of all, what you are saying is not OK. It is not truth and is completely out of line, so please stop talking."

His voice rising, the boy tried again. "So you don't care if the president is Muslim!"

Again, breathing slowly, fully aware of the Muslim students in my class listening in, I said, "No. I wouldn't mind if the president were Muslim. It is not a factor in my decision making."

And honestly it doesn't matter to me. I don't buy into that stigma, and frankly it pisses me off when people use a person's religious belief as an insult. I firmly told the boy who continued to belabor the point to stop talking, that his remarks were racist and therefore not welcome in my class, and that the topic of the election was off limits. Whispers continued. I tried to go about my lesson ignoring them, reminding them a few times to stop discussing the election.

I usually have fairly open discourse in my class. One of my goals as a teacher is to get our students to listen mindfully and speak prudently. This is extremely difficult for high school students to do since their whole world is divided into absolutes: black or white. This election defied that assertion. Somehow, passion overcame reason for a lot of people in this country, not just in high school students. I had to shut them down because there was no intelligent sharing of ideas, only illogical, truthless rants.

I am proud that a great majority of our country is color-blind enough to elect the first African American president in history. On the news, I am hearing that maybe there will be some unification of our partisans. I hope that the rest of the world sees that we Americans are coming together in an effort to elicit change.

But I am truly sad that as a casualty to these things, our kids have learned that hate speech is OK. And the worst part is, I am almost certain that they don't know what they are saying. In fact, the majority of people who fill their mouths with hate, don't really know what they are saying.

I hope.

6 comments:

Bonnie said...

Unfortunately comments like that are happening in the elementary setting as well. I had to put a stop to election talk in my 3rd grade classroom because one student came in saying that we were all going to be in big trouble now that a black man was going to be president. In the case of my class, they repeat what they hear at home! I asked him why he thought that, and he replied "because my dad said so!"

tara said...

Hi there! Found you through NaBloPoMo, and am so happy that I did!

I applaud your ability to remain even headed in the face of teenage bile. I really think that high school teachers must be saints or something. I will never have that sort of patience.

Amy said...

Wow I am so proud of you Ginger for the way you handled the whole matter. I was shocked to read that Bonnie has 3rd graders talking so hateful also. As a new parent my hope is that Alyce has a very open mind to things and is not hateful. Oh wait I am raising her and she will not be that way. Great work to both Bonnie and Ginger. We need teachers like you in the class room.

1220092589s2809 said...

I echo what Tara said. Teenagers are extremely hard to deal with at times (and I know this because I am one, a freshman, to be perfectly concise :)). I can't believe you could answer his in such a civil tone, I would have completely exploded. It's a good thing I'm not a teacher. :)

Ginger said...

The sad thing is I'm still waiting to get in trouble for calling him out. I said his remarks were racist. He heard, "You're a racist."

Whatever. I'm too tired to fight him.

Laura said...

you are on the front lines G! :-)