I have grave concerns about the prospect of Donald Trump as president. If we are all honest with each other, I would suspect most Americans have concerns, even those who voted for him. After all, there has never been such a wild card to win the office. I have concerns about his proposed policies but that would be the case with just about anyone else who had a chance to be elected, too. I can handle differences of opinion about policy. Those will be there no matter who is at the helm. What concerns me the most with Donald Trump is his thin-skinned, must-have-the-last-word approach to criticism or perceived slights.
I can think of no other job where one will be met with more criticism or more attacks of a professional and personal nature. It makes no difference who you are, if you are the President, a lot of people are going to have problems with you and they will come after you with whatever forum they have at their disposal. As president, you will have millions of supporters but you will, just as assuredly, have millions of detractors at home and abroad.
The problem with Trump is that he has seemingly never learned how to handle criticism in the dignified manner that should be a prerequisite job skill for a president. To the eye of this observer, Trump would actually seem to Google himself on a daily basis and scour the web for anything that was said about him. If he sniffs out anything with the slightest whiff of a slight attached to it, he can’t help but fire back in kind. He seems to like to engage in a war of words online. It’s an unbecoming trait in any adult, let alone the leader of the free world.
I’m not even going to go into the troublesome aspect of this character flaw as it applies to international diplomacy. That should be obvious to anyone who prefers a peaceful world. To have world leaders immaturely yapping at one another in the Twitterverse isn’t a road I am wanting to see us travel.
My grave concern comes from my perspective as an educator. I spend most of my days with 8th graders. That is the grade that seems to straddle childhood and young adulthood. When students reach eighth grade, they have begun to grow into adult bodies and they have developed more of an adult vocabulary (complete with all the vulgarities). What they have not developed yet is the maturity required for adult relationships. It is a perplexing and confusing stage of life, so much adult emerging, yet so much child holding on. Kids of this age want you to think they are ready to be adults, yet they are still extremely impressionable. A big part of what we do as teachers of this age group is help them learn to interact with one another in a more mature, adult manner.
Bullying is a pretty big problem with kids in the middle years. In their attempts to look like big adults, sometimes their immaturity gets the better of them and they begin to tear others down in a misguided attempt to build themselves up.
Teachers have to be ever vigilant in our handling of bullying. Where I work, we must undergo annual professional development to equip us to recognize and respond to potential bullying. We must pass a test to become certified in this skill. In fact, if it is found that a teacher was aware of bullying and did nothing about it, they can be held liable in court. With that in mind, let me report to you that I believe Donald Trump has been guilty of using the internet to bully people. Take this Trump tweet from New Year’s Eve…just one of many such examples of his taking to Twitter to attack and counter-attack.
“Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me an lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
To belittle and mock over half of the country in a tweet, tearing others down in an attempt to build yourself up, is the kind of thing we’d expect to deal with in 8th grade. It is just about the least presidential act I can think of.
It is also a really lousy example to America’s young people.
Therein lies the basis of my grave concern.
I spend a lot of my time as an educator trying to get kids to understand that it is wrong to call others names or, when called a name, to attempt to be the bigger person and turn the other cheek (I believe that’s even in the Bible someplace). I am constantly warning against the dangers of escalating a situation by engaging in a war of words, no good comes of it. I am constantly trying to preach and model mutual respect and kindness for all to my impressionable students. Yet, I am but a teacher.
How can my message carry any weight now when students see the President of the United States acting no better than an 8th grader every time they turn on the tv or go online?
Mr. Trump, if we are lucky, your thin-skinned, must-have-the-last-word nature may not touch off an international incident. But I fear the potential damage done by the example it sets for my students could be as devastating.
With all due respect, I beg of you, please grow up.