Journal of Educational Controversy


Monday, December 19, 2016

The Trump Effect: A Follow-up After Election Day

The Trump Effect: A Follow-up
After Election Day
                With the 2016 election behind us and inauguration day right around the corner, schools are seeing the Trump Effect continue to be a present issue in their schools, classrooms, and communities.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has performed another online survey following the results of the November 2016 election in an attempt to gauge the mood of educators and students in our country. More than 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and others who work in schools responded and, “The survey data indicate that the results of the election are having a profoundly negative impact on schools and students.”
Ninety percent of respondents reported that the election results negatively impacted school climate and they believe that the effects will be long lasting. Eighty percent of respondents described concerns and heightened anxiety for students and families. Teachers reported that the issues they were describing were new and growing, “I have seen open racism, spoken, for the first time in 23 years of teaching.” stated a middle school teacher in Michigan. Another middle school teacher in Wisconsin stated, “I have never directly encountered race-related harassment in our school until after the election this year.” Most of these educators are reporting tension and fear among their students. Nearly 1,000 teachers reported fearing deportation, and family separation “as a concern among students.” Targeting and harassment has increased. A middle school counselor in Florida reported troubling events, “In a 24-hour period, I completed two suicide assessments and two threat of violence assessments for middle school students. This was last week, one week after the election... students were threatening violence against African Americans. Students were suicidal and without hope. Fights, disrespect have increased as well.” A kindergartner in Tennessee asked her teacher, “Are they going to do anything to me? Am I safe?” Communities are experiencing divisions opened by the election.
                There were a small number of exceptions to the overwhelming responses of negative effects following the election. There was a very small minority of reports from teachers that there was little impact on their students or schools following the election. Students at a high school in Alabama stated that “regardless of who won, we are still in this country together and we will make the most of it. They really did not see that whoever won would make a difference in their lives.” A high school teacher in Idaho reported, “They reacted, but they moved on faster than the adults are.” Other schools that were able to report little impact in their communities reported that they had worked hard to establish “inclusive welcoming communities”. One California high school teacher reported that, “The students were devastated by the election results, as were most of our faculty and staff members. However, the darkness of the election brought us all closer together and in a positive and proactive way!”
The study detailed in this report was not scientific. Over 10,000 people responded to this survey and submitted over 25,000 comments. All participants of this study chose to participate. The results show a disturbing nationwide problem highlighted in the report as the following:
• Nine out of 10 educators who responded have seen a negative impact on students’ mood and behavior following the election; most of them worry about the continuing impact for the remainder of the school year.
• Eight in 10 report heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT students.
• Four in 10 have heard derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation.
• Half said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they’d supported.
• Although two-thirds report that administrators have been “responsive,” four out of 10 don’t think their schools have action plans to respond to incidents of hate and bias.
• Over 2,500 educators described specific incidents of bigotry and harassment that can be directly traced to election rhetoric. These incidents include graffiti (including swastikas), assaults on students and teachers, property damage, fights and threats of violence.
• Because of the heightened emotion, half are hesitant to discuss the election in class. Some principals have told teachers to refrain from discussing or addressing the election in any way.
Much like their pre-election survey participants responded to open ended questions where they could provide free responses and were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements. The list of questions can be found in the report at:

Want to read the entire report, visit:

Friday, December 9, 2016

The “Gaslighting” of America and the Banning of Books in Schools

We are passing on information about an article from today’s Washington Post that may be of interest to our readers.
The article discusses the usual concerns raised about book censorship in schools, but of particular interest, is a quote from a teacher defending the teaching of Huckleberry Finn despite concerns over its use of racial slurs.  In “The Top 10 Books Most Challenged in Schools and Libraries,” the teacher provides an additional defense for teaching the novel in this new “Age of Trump.”
  The Top 10 Books Most Challenged in Schools and Libraries

Quote from English teacher Peter Greene’s blog, Curmudgucation, that appeared in the article:
But in 2016, as we enter the Age of Trump, there’s another reason we have to keep teaching these works. Call it the gaslighting defense.
Because among the many things that Trump has elevated further into the mainstream, we have the 6-year-old’s defense. “I never did that!” We are now taking denial to new heights with a president-elect who is willing to declare that he never said that which we have him on tape saying. 
Among the many things I’m braced for is the gaslighting of America, the attempt to talk our way out of past offenses with a determined, “I don’t know what you’re so upset about. That never happened.”
…And so to all the other defenses of classic literature, let’s make sure we’ve included the idea of gaslight protection, the necessity of reminding ourselves that, yes, this stuff did happen, and yes, it was bad, really bad, and, no, people aren’t just making it up for political leverage. The best antidote to gaslighting is reality, even if that reality is ugly and hurtful. It’s our job as educators to make sure that we aren’t just dropping the ugly reality on our students like a pile of railroad ties; we’re supposed to be right there to supply context and support and reassurance that, yes, this was just as wrong as you think it is even as we revisit our past through the eyes of authors who also knew that this treatment was wrong.
Yes, Huck Finn is a problematic text for many reasons. But it’s also the first real attempt to create a truly American novel, and consequently its problems are a reflection of America’s problems, from the ugly racism of slavery to the subtler racism of folks who believed they were anti-racism. But for me, that’s why in this day and age teaching it is more important than ever — to say, “Yes, this happened, and this is how we were, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
We are thinking about publishing an issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy on the theme: “Educating Citizens in the Age of Trump.”   If you have any ideas on the sub-topics for such an issue, pass them on to us.