Make GDS Great Again: How not to talk about Trump

Ben Kaslow-Zieve

Since announcing his candidacy last summer, Donald Trump has come to dominate American life. A news cycle rarely passes without a story involving Trump, nor does a day pass without him coming up in conversation.

Unfortunately, Trump has made his presence felt in the classrooms of GDS as well. Teachers joke about Trump, perhaps half in jest and half in fear, practically on a daily basis. Some students report hearing jokes about him at least once a week, while others say every other day.

To be sure, much of Trump’s rhetoric is at odds with what Georgetown Day School students and teachers believe. The racist remarks about Hispanic immigrants, the Islamophobia and the sexist comments about Megyn Kelly and other prominent women are repugnant. The school as a whole or individual teachers can and should condemn these remarks and make sure that students understand that the comments themselves and the hatred behind them are not acceptable. “I have no problem with teachers taking a stand against hate,” said junior Kyland Smith.

However, teachers routinely making jokes about Trump, whether about his hair or his policy ideas, is a step too far. The leading candidate for the presidential nomination from a major party should not be the target of jokes about hair in the classroom. If teachers do not make fun of Bernie Sanders unkempt hair, they should not make fun of Trump’s comb-over. It shows a lack of respect.

Of course, teachers do not have to respect Trump. He has lost the respect of millions of Americans over the past year. However, teachers should make an effort to be non-partisan in the classroom and not be openly disrespectful. “It is not really their job to invalidate what is or what could be some student’s belief,” said junior Zander Bhatia. “Ultimately, some teachers have created an environment in which a student might feel uncomfortable revealing their political beliefs,” Bhatia continued. Smith added, “When jokes extend to policy, like saying Trump does not know anything about trade, I think that should stay out of the classroom.”

Rather than disparaging Trump by joking about his lack of experience, his lack of cohesive policy ideas, or his racism and sexism, teachers should spend more time talking about why Trump has legions of supporters. For what reason have millions of people come out to vote for a man who has offended large portions of the country? Why do his supporters stand by him when Trump refuses to denounce David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan?

Conversations about Trump’s supporters, rather than about the man himself, can give students a better understanding of the country we live in outside of liberal DC. Without asking the tough questions about the nature of Trump’s support, we will not find the answers that GDS students can carry with them outside of GDS to help rid some of America of the hatred and anger that has manifested itself in a Trump nomination.

Next time Trump’s name comes up in the classroom, teachers should start conversation rather than brushing the topic off with a joke.