A Voice for My Students
by Julie Rine, Honors English teacher at Minerva High School
Each time I vote, I have a clear image in my mind of my 12-year old daughter and my teenage students. I vote for the candidate who will have the most positive impact on their lives and who will be a good role model, someone for them to look up to and emulate. The choice this presidential election is blatantly obvious to me: I will proudly vote for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.
In the past, several of my friends and colleagues have voted for the Republican candidate for reasons of their own, and while I disagreed with their choice and engaged in political debate with them, it was always respectful discourse. Although I may not have agreed with past Republican candidates’ positions on many issues, I never feared for the future of our country if they were elected.
This year is different. I truly cannot fathom how any public school teacher can vote for Donald Trump. Tellingly, he announced his education “plan” at a charter school in Ohio, a state where the large majority of charter schools have proven to be scandal-ridden, epic failures while draining money from public schools. His website describes a vague plan that advocates for school choice. In contrast, Hillary has a detailed plan to support public education that spans from pre-K through college and addresses everything from poverty to campus sexual assault.
However, that is not the biggest reason why it boggles my mind that any teacher could vote for Trump. When Trump makes his offensive and generalized statements, I don’t visualize a blurry picture of a group of people. I see the faces of my students, who have names, stories, value, and worth. Students who deserve to grow up in a country where they feel that their “differences” are assets, not burdens to bear. I shudder to think about my students coming of age in a world where the President insults and mocks those who are different from him.
I want my students to feel that if they met the President, he or she would respect them. My students with disabilities would certainly not feel that way if Trump were President. My female students have enough trouble maintaining a high self-esteem in a world where if they are not traditionally beautiful, they are not valued. They don’t need a President who feeds their fears of not being “pretty enough”. My girls already see men like Brock Turner getting ridiculously light sentences in spite of committing rape; they don’t need a President who brags about touching women in sexually aggressive ways as if it is his right as a powerful man to do so. My students who struggle to manage their anger do not need a President who frequently loses his own temper and even advocates violence. My students who are not white Christians already know that Trump has disdain for their cultures and their religions; some of them might actually fear meeting him in person. My gay students must certainly fear what would happen if Trump follows his running mate Pence’s lead in legislating hate.
The Trump website says, “I am your voice.” Let me assure you that he is not MY voice, or any voice that I want speaking for my students.
Teachers, of course, like anyone else, can vote for whomever they choose. I know there are some who do not share my beliefs and I try to respect that even though, if I am honest, I do not understand it.
So how will I, my students, my colleagues, and our country deal with the aftermath of the Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton campaign?
We must remember that it is our democracy that has allowed such polarizing candidates to reach this point, and while it may not be pretty now, this conflict, this push/pull, this dichotomy is what our democracy depends upon.
Regardless of personal political leanings, America’s teachers are in a position to lead the way. There are students in my classes who are vocal supporters of Donald Trump; I must continue to model respect for them no matter who wins this election. Teachers must continue to teach the beauty and importance of our democracy and of a peaceful transference of power, despite the ugliness of this campaign. In one of our schools today sits a future President, and how he or she views this great country might very well depend upon how teachers deal with the aftermath of this election in our classrooms.