For educators, a central challenge of the Trump presidency is teaching students to engage in debates with a sense of respectfulness Donald Trump seldom uses in his public discourse, according to Penn GSE’s Jonathan Zimmerman.
Writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer days after reports that Trump disparaged Haiti and African nations in a Cabinet meeting, Zimmerman offered advice for a teacher whose student uses Trump’s words in a debate about immigration.
“Here’s what you shouldn’t do: dismiss the student’s statement as racist,” Zimmerman writes. In the meantime, teachers should “teach young people a more kind, measured, and respectful brand of behavior.”
“Although students should be free to make up their own minds about controversial public questions, they should not be allowed to malign entire peoples or nations. They can agree with President Trump about immigration if they’d like. But they can’t talk like him, at least not in school.”
“That’s the key distinction that we all need to keep in mind amid the ongoing controversy over Trump’s comments. In a democracy, by definition, we must debate differences of policy. But we also need to uphold shared norms of civility or our democracy—and the debates that define it—will fall apart.”