Welcome back, teachers; understanding Trump, Part Two

By Reade Brower | Sep 07, 2017

“The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'

--- Maria Montessori, teacher and educator (1870-1952)


With Labor Day behind us, the summer tourists have departed (the leaf-peepers are just around the corner) and school has begun.

With that, a shout-out to teachers and a plea to parents and school administrators to give them the support they need, the help they deserve, and a paycheck that rewards them for what has to be one of the most important jobs on earth; working with our young people and taking them part way on a lifetime journey called learning.

I challenge parents to write their children’s teachers this week and thank them for being there, while asking for specifics on how they can help; finding out the need, whether it is supplies or moral support, is a start. Supporting them is the beginning of respect.

David L. Kirp wrote a piece in the New York Times headlined; “Don’t Suspend Students. Empathize.” It was about Jason Okonofua, categorized in his childhood as a classroom troublemaker. He was black-skinned and seen as defiant and destined for punishment, leaving Jason feeling “attacked and humiliated.” A downward spiral and (as research bears out) one that creates racial stereotypes, which end up playing out to expectations. When you expect the worst, you often get the worst.

In spite of that, Jason went on and became a psychology professor at Berkeley who now helps teachers understand that empathy, not punishment, is the most effective way to motivate and move students forward.

Jason’s story is interesting. As a student he was not trying to irritate his teachers; his lack of attention in class was more about his lamenting about his friends who had been arrested or shot, and he couldn’t stay awake or concentrate because he was exhausted by restaurant work that would keep him until midnight.

Understanding his plight might have explained his behaviors and given his teachers a desire to help him, not punish him. Kirp’s research says that African-American students are three times as likely to get expelled or suspended, which leads them to the conclusion that the cards are stacked against them, so they stop trusting teachers, fall further behind, and become dropouts if they are not pushed out.

Getting rid of the “bad seeds” is supposed to benefit the “good students,” but this kind of discipline, Kirp says, leads to a “lose-lose” proposition. However, combining discipline with rapport left those punished by the system feeling more regard, when surveyed, for the teachers, who had taken a tutorial on the subject of empathy.

The bottom line is about connection and helping teachers let students know, regardless of their color or social status, that they belong and are valued. It’s not a novel idea, but it is an idea that needs more focus.

As a fan of restorative justice, I believe there are better ways to do what we’re doing. We should do it because, simply put, the children of today are the adults of tomorrow, and they hold our future in their hands. When we become senior citizens, we will be best served by adults who are ruled by empathy and love.


Writing about our president, Donald Trump, is like driving by a car wreck – you don’t want to look, know you should keep your eyes focused straight ahead, but you just can’t help gawking.

Over the last several columns, trying to understand him has gotten muddled in the facts of who he is and what he does – coupled with his own personal history.

Starting with his history; it is hard to understand why we, as a nation, would hire someone with the qualities and history of Trump. It becomes hard not to write about who he is and what he stands for, rather than accept the “why did we elect this man” for the highest office of our land.

I have come to understand it; sometimes writing is cathartic and helpful, in that we begin to see what is. This seems to be more about who we are, not who he is. In general, we don’t like our politicians and we don’t trust them. S, it seems that Trump continues to create his own storylines, with people who buy into him just wanting to be angry with the way things are and not regarding the truth as sacred.

The idea that he and his supporters try to spin and pivot that somehow this should still be about Hillary Clinton and her emails seems odd to me; Trump won the election, and to think that former FBI Director James Comey’s influence wasn’t a big reason for that (his timing of calling her out just before the election seemed to doom her) now has turned into Comey broke some laws or ethics by not indicting her – this seems, at the least, self-serving to the Trump story, or at best, odd.

I take most things with a grain of salt, but the Forbes Magazine story on how Donald Trump shifted children's-cancer charity money into his business got me thinking: what does it take for Trump supporters to jump off the Trump train?

Then, last week, his promise to donate $1 million of his own money to Hurricane Harvey relief brought out some sobering facts about other “personal donations” he’s claimed that have come from his foundation, not him personally, funded by other private donors, not Trump. Also mentioned was the $5 million he offered for proof Obama was born in the USA – proof he got, but another promise never made good.

Understanding Trump is not the point. In the end; what needs to happen is that all Americans need to look deep into themselves and do what it takes to help our neighbors.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Sep 13, 2017 18:23

"It is painfully plausible and all too real. The evidence suggesting that Donald Trump may have serious mental health problems is overwhelming.

He is a compulsive liar who creates his own fantasy world. Trump is also extremely moody and impulsive. Trump’s advisers have to satisfy his extreme narcissism and nurture his detachment from reality by presenting him — on a twice-daily basis — with a file folder full of “good news”. Fellow Republicans have been recorded on a hot mike suggesting that Trump may be “crazy.” The American news media, as well as commentators from other countries, have voiced serious concerns about Trump’s mental health and the threat it poses to global security.

...  Dr. Lance Dodes...  assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School (retired) and a training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute.

Dodes is a signatory to the much-discussed February 2017 open letter to the New York Times that sought to warn the public about the dangers posed by Donald Trump’s mental health. He is also a contributing writer for the new book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”


Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Sep 13, 2017 12:25

Yes it is the Christian thing to do; "Turn the other cheek".  Living with an election faux-pas is hard. But elections come and go and change will be good. It seems to speak to the problem of elections that politicians know how to get things done and perhaps non-politicians do not.

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