After several presidential debates that scarcely mentioned K-12 education, the first question of Sunday night’s debate came from a woman who referenced to education — sort of.
“The last presidential debate could have been rated M.A,, mature audiences per T.V. guidelines,” the woman asked. “Knowing that educators assign the presidential debate as homework, do you feel you are modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth?”
In her answer, Clinton did not directly allude to her opponent’s rhetoric — which has been deemed by some to be too crude for young ears.
“I’ve heard from lots of teacher and parents about their concerns about some of the things that are being said in this campaign,” Clinton said.
But she later did — referring to what has been labeled the “Trump Effect” by some educators who argue his rhetoric is infiltrating classrooms and raising anxiety among children of color. She told one story about a child named Felix, who was adopted from Ethiopia, who asked his parents if he would be deported. There have been several other anecdotes along these lines, including one from a Fairfax County school, where a mother said on Facebook that two of her son’s classmates pointed out “immigrants” in the class who would be sent home under a Trump presidency.
But is it widespread? Teaching Tolerance, a project of the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center, prepared a report saying Trump’s rhetoric has contributed to anxiety among some children. The report was based on a survey of 2,000 teachers and the authors acknowledge it was neither scientific nor representative.
“It’s producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inﬂaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported … Other students have been emboldened by the divisive, often juvenile rhetoric in the campaign. Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.”
The National Education Association, which supports Clinton, has launched a campaign to spread the word about what it calls “about the harmful effects of Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric on America’s schoolchildren.”