Tuesday, September 27, 2016
If Donald Trump is elected, it won't be the end of the world
I taught a writing class called Creative Language Arts at Diamond Middle School. The man who previously taught the class had moved to the high school, which was located on the same campus, so I asked him where I could find the curriculum for the class.
"There is no curriculum," he said. "You make it up as you go along."
For a beginning teacher who had not been in a classroom since my student teaching, also at Diamond, in 1981, those were not words that were welcome to my ears. I needed structure and if there was going to be any structure, I had to be the one to provide it.
My initial lack of structure turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. I was able to write a curriculum that embraced everyday writing and examined issues that were in the news.
I did not have folders filled with old lesson plans. Another teacher taught the traditional English class, so I was able to concentrate completely on improving students' writing skills and much of that was done through the news- everything from personal essays to compare-contrast papers, to research papers. The class featured frequent discussions and occasionally a video recorded from a news program.
In the late fall of 1999, the 2000 presidential race was well underway. There was no secret as to who would be the Democratic candidate. Vice President Al Gore had that wrapped up.
The Republican race was another matter. A dozen candidates had thrown their hats in the ring, with the best known names belonging to former Texas Governor George W. Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain.
The list also included a businessman with no background in politics, Steve Forbes, an African American conservative who also had no background in politics, except for a stint as an ambassador, Allan Keyes, Sen. Orrin Hatch from Utah, and some others.
I recorded an early debate and inflicted it on my classes. At first, they were upset that they were having to sit through a bunch of old men talking, but as the hour moved along, they were beginning to get into it.
The debate occurred before George W. Bush hit his stride and he performed poorly. It was not one of McCain's best either.
However, when it came time for the class discussion and papers on the debate, it was no surprise that many of the students thought Bush or McCain had done the best. After all, those were the names they had heard the most often. A surprising number thought the best candidate was Keyes, who was on the far right of the far right. Keyes was well-spoken and struck a chord with those students.
One girl, Melissa, was steadfast in her support for Orrin Hatch during the discussion and I had a hard time figuring out why. Though he had considerable experience, he did nothing to make himself stand out. To Melissa, no one but Orrin Hatch would do.
The next day, the students wrote a paper in which they were to provide examples from the debate on why they supported their favorite candidates. It came as no surprise that Melissa wrote about Orrin Hatch. As it turned out, she had an excellent reason, in addition to his qualifications, to support the senator- Melissa had grown up in Utah before moving to Missouri and she was familiar with Hatch.
The students' papers offered insight into their thinking and often, the thinking of their parents, as well.
The following year, Orrin Hatch, Allan Keyes, and even McCain were long since gone and the only two remaining were Al Gore and George W. Bush. I showed a portion of one of their debates to my classes and in their papers, quite a few of them wrote something in the line of "Couldn't we come up with anyone better?"
It was a question I had heard before.
How in the world did we end up with Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey in 1968, a year when an obscure senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy, developed a strong following among young people and another candidate, Robert F, Kennedy, the brother of a former president, and the governor of a large state who appeared to be far more qualified than Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, were in the race? There was even a Romney in that election, Mitt's father, George, who dropped out before the race really got underway.
And we ended up with Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey?
But it wasn't just 1968. I remember hearing the same thing four years later when the choice was Nixon and George McGovern and four years after that with unelected President Gerald Ford and obscure former Gov. Jimmy Carter.
Now that I think of it, every four years comes around and we end up with two people that we wonder how they ever wound up as their party's presidential nominees.
Come on. An actor named Ronald Reagan. The next thing you know some reality television star will be elected president.
If someone had suggested 20 years ago that the general election presidential candidates in 2016 would be the First Lady and someone whose television experience had consisted more of WWE than C-SPAN that person would have been considered to be someone in serious need of psychiatric help.
How do we end up with these people?
One of our problems is that no one lives up to the picture we have in our minds of what a president should be. No one thought Abraham Lincoln would turn out to be Abraham Lincoln when he first ran for president and history shows even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had their critics.
So we end up once more with a choice that is far from perfect, but what can we do about it? Some are talking about staying at home on election day and that is their choice. If those people don't want to take the time to study the candidates we do have and their stances on various issues and their personal qualities that could either make them great presidents or poor ones, then I would prefer they stayed at home and leave the voting to those who care enough to take the time to study the candidates and the issues.
If we elect Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and it doesn't work out, it won't be the end of the world. The Republic will survive. In two years, we can make changes at mid-term elections in the House and Senate, and two years later, we will select two more candidates to run for president.
And once again we are likely to ask the same question. How do we end up with these people?
Our candidates, just like everyone else in this country, are not perfect, but as long as we involve ourselves in the process, research, vote, and speak out for what we believe, our system will continue to work, maybe not always the way we want, but there's always the next election.