US pupils 'think Donald Trump will put them into slavery’, study says

22nd July 2016 at 00:00
Black and immigrant children in US ‘terrified’ of presidential contender, according to new research

In one school, Latino pupils are bringing their birth certificates into school every day, so as to ensure that they make it through the day without being deported.

In another, African-American children are terrified that they are going to be sent to Africa. And, in a third, Muslim children are being taunted by other students with the words “Isis bomber” and “terrorist”.

Across the US, non-white pupils are going to their teachers in tears, frightened that they will be deported or thrown into detention camps if Donald Trump wins the presidential election, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 US teachers, conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, suggests that Mr Trump’s election campaign is inflaming ethnic and racial tensions in classrooms around the country.

The survey did not cite any of the presidential candidates by name. But, of a total of 5,000 responses to questions, more than 1,000 mentioned Republican presidential-wannabe Donald Trump. By contrast, fewer than 200 mentioned either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, or Ted Cruz, who challenged Mr Trump in the race to become the Republican presidential nominee.

During his campaign for the Republican nomination, which came to a head at the party’s national convention in Ohio this week, Mr Trump attracted attention for his views on minority groups. He has spoken of deporting millions of Latinos, building a wall between the US and Mexico, banning Muslim immigrants and killing the families of Islamic terrorists.

‘We’ll be sent to Africa’

“My students are terrified of Donald Trump,” one teacher, who works at a middle school with a large number of black Muslim pupils, told researchers. “They think that, if he’s elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa.” More than two-thirds of the teachers surveyed reported that some pupils – mainly Muslims, immigrants and the children of immigrants – had expressed fears about what would happen to them after the election.

The report states: “Even native-born African-American children, whose families arrived here before the American Revolution, ask about being sent back to Africa.” Others have expressed concerns about being sent into slavery or rounded up and put in detention camps. And Muslim pupils have asked whether, if Mr Trump became president, they would have microchips implanted under their skin.

More than a third of the teachers surveyed also reported an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant feeling in the classroom.

Chris Waller, professional officer at the UK’s Association for Citizenship Teaching, drew a comparison between the rise in racist attacks in post-Brexit vote Britain and the xenophobia that is currently being expressed in US schools.

“Inflammatory, xenophobic views in public life often provoke xenophobic comments by young people,” he said. “Because they hear a lot of them, and they’re often not provided with a forum to discuss these issues.”

Victims of ‘hatred’

One US teacher reported that a pupil in the fifth grade (equivalent to Year 6) had told a Muslim classmate “that he was supporting Donald Trump, because he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he becomes president”.

“Young children can’t understand why people hate them without even knowing them,” one teacher said.

Another wrote: “My students have one thing in common: apparently America hates them.”

Teachers also told stories of fist fights, playground shouting matches and pupils having panic attacks. In Tennessee, a kindergarten teacher said that a Latino child was told by classmates that he would be deported and trapped behind a wall. He now asks every day: “Is the wall here yet?”

And a middle-school teacher in liberal Portland, Oregon, said that one of her pupils told an immigrant classmate: “When Trump wins, you and your family will get sent back.”

“What does a teacher do?” this teacher said. “If a student says that loudly and brazenly in class, it’s likely far, far worse is happening in the hallway.”

The teacher had been told by her school principal that neither she, nor any of her colleagues, were allowed to discuss the upcoming election with pupils. In fact, the survey showed that more than 40 per cent of respondents were hesitant to teach their students about the presidential election.

Mr Waller, however, insisted that discussing politics in the classroom helps to curb extremist views. “It boils down to having a very strong curriculum for citizenship that includes political literacy – and teachers who feel confident to explore sensitive and controversial issues,” he said.

Several of the survey’s teacher respondents felt similarly. Many raised the importance of fact-checking and critical thinking with their pupils. “I feel it’s my duty to speak out against ignorance,” one Michigan teacher said.

But the report’s authors believe that there is a limit to how much teachers can do to shape students’ views.

“For the sake of children and their education, presidential candidates should begin modelling the kind of civil behaviour and civic values that we all want children to learn in school,” they write. “Barring such a change in tone, teachers and school administrators will face an uphill battle.”

British pupils ‘bamboozled’

In UK classrooms, too, pupils have been nervous, angry and outraged over Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign.

English teacher Kate Metcalfe has been discussing Mr Trump with her pupils at a Bradford comprehensive. “They were incensed by how racist and small-minded he was,” she said. “Totally bamboozled by how he’s managed to get where he is.”

However, she added: “I might have influenced them a little bit.”

And staff at charity Schools Linking, which helps schools to celebrate diversity, have been discussing the potential impact of a Trump victory. Some pupils talked about the idea that Muslims would not be allowed into the US; one child even asked whether this particular policy had already been implemented.

“One student said, ‘We’re not upset by him – we’re annoyed’,” said Meg Henry, of Schools Linking. “He’s going against the codes of what they think is acceptable. There’s a real sense their moral code is offended by Trump, and his statements about Muslims and Mexicans.”

And, added Ms Metcalfe, Mr Trump is more offensive for being so close to home. “In their social context, America is important,” she said. “Trump doesn’t sit comfortably with what they think America is.”

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