How to Teach Tolerance
I have a Republican, Trump supporting student in my Composition II class. We study argumentative writing and this kid in particular stays after every class to talk to me. Not about anything in particular, he just talks to me. It’s not creepy like he has a crush on me, he is genuinely a nerdy teacher’s pet.
He asked me the other day if he should do his final research paper on Climate Change. He doesn’t believe in Global Warming etc. Yes, I said yes. I am so curious to know what kind of ‘science’ exists on the other side of the spectrum! I’m excited to find out something I don’t already know.
This kid is gentle and mannered, he minds his p’s and q’s and got a perfect grade on his last paper about why Gay Marriage should be illegal. His first paper was on why Creationism instead of Evolution should be taught in secondary schools.
I know, I know what you are thinking. But the thing is, I’m his professor, teacher, mentor and at this point, we are kind of friends. He knows I completely disagree with everything that he writes, however. he does it so well.
I respect him.
I am not here to judge him, in fact quite the opposite, I’m here to teach him how to make his arguments even stronger.
He knows where I stand politically, a little left of left. But he still stays after class to discuss something or another with me. We don’t debate the controversial topics in our conversations, instead, we talk about assignments and have light-hearted banter. I genuinely care about this kid. I don’t think he’s stupid. I don’t think he’s racist. I just think he’s wrong.
I am actually fascinated by how he defends his positions, he uses very rational, logical arguments.
He’s just a nice, smart person. He was homeschooled and wants to go to trade school, a simple guy.
I don’t judge him for his views which I personally think are outrageously incorrect and misguided. When I step into the college where I teach, I take my judgy eyes and put on rose colored glasses. We do debates in our class on a regular basis. At this point, I know who is conservative and who is liberal. But I don’t see them that way, I see them as students. My kids. I see them as people.
We are not just our political views.
In high school, I gave a speech on being Pro-Life. I was Pro-Life in my freshman year of high school. My speech was so good my teacher cried. She was a fanatic liberal herself, but I made her tear up.
Politics are complicated. People are complicated.
I don’t hate Trump supporters. I just don’t agree with them. I will break bread with them. I will let the Trump voting Uber Driver take me to my destination safely. I will let that Conservative Republican doctor who makes $500,000 dollars a year operate on me because he’s the best surgeon in my area.
However, please don’t get me wrong. I am angry. I am hurt. I feel sad. Most of all I’m disappointed with the fact that half of the voting population could vote for a monster with all his racist, misogynist, xenophobic etc. rhetoric. But I don’t think that half of the voting population is racist or rapists or that they want to deport their Latino coworkers.
I think a huge mistake was made. I think we will find in the next few years that it was a hoax. Even Donald Trump doesn’t believe Donald Trump. He said things to get a reaction. He said things to win. Now that he won what will he do with himself?
I don’t think that on the other side of this invisible wall are bad people. I would let my friend’s father in my home, even though I know he voted for Trump. I knew his views before Trump was elected and I sat in his home, and let him cook for me.
This is not about Trump. Trump appealed to the revolt in people and hate of the government. The hate of establishment. Hillary wasn’t my first choice. I realize she’s political royalty. (I wouldn’t send her an email if my life depended on it.) This is not about Hillary Clinton either.
America belongs to us: The People.
Forget about the politicians for one second. Forget about political parties. What do we all really need or want? Peace.
That does not mean we don’t have the right, and perhaps the duty to protest. But looting and violence is not going to further our cause, it is the very thing we are protesting against. We want America to stop looting us and killing us slowly.
I have friends who are Trump supporters. I have hugged them. I love them. But I have my lines too. I won’t date a Republican. When it comes to my very personal life, it’s too important to me.
I have that right.
But perhaps I have the duty to look at all people the way I look at my students. There is a yearning in their eyes. They may change their opinions a hundred times over. But I will never grade them subjectively.
You don’t have to agree with me to get an A in my class.