In January 2009, when Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, the Philadelphia School District made special accommodations to televise the event in classrooms across the city. I remember quite distinctly my school's building engineer visiting my classroom several days before the historic ceremony to ensure I had a working cable connected to my television.
I also remember the district sending out a special lesson plan for educators to use during the inauguration, a plan that praised Obama's great achievement and encouraged students to reflect upon the historical significance of the moment.
On Nov. 9, the day after Donald Trump's historical upset of Hillary Clinton, the Philadelphia School District sent out another memo to its educators, this one regarding the 2016 presidential election. Only this one wasn't about offering praise or setting up a special lesson in honor of Trump's achievement.
Titled, "Talking to Children About the Election Results," the memo instructed educators to use "social-emotional" learning to help students process their feelings. "It is not our job to tell students what is right or wrong about the election or to tell students what they should or should not believe or feel," the memo stated.
Instead, teachers were encouraged to help students employ "self" and "social awareness" to get at the root of what they might be feeling, in order for them to make responsible decisions.
As both an English teacher and certified high school counselor, I see the value in what the district is trying to achieve. Many students in Philadelphia have been conditioned to hate Trump, and accepting him as president might be hard for them to swallow.
With that said, however, there is still an element of hypocrisy to the district's directive. For all their talk of tolerance and accepting differing points of view, you'd think the district would embrace the election of Trump as a "teachable moment," a time to cut through all the muck and propaganda and genuinely try to calm the animosity.
Instead of telling teachers to remain neutral, perhaps the district could explicitly make it clear that our president-elect is not a monster or serial rapist, and that it is not OK for staff or students to slander, disparage, harass, or bully Trump and his supporters.
Imagine if, at any point over the past eight years, district staff or students were bullied or harassed because they supported Obama? Imagine if Obama himself were slandered? Do you think the district would send out a memo instructing teachers to remain neutral and objective? To refrain from telling students what is right or wrong?
It's amazing how casually people who don't agree with Trump will vilify him, as if everyone within earshot shares their limited worldview. As if calling Trump supporters dumb, uneducated, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and xenophobic were like talking about the weather.
Have you seen the white trash that's voting for Trump? Real morons, they are.
This kind of talk has become so pervasive it's barely noticeable.
But not to Trump supporters, of course. My ears are ringing with insults.
You may not agree with Trump or like his abrasive style, but the extent to which his words and ideas have been misrepresented is a real injustice.
So no, as teachers we shouldn't sit back like some objective observer. We should tell students that this is America, and that it's OK to vote for whomever we want, Trump included.
Christopher Paslay is a Philadelphia teacher. email@example.com