“If Trump were a student at our school, he would be expelled.”
During a recent alumni cocktail reception for the boarding school I had attended in high school, the headmistress was asked a difficult question regarding the current political climate. “How do you explain the current administration’s ethics to the student body?” one woman asked. The headmistress, a dignified and elegant woman from England, took a moment before answering. She finally replied, “It is a very difficult situation to address political topics in a school that prides itself on the values of fairness and democracy with respect to all differing opinions. So out of respect for our collective right to not always see things the same way about political issues, we boil it down to the governing principles of our own code of ethics of our school. The reality is, that if our current president were a student at our school and behaved the way he did with the name calling, the bullying, the lying and the bigotry, he would be expelled.”
In creating the defining boundaries of correct behavior for our teens, when they live in a world where a first class, grade A narcissistic bully has taken charge, we are in unchartered territory. As parents,we are left in a sociological vacuum for modelling not only, what is good leadership, but honestly, for what is just decent human behavior. The headmistresses explanation spoke volumes to me about the need to keep it simple with our young adults. In terms of trying to make ethical sense of all the nonsense, it does simply come down to right and wrong. Is it right to create prejudice and fear by lumping all Mexicans and Muslims into negative categories? No. Is it acceptable behavior for a man to boast about sexually assaulting women? Never. Is it reasonable to admire someone who brags constantly and puts down others to self aggrandize? Of course not.
But we are in a very difficult position as parents and as educators of this next generation who is living under this definition of what now is a leader.
Our job is to keep it simple sometimes. Sure, we can get into more elaborate discussions with our teens about policy and history and political ideology behind what put him into power. But at the end of the day, character is character. And wrong is wrong. Sometimes the simple reminder of “do unto others as you would have done unto you,” is a sufficient measure of any political belief or agenda. When the free press is being consistently discredited as fake news, we must be the truth bearers and teach our kids that seeking the truth is the ultimate goal of democracy. When our leaders do not model good behavior, we as parents must still hold the light of truth up for our young people and call out the falsehoods and injustice. We must help mold critical thinking, kindness and the principal of truth as paramount to our teens in times when these values seem hard to find.