The Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal-leaning advocacy organization, asked 2,000 teachers to weigh in on this question recently, in a report titled The Trump Effect. It was not a scientific sample, but of those who filled out the survey, more than two-thirds reported that students — especially immigrants, first-generation students and Muslims — have expressed fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.
A Tennessee kindergarten teacher wrote:
“Kindergarten students look at their ELL peers and tell them that they ‘will get [de]ported soon and never come back because there’s going to be a big wall to keep kids with brown skin out.’ Imagine the fear in my students’ eyes when they look to me for the truth. One student asks every day, ‘Is the wall here yet?’ In over twenty years of working with young children, I have never witnessed anything like it.”
Teachers are responding to the unique challenges of this campaign in different ways. Some are avoiding bringing up the election at all, with 40 percent of teachers in the SPLC survey saying they’re hesitant to teach about it.
On the other hand, Charles Quigley, of the Center for Civic Education, says interest in his organization’s programming has never been stronger. The group offers tools, resources, and training to teachers to teach about the workings of American government.
Many teachers, it seems, are determined to use the heightened interest in this election as a learning opportunity.