Classroom Resources for Trump’s First 100 Days

Starting today, the Shoah Foundation, an education group from the University of Southern California that disseminates information about the Holocaust to schools, will release a new activity, resource, or professional development opportunity, one per day, for the first 100 days of President Trump’s term of office. The initiative is called ”100 Days to Inspire Respect” and covers subjects including hate; racism; civil and human rights; community; respect; intolerance; women’s rights; immigrants and refugees; cross-cultural understanding; courage; violence and violent extremism; indifference through media; resilience; and civic responsibility. Activities range from a 15-minute writing exercise on stories that unite or divide peoples, to week-long studies that include reading testimonies from survivors of the Holocaust and the genocides that occurred in Rwanda, China, Armenia, and Guatemala.

This type of curriculum can help serve as a bulwark in the classroom against attempts by Trump and his administration to cloud the air with suspicion, hate, racism, bullying, and other attributes that are counter to America’s commitment to free speech, equality among peoples, and spirit of freedom.

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Teaching Our Children to Think Critically in the Trump Era

An old tale has it that a man visits a friend and wants to borrow his donkey for the day.  The friend tells him he’s sorry but he lent his donkey out.  The man leaves the house, but as he goes he hears the donkey braying in the back yard. He rushes back to the friend’s house, knocks on the door, and the friend opens the door and says ”Yes?”  The man says, ”I thought you said you lent your donkey out for the day!” ”Yes, I did,” replies the friend.  ”But I can hear your donkey braying in the back yard.” And the friend replies:  ”Who are you going to believe, the donkey or me?”

According to President Donald Trump, the crowds for his inauguration easily eclipsed that of President Obama.  He said:  ”It looked honestly like a million and a half people, whatever it was, it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.”  The White House press secretary Sean Spicer, accused the media of spreading falsehoods about the size of the inauguration. Fortunately, we have photos to make up our own minds (below).   Who are you going to believe, the Trump Administration, or your own eyes?

Fascist, Bolshevik, and other authoritarian governments routinely told their people how things went down in their countries, while the reality was something quite different. As educators, we need to teach our children to think critically, to examine the evidence, and not simply to take what someone has said at face value just because they bellow it loudly enough.  At no time in U.S. history was this more important than right now.  Teachers, help your students examine the truth of things in government very carefully over the next four years!


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Read My New Article on Student Choice in Education Week Teacher

Check out the latest online edition of Education Week Teacher, which today published my  article, ”5 Ways to Use Student Choice to Improve Learning.” In the piece, I focus on specific ways in which middle school and high school educators can provide more opportunities for students’ decision-making skills to be stimulated so that they are more likely to make good decisions outside of the classroom as well.  The 5 strategies I focus on include:

  1. Letting students make choices about required reading assignments
  2. Involving students in decisions about school policy
  3. Providing opportunities for independent study
  4. Offering more electives
  5. Using student polling

The areas of the brain that control decision-making are the last to develop in late adolescence and early adulthood and are highly sensitive to environmental influences (a feature of the brain known as ”neuroplasticity”). This article hopes to convince teachers that educating the ”choice muscles” in student’s  brain is as important as the content they’re learning in the classroom.

For more information about giving secondary students choices in the classroom, see my book The Power of the Adolescent Brain:  Strategies for Middle and High School Teachers (ASCD, 2016).

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Words of Wisdom in the Digital Age

“I’m not sitting there watching Twitter. I’m not on Facebook. If you’re speaking to me through Facebook or Twitter, I’m not listening. So let’s start there.

”I’m a fairly disconnected person who operates in a kind of old-fashioned way and I do that deliberately because drinking from this digital fire hose is too much for me.

I’m just not interested in hearing what everyone is saying about each other or for that matter, about me.

If you write me a paper letter, I’ll answer it. Other than that, I’m trying to slow down and get across that it’s all the stuff that is old and slow that you cannot download— that’s the stuff that matters most.”

— From “How to Thrive in Today’s Fast-Changing World,”  an interview with Thomas Friedman, age 63, NY Times Journalist and author of Thank You for Being Late.  Full interview here.

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New Feature: Trump Watch

Today I’m beginning a new category for my blog entitled Trump Watch.  It will consist of blog posts specifically related to Donald Trump and how his pronouncements and policies affect learning and human development, especially as it relates to our children.

In a Tweet Thursday, Trump said that the U.S should greatly expand its nuclear capability.  This may have been a response to a Vladimir Putin speech to Russian military leadership that Russia should increase its nuclear missile strength.  Clearly, both leaders are engaged in a risky game of tit-for-tat that could escalate both arsenals and tensions between the two countries, and endanger the existence of everyone on the planet.  In an earlier post, I had noted that the primary reason for not voting for Trump in the recent presidential election was that his erratic personality could increase the chance of an accidental or purposeful nuclear war, thus extinguishing our children’s chances to grow up and experience the opportunities in life that it is their birthright to have.  Thus, Trump’s statement today clearly endangers our children’s lives.  There can be no rational benefit to expanding our nuclear arsenal, since we already have enough warheads to put an end to virtually all life on earth (cockroaches and bacteria excepted).  Thus, before he has even become our nation’s leader he has demonstrated an extreme level of irresponsibility to our nation’s (and the world’s) children.

In future Trump Watch blog posts, I’ll be looking at Trump’s education policies, and other aspects of his administration in terms of how it could affect our children’s learning and development, as well as the realization of human potential in each of us.

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