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In Civics Classrooms, Learning How To Teach Trump

This article is more than 6 years old.

Wednesday morning after Donald Trump's victory, Robert DeLossa woke up thinking: "How am I going to tackle this in my class?"

It's a question educators are asking across the country — how to explain a complex election, and a surprising and divisive outcome, to children of all ages.

DeLossa, a history and political science teacher at Lowell High School, had been following the presidential polls all year — but he hadn't prepared his students for the possibility of a Trump win. And so DeLossa rushed to his 12th-grade political science class at Lowell High School with an idea: Let the students lead the discussion.

Lowell High School students transcribe their remaining election questions. (Tonya Mosley/WBUR)
Lowell High School students transcribe their remaining election questions. (Tonya Mosley/WBUR)

DeLossa' students got into groups of four and wrote down 10 questions they each had about the outcome of the presidential election.

One group of 12th-grade girls huddled in a circle and started to write. Shelby Sawtelle, 18, stopped to look over at her classmates' questions. There are some about pending sexual assault suits against Donald Trump, about the Electoral College (and why we still need it), about Trump's connection with uneducated voters and his plan for America.

Nearly 60 percent of Lowell High School students are Latino or Asian. DeLossa said he's gotten an earful from kids who are downright afraid of Trump becoming president.

"Almost overwhelmingly there is anger, disbelief and fear," he said, "because some of our students who are immigrants are asking, 'What's going to happen with us? Are people going to come after us?' "

There are also many students who come from white working-class families, the base of Trump's support.

Tucked in the corner of the classroom, four male students -- including three Trump supporters -- put down their pens and started talking.

Lowell High School students examine a map showing electoral college votes. (Tonya Mosley/WBUR)
Lowell High School students examine a map showing electoral college votes. (Tonya Mosley/WBUR)

Joe Burke, 17, led the conversation.

"I actually went to a Trump rally in Lowell in January, and it was very electric," he said. "Like you could see the passion in the people — like, these people wanted to vote."

Burke said it's actually been hard to be vocal in school about his support for Trump. This moment in class, after Republican victories in the White House and across Congress, felt therapeutic.

Brian Arias, also 17, broke into the discussion. For most of election night, he said, he watched his mom console a friend.

"She kept calling checking on the elections and she kept crying, crying, crying," he said. "Because she's Dominican, and she doesn't have her papers."

Class was almost over, and DeLossa had a student stand up to read the top questions among the class:

"Why was Trump still nominated despite the fact that his party did not approve of him?"

"How did the media affect the election?"

"To what extent did gender and race play a role in the election?"

These seniors will spend the next few weeks exploring the answers to these questions.

DeLossa said for these students on the cusp of adulthood, this impromptu exercise is a way for them to feel empowered, so that they can make their voices heard in the next election.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the percentage of Lowell High School students who are Latino or Asian. It is 60 percent. We regret the error.

This article was originally published on November 10, 2016.

This segment aired on November 10, 2016.


Tonya Mosley Correspondent, Here & Now
Tonya Mosley was the LA-based co-host of Here & Now.



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