Lessons to Be Learned From Chrysler Elementary in the Trump Era
Lt., Captain, & President
What Are Our Children Learning?
Looking through the lens of Google Earth one can zoom in on the White House and detect the inner workings of distrust, confusion, mayhem, and rumors of wars. At the same time one could close in on 1445 East Lafayette in the City of Detroit and this block would reveal just the opposite: a glimmer of hope for children.
On Oct. 5 at 6:59 am, President Trump was tweeting to the nation regarding fake news. Around the same time Kenneth Young was placing orange cones at the Chrysler Elementary School drive way preparing for another school day. Mr. Young is the president of the Chrysler Elementary School’s Dad Club in the City of Detroit, and along with other hard-working fathers, these men are bringing a sense of dignity and order to a street in America.
Trump and Young are two men under one nation, but on opposite poles of the country’s spectrum. The President is wealthy, meanwhile Young works. The President divides in hopes of conquering. Young conquers with the hope of uniting. Trump is making America a more chaotic place while Young and his comrades, Travis Turner and Rueben Washington, just to name a few, are making America a better place.
The President of the United States is viewed worldwide. Kenneth Young is only known around Chrysler Elementary, at his church, on his job, and in his community. Each of these men contribute to the fabric of America. Young’s contributions are the thread that holds the key for making communities safer, as well as making a city block protected and secure for hundreds of elementary school children in Detroit. Donald Trump’s contributions have been shamefully unrequited. David Brooks, a New York Times columnist worries that the “moral vacuum in the house of Trump has devolved American culture to the point where bad behavior has no consequences.”
Young has a troupe of 4th and 5th grade safety patrollers under his guidance. The students assist with the cones, the raising and lowering of the Flag, and they direct students to walk within the designated pedestrian zones. The men are ideal mentors to the young safety patrollers. Not all of the youngsters have fathers in the home, and a few have had academic and behavioral issues. Still, Young and the other dads are their watchful guides. What Trump demonstrates to our children is a far cry from the lessons inspired by Young and the other Chrysler dads. The men tolerate no name-calling or violence of any kind. There is harmony, support, and discipline without retribution. The latter takes place under the watchful eye of Chrysler’s Principal, Wendy Shirley.
On any given Saturday or Sunday Young can be found with his ten year old son and some of the safety patrollers biking around Mid-town and Downtown Detroit. He does this on his personal time, and when Sheila Bowen, who has a nephew on the safety patrol, asked Young why he did this, he said. “I have to do what’s in my heart.”
The Children are Listening
Trump, on the other hand, has set a very low bar for our children to emulate. He has coined such phrases as, “Lock her up,” a chant against Hilary Clinton, “Rocket man,” his name for Kim Jong Un of North Korea; “…dumb as a rock…” his description of Mika Brzezinski, a morning show news reporter; and when referring to television host and comedian Rosie O’Donnell he said “If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’" And one cannot forget his most recent inflammatory language used against NFL protestors. "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now? He is fired. He's fired!"
According to a Buzzfeed News report, schools have taken on an “...alarming twist.… The trickle-down effect of Trump’s campaign rhetoric and election is now being felt among kids in schools across the country.” White students use the president’s words and slogans to bully Latino, Middle Eastern, Black, Asian, and Jewish classmates. “The ugly side of Trump’s America is showing up in schools everywhere.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Trump’s administration is producing a novel level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. Many students worry about being deported. Teachers have also noted an increase in bullying, harassment, and intimidation of students whose races, religions, or nationalities had been the verbal targets of Trump’s candidacy.
"The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools," expounds on some disturbing stories. “In Tennessee, a kindergarten teacher says a Latino child—told by classmates that he will be deported and trapped behind a wall—[he] asks every day, 'Is the wall here yet?' And, In the parking lot of a high school in Shakopee, Minnesota, boys in Donald Trump shirts gathered around a black teenage girl and sang a portion of 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' replacing the closing line with “and the home of the slaves” ( June 6, 2017).
According to The Economists (Aug. 19, 2017) Trump has no grasp of what it means to be president. In "Twilight of American Sanity” Allen Frances warns that “Trump is a threat to the United States, and to the world, not because he is clinically mad, but because he is very bad…” And Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) cautions Americans that Trump’s reckless threats could put the nation “on the path to World War III.”
For the most part there are unsung individuals interwoven within the fabric of this entire nation. They seek a common medium and a humane balance of justice and peace. Kenneth Young may continue to go unsung, and at times nameless. But without America’s reticent sentinels to provide inspiration and hope, our moral compass might continue to malfunction and result in children growing up wanting to be just like the current president of the United States. The majority of the safety patrollers at Chrysler are African American. Studies are replete with evidence of Black boys being disciplined and expelled at a greater rate than their white counterparts. To this end, Young is giving these boys a sense of duty, an understanding of pride, and paving the way for a small but dedicated group of young African Americans to comprehend the virtues of service to America.
Wendy Shirley, Principal
© 2017 Linda Joy Johnson