Trump discourse wreaks havoc in the classroom



Try this sometime – mention Donald Trump in a class discussion. When you do so, every student takes notice. Everyone has an opinion. Yet as opinionated as some folks are, there are others who say they are afraid to express their opinion because they don’t want hostility directed toward them.

Recently, I was taking notes in a media course and abruptly the professor asked, “Is anyone a Trump supporter in this class? If so please raise your hand.” Not surprisingly, it chilled any dialogue. In fact, it is disturbing that some professors seem to target Trump supporters as if it were a crime. I don’t support Trump and find many of his actions irrational. Yet I think that the classroom has become increasingly segregated at St. Mike’s into pro- and anti-Trump campus.

Does saying the word ‘Trump’ trigger a sense of tribalism?

“Affiliation is tribalism, motivated against hating other groups,” said John Hughes, Ph.D. professor of political science.

There seems to be no middle ground: one is either a Trump supporter or not, a Democrat or Republican. Everyone picks a side and this raises a question: do we need to change our political etiquette between professors and students when wrestling with a divide in Trump-era politics?

The best professors can engage on both view points of a political debate whether it involves Trump or not. As graduates, we should be civically engaged and those skills are learned in the college classroom. Our ability to constructively engage will help determine our success when navigating politics in the future workplace, home, and social gatherings.

“People tend to retreat into their own little political bubbles [but] you want to surround yourself with people who don’t think like you do,” Hughes said.

Jan. 19 marks one year since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Since then, the dynamic of classrooms has affected my coursework and class discussion.

Professors set the tone of the classroom and it is their responsibility to not target students based upon their political beliefs.

We cannot avoid discussing Trump. Some college institutions have decided to abstain from Trump discussion. That’s not the solution. We have to discuss Trump respectfully and thoughtfully. We should not live inside of political bubbles. We need to be full members of whatever community we live in.