Social Studies

In San Francisco, Lesson Plan on Trump Draws Criticism

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — November 16, 2016 3 min read
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The United Educators of San Francisco didn’t mince words in its response to the 2016 Presidential Election. The San Francisco Examiner reports that in a recent newsletter, the City by the Bay’s teachers’ union encouraged teachers to resist any plans and policies that would roll back Americans’ rights and shared a lesson that describes president-elect Donald Trump and his base as racist and sexist.

“Educators have a role to play to help [students] make sense of the new reality, especially those who come from the communities who have been attacked by Trump, and who now face a very uncertain future,” the union wrote in a Nov. 10 newsletter to its members.

That advice for teachers, and the high school lesson plan, caught the attention of the local press. Earlier this week, the San Francisco Chronicle featured an opinion piece with the headline “Anti-Trumpers, Leave the Kids Alone.” Conservative columnist Debra Saunders writes that the lesson doesn’t take into account the fact that even in heavily left-leaning San Francisco, some students might support Trump. “Partisans, however, do not have a right to turn classrooms into Democratic caucuses,” she writes.

The nation’s largest teachers’ unions had united against the Republican presidential contender, urging their members to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The lesson plan in question, dated the day after the election and written with what seems to be a sense of urgency (parts are bolded and capitalized), encourages teachers to offer a space for students to share their thoughts and feelings and to uplift and empower students who are troubled by the election. The lesson links to Michael Moore’s “Trumpland” documentary, news stories about local elections, and writings by W.E.B. Du Bois about race in America, among other resources. The plan’s author is a San Francisco teacher who has been focused on teaching tolerance to students and helping teachers address Islamophobia.

“Let us please not sidestep the fact that a racist and sexist man has become the president of our country by pandering to a huge racist and sexist base,” she writes.

Heidi Anderson, a spokesperson for the San Francisco United School District, said in a statement that the lesson plan was an “optional resource” for high schools. “Educators are entrusted to create lessons that reflect the California standards, support students’ social and emotional well-being and foster inclusive and safe school communities.”

The United Educators of San Francisco also shared a link to the National Education Association’s set of resources on “Ensuring Safe, Welcoming, and Bias-free Schools,” which address teaching about the election and its results. In San Francisco and other cities, many students walked out of school to protest the results of the election.

Teaching about Trump is already proving to be a minefield—and not just those who oppose him. In St. Paul, a teacher is on leave after showing students a video of young African-American people assaulting an older white man and claiming it was because the older man voted for Trump. A history teacher at California’s Mountain View High School was suspended after comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler in a lesson plan. (The teacher is now back in the classroom, according to the Mercury News.)

Business Insider has collected more examples of teachers who have been disciplined because of how they’ve talked to students after the election, and one California news station collected area school districts’ statements on how teachers can address controversial topics.

For more on how teachers chose to teach about an extremely divisive election and its immediate aftermath, check out this story from the Teaching Now blog.

Photo: President Barack Obama shakes hands with President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office last Thursday, after the two met to discuss the presidential transition. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.