A Call to Educators During Trump’s Administration

Another day, another controversial Trump action.

On Wednesday, Trump announced that he was taking away protections of transgender students from using the bathroom designated for the gender they identify with.

I’m not concerned about Trump, I’m concerned about schools. I’m an activist, of course I’m going to fight this. If a school is being transphobic towards its students, I’ll protest, send letters , call representatives, whatever it takes.

But I can’t be in school with these kids. I can’t keep an ear out in their classrooms and make sure their not being bullied. I can’t be an active bystander and get them out of a threatening situation. I can’t be their teacher and let them know that regardless of how I feel about their identity, I care more about their capability as a student and a human being.  

I can’t do any of that, but educators and students can. Even though these protections are being messed with, schools still have the power and freedom to allow students to chose to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

So, educators, principals, guidance counselors, students, we’re looking at you.

What were you doing for transgender students before this? Barack Obama put the protection of transgender students until Title IX during his time in office, did you help protect that? We all know that just because something is a law doesn’t mean it’s always enforced, especially in the education system.

Brown v. Board was passed in 1954 and schools under the law had to be desegregated, yet schools didn’t really start becoming integrated till the 1960s. Why? Because educators didn’t care that it was the law they felt it was morally right that black and white students didn’t go to school together. Or, if they didn’t feel this way, they were silent and complicit and rarely challenged their schools so they implementation would occur faster.

So, I’m hoping you in 2017, we are not repeating the mistakes of history. We are not letting our personal moral beliefs stand in the way of a child’s education. I hope you are not silent and complicit if you see a transgender student being bullied or discriminated against. We need educators to be self-aware. Who are you protecting, and at what expense are you protecting them?

Even Betsy DeVos, the highly controversial new Secretary of Education, thinks taking away these protections is a bad move. DeVos did not support this decision and wanted to make sure that schools were doing their part to make sure that bullying and discrimination would not be tolerated.

School is a place meant for learning and growth, not hate and terror. Make sure you are doing your part to ensure that school is a safe environment for every student.

Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

For the past two days at UNC, a non-campus affiliated organization called “Genocide Awareness Project” (GAP) set up posters and handed out flyers on Polk Place (the main quad) on campus. When I first saw them setting up bright, orange signs I thought it was for Holocaust awareness. I’d had friends last week standing in the Pit (UNC’s outdoor hub) reading names of Holocaust victims for 24 hours. I assumed it was work continuing for victims of genocide, particularly the Holocaust.
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Would You Want to Know If There’s a Nazi in the Room?

Last Thursday, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), visited UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus to discuss issues surrounding freedom of speech on college campuses. In his talk, he discussed how various college campuses are increasingly having speech codes for what is allowed to be said on campuses. In his talk, he gave examples of colleges/universities that are exhibiting relatively extreme speech codes- surprisingly, Lukianoff noted that UNC is one of the more freer universities who don’t have as many speech codes as other universities. FIRE puts universities in “speech code” rankings, that look like this:

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What Lukianoff wanted to emphasize throughout his talk was the increasing obsession with monitoring what is being said (or not said) on college campuses.  In the University of New Hampshire, for example, the words “elders/senior citizens”, “freshman”, “mailman”, “mothering/fathering”, “Arab”, and “American” are just some of the words that are prohibited from being said since they are triggering or bothersome to certain students. In UCLA, microaggressions there include “Where are you from or where were you born”, “America is a melting pot”,  and“I believe the most qualified person should get a job.” This culture of watching what one says, according to Lukianoff, is damaging to college campuses. Rather than encouraging dialogue, it actually makes communication less likely and makes people retreat from conversation. Likewise, it makes people feel like they are walking on eggshells when they are speaking to anyone with a different opinion than their own, and therefore makes them only grow closer to people who have similar opinions rather than those with differing opinions. Banning offensive language or discouraging free speech on campus also doesn’t stop people from being, let’s say, racist or homophobic. Rather, it just keeps these thoughts in their heads and makes them conglomerate with people who think like them. Quoting Lukianoff, “If there was a Nazi in the room, I’d like to know.”

Lukianoff’s talk is one that is needed on campus. Freedom of speech on campus is what promotes the variety of events, programs, and resources available to students on a daily basis. This freedom of speech has allowed students to feel safe, welcomed, and considered when they come to UNC. When freedom of speech starts becoming “Only say what everyone else agrees with”, that is when thinking is hindered and this university begins to fail. Often times, the liberal bubble that UNC students are put in keep them thinking in ways that don’t encourage diverse or critical thinking, but actually just keep feeding them the same information that they already agree with. For a student to have a truly liberal arts education, they need to be exposed to all forms of comments, criticisms, arguments, theories, and ideas. However, there are respectful and thoughtful ways to have these types of discussions. This isn’t done by fear-mongering, insulting other opinions/people, or by presenting unfactual information. Freedom of speech, I’d like to believe, doesn’t mean slander or marginalizing another group of people since those conflict with morality. Lukianoff’s talk showed that there are ways to express different ideas and opinions in ways that are constructive rather than destructive to the campus.