Just back from a family visit in the USA – where election coverage was at its zenith – I found that even a private English Tutor in SW19 had to deal with the Trump effect. At first I struggled to understand why one of my tutor groups was having a manners” meldown.
The focus of the squabbling is usually a nice kid; a clever 10 year-old, who now seemed to be provoking an outbreak of noisy, pointy, grabby, snatchy and whiny behaviour. He talked the others down, and demanded an extra prize without saying thanks for the first one. Then it clicked. He was doing a Donald. (With KS3 and 4 students an English tutor could analyze Trump’s use of language. Not with this class.)
Next day, chatting to some older girls from the town’s single-sex High School I asked them what they thought of the US election. At the mention of Trump, noses wrinkled.
“But he can’t actually BE the President!” pronounced a confident teen. “It wouldn’t be allowed.”Her friend just looked uneasy.
We were on the tram, and a boy joined in, brandishing a Trump story and picture in the Evening Standard. In his view “The Donald” is mad but entertaining, and would probably win, because “He’s so rich!”.
Sitting opposite him, another teenage boy kept silent, but shifted in his window seat and looked quite haunted.
In America this election has produced an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children from ethnic minorities. “Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.”
And “Students are hearing more hate language than I have ever heard at our school before,” says a high school teacher in Helena, Montana.
Back in the UK, A British boy who contacted ChildLine, told the counsellor: “I’m really worried and scared about what is going on in the world. People have talked about a world war starting.”
The NSPCC said the problem appeared to be getting worse, with figures for the last six months showing almost 6,500 counselling sessions for anxiety.
Time for adults to be on their best behaviour, then, and as calm as they can be.
There is some good news – the Department of Education says that school bullying is on the wane as 30,000 fewer pupils reported bullying this past year than in 2004.