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Dear Donald... Think About The Kids

Kids learn the words they use from grown ups.

By Christina St-JeanPublished 6 years ago 5 min read
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Dear Mr. President:

As a high school English and French teacher, I get listened to more often than I realized. Kids are quick to point out when think they hear something incorrect or improper pass from your lips, and I learned early in my career to use that to my advantage, usually for a teachable moment of some shape or creation. It's led me to really think about the words I use both in and out of my classroom and especially around the kids in my life.

It's also led me to consider how I say what I do. Take the word "Fine," for instance. It's a word that's actually gotten a bad rap over the years, but it actually means a lot of things, depending on context, and is therefore quite useful. When I hear someone saying, "That girl is fine," drawing out the vowel a little and with an appreciative tone, I know the person is discussing how attractive the woman they are discussing is. On the other hand, one someone says they are "fine," and their voice seems to jump an octave or two, I know something is up.

It is on these two points, sir, that I decided to talk today.

In the immediate aftermath of the Manchester attack on May 22, you referred to the terrorist and anyone who may have supported him as losers, conjuring images of the stereotypical "losers" we might have seen in high school. In reading that word, some of us may have seen, in our mind's eye, images of the ones who couldn't get dates, or do well in school, or succeed in sports. We may have even seen shades of ourselves, with our bad haircuts and even worse sense of style for the time.

We would most certainly have not pictured the sort of depraved animals that think it's all right to bring violence against children, who were very public victims of this most recent terror attack.

In referring to the terrorist and whatever allies he may have had in life as "losers," you diminished in many ways the severity of what was done. The attack in Manchester was not some sort of skit from Beavis and Butthead; lives were lost on what should have been a happily memorable occasion for many children and youth, and this was not an act perpetrated by "losers." My 8-year-old and my 12-year-old daughters know very well that the person behind this attack was a killer, and make no mistake, sir, when we discussed this tragedy, we referred to the perpetrator for what he is.

In fact, they rolled their eyes when they heard you'd referred to the perpetrator as a loser and couldn't believe someone who held the highest position in the United States would resort to using language that very few high schoolers would even use today. Never mind the fact that these girls of mine often think that I'm rather uncool on a daily basis; when it comes to bullies and yes, even terrorists, they believe appropriate language should be used to describe them and "loser" doesn't fall into that category. Not even close.

Another point that I've discussed both with my students and my children is the notion that how you say things is as important as the words themselves. More simply, this is the idea that tone can often do much to color a person's ideas and how they are conveyed and perceived.

On May 18, 2017, you tweeted that "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" Kids are taught now, from a very early age, that the use of the exclamation point is indicative of someone shouting, as is using all caps in a post. Never mind how ridiculously untrue your tweet turns out to be - thank you, @williamlegate, for your stream of other presidents who have actually been viciously attacked both verbally and physically over the decades - but it seems as though whether you're talking or tweeting, you do nothing but shout.

Sir, do you know what we teach children is more powerful than shouting? Speaking quietly. After a while, kids who are shouted at just tune you out, regardless of who you are, and they may even come to resent you. We also teach our kids that people who respect you, whether that's your friends or your colleagues, shouldn't be shouting daily, which is what you appear to be. My previously-mentioned kids are no longer shocked by anything you say, but they have become almost desensitized to anything they hear that comes out of your mouth.

They are also frightened of what your leadership means; they know, for instance, because the oldest also reads and listens to the news, and goodness knows you're on the news constantly, that your leadership has been one of the most unstable in recent history because you are almost always so explosive. You blow up at the jokes made on shows like Saturday Night Live - why? Because you and your administration have become such a joke that so many seem to know it but you? Granted, some shows have perhaps taken things a touch too far - case in point, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - but these sorts of bits are sending you a message. What are you showing us and our kids in return?

Our kids know, because they study history, that leaders who are notoriously easy to set off, as you seem to be, are the ones leading countries into battle not because they're sticking up for anyone's rights, but because they want to be right. That's a heck of a thing for an adult to think of their leader, let alone a child, and while we are proud Canadians, what we do tends to be a mirror of what happens across the border in the United States. My girls, and so many other kids, are frightened of what you represent, because everything you do is punctuated with the language we as parents don't want them using, in a tone that we don't want to hear.

Sir, in conclusion, I'm asking you to start breathing a little more before you hit the Twitterverse - your seemingly preferred mode of discourse - with your braggadocio and your strong language and, of course, your exclamation points at the ready. The next generation is watching, and they're not learning good things from you.

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About the Creator

Christina St-Jean

I'm a high school English and French teacher who trains in the martial arts and works towards continuous self-improvement.

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