Jane K. Marshall: Is Donald Trump Running for President of the Class?

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The following comment reflects a teacher’s view of Donald Trump. She thinks he is running because he wants to be the most popular boy, the one who always wins. She thinks he is like a student in middle school or high school. Based on what he has said, I am inclined to think his behavior is more fitting for a six-year-old. In the primaries, he ran an ugly picture of Ted Cruz’s wife online, and when Cruz complained, Trump said to Anderson Cooper on CNN, “He did it first!” When asked about his odd admiration for Vladimir Putin, Trump said, “He praises me, and I praise him” (or words to that effect).

President of the Class

By Jane K. Marshall

I must admit that I once momentarily wondered if perhaps Trump’s candidacy was an incredible ruse to help Hillary win. I mean, it seemed so obvious that Donald wasn’t really interested in the job. He even seemed to not understand what the job entailed, nor did he do anything to educate or enlighten himself as to particulars. He just went about “being Trump” — albeit a cartoonish Trump. Was it all a joke? To what purpose?

I now believe that Donald is incapable of this sort of joke or an elaborate subterfuge. He is merely a high school (or junior high school) boy running for the president of his class. Like many boys in that position, he seeks not to actually do anything substantive to improve the well-being of his classmates. No. He is primarily engaging in a popularity contest. He wants to feel important. He needs to feel important. Or more to the point, he needs constant attention.

As a former teacher, I’ve seen like characters in action — the children who disrupt classes in order to call attention to themselves. I well remember a boy who valued such interaction above all else — craving positive or negative attention. It seemed not to matter which. Of course, there are usually background reasons for such behavior. Whenever possible, the empathetic teacher tries to encourage positive behavior and then reinforce such behavior with praise. Whenever possible, this same teacher tries to ignore the negative pleas to be noticed — occasionally a near impossible task.

Sometimes it is even necessary to remove a negative-attention-seeking student from class temporarily, so as to deny the response he seeks while at the same time ensuring the needs of his classmates. Frankly, such an emotionally needy child causes angst to himself, his peers and the adults in his sphere, for usually the attention-seeking scenario plays out on numerous occasions. However, with patience and empathy in play, more often than not, the child eventually learns to cope with the idea of appropriate connections with others. He grows up. He won’t be 13 forever.

Unfortunately, in Trump’s case, negative behavior has been rewarded with the constant notice of mass media. He has garnered millions of dollars of free advertising with obnoxious and puerile language. And while this was going on, the rest of the “class” was put on hold. (Would that a Bernie Sanders had been allowed such a platform.)

The teacher in me wishes to deal constructively with Donald Trump — saving him from himself while ensuring that those around him are saved from his singular dominance of the landscape. Let’s face it, Trump has managed to hold court — creating the tenor of this entire election cycle. So, while my empathetic side envisions treating Donald Trump humanely and without rancor, I do not condone ignoring the pressing problems that affect us all in so doing. Therefore, as insulting as it may seem, let me speak directly to Donald: “Grow up! If this doesn’t happen, you must leave the class.”

Having said all of that, this former teacher, of course, realizes that Donald Trump is not running for president of his class. He is running for the office of the President of the United States. He certainly must be denied the position. There can be no question about that.

Note: A friend, upon reading this piece, raised the question of stake-holders in the episode of an unruly student. “Where is the principal, guidance counselor? More important, why do other students leave it to the teacher rather than speaking up: ‘Hey, Trump kid, we want to learn. Stop your foolishness or get out!’?”

Why, indeed?!

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