Teachers Stand Tall During Time of National Healing

by Shawn Healy, PhD, Civic Learning Scholar

Emotions in the aftermath of Tuesday’s election results remain raw, so my first post-mortem analysis will focus on addressing them with our students. Future posts will examine policy consequences, polling errors, and an Electoral College redux, but we teach in a deeply-divided state and country, and are obligated to build bridges with our students towards a better future.

In some ways, Illinois is an outlier in that it voted decisively for Hillary Clinton, isolated in a vast inland sea of Trumpian red. However, her 16-point statewide victory masks Donald Trump taking 92 of 102 counties, including massive margins in Southern Illinois. Thus, depending upon where we teach, our students may be jubilant or depressed, vindicated or fearful. Of course, this also holds true for their parents.

Courtesy of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform

However, in the policy alternatives he has prescribed, revelations of past indiscretions, and statements and behaviors on the stump, Trump has threatened and demeaned women, racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, the LGBTQ community, individuals with disabilities, and veterans. His victory must not give license for such words and actions to be replicated within our school communities, and we have a special obligation as educators to protect our most vulnerable students.

As friends, colleagues, and students have come to me in search of comfort, I have assured them that civil liberties have many safeguards. While Republicans will have unified control of the White House and Congress come January, Democrats retain the filibuster in the Senate. Moreover, it is not a given that congressional Republicans will uniformly rally behind a president that represents a significant break in party orthodoxy.

True, President-elect Trump will likely fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, but he or she must survive the threat of a Democratic filibuster, preventing a candidate outside of the mainstream of American legal doctrine. And Chief Justice Roberts himself places preservation of the integrity of the institution he leads above all else.

The Constitution itself defines these checks and balances, with the Bill of Rights standing as a bulwark for minority rights.

Most importantly, elections are beginnings, not ends. This remains a constitutional democracy, and it is the duty of the people to hold our elected officials accountable within these institutional parameters, simultaneously safeguarding civil liberties.

In this time of national healing, give yourself and your students the opportunity and space to make sense of what transpired and what it means for the future. Tuesday’s results predestine nothing, and for our students, our colleagues, our families and friends, and our country, we must lean in and collectively construct a more perfect union.

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