Save the World: Teach Students to UnTrump
You’d think that after 3% of the global population died during World War II, fascist leadership would fall out of fashion. Nope. Fascism is present in Russia, Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Poland, France, Germany, Greece and now the USA because of the Republican candidate for President, Donald Trump (he’s not the only one, but his political ascendency and narcissistic buffoonery make him an exemplar).
There’s a solution: inculcate mastery of interpersonal skills like it’s a holy war, like the fate of the world depends on everyone interacting harmoniously. These so-called soft skills are rarely exhibited by Donald Trump, who downshifts every 15 seconds into one of the following:
- self-referential narcissism
- inflammatory stereotyping
- contradictory statements
- a startling lack introspection
- character assassination
- ad hominem
- lack of curiosity
- sexism and misogyny
- obsession with military supremacy
- nationalism and xenophobia
- obsession with hurting criminals
- disdain for human rights
I don’t assign these terms to Trump carelessly. For evidence, see here and here and here and here and lastly here, where he said that “we have to beat the savages.” The last 8 indicators align with the 14 defining characteristics of fascism.
To counter fascism, soft skills can't be a curricular afterthought. They must be deliberately taught, methodically modelled, carefully assessed, and enthusiastically rewarded like the world depends on it. Those skills include...
- Coherent communication
- Personal habits
- Problem-solving and critical thinking
The Republican presidential nominee has one gift. He can speak pure rubbish on TV with complete ease. Just like Joseph Stalin and Frank Lloyd Wright, there is no cure for Trump’s narcissism. Fortunately for our students, soft skills can be learned. And they can be taught if teachers do two things:
1. Model inclusive community-building language.
Try saying this the first day of class:
“We are a community that values diversity, that does not belittle other groups or individuals or listen to those who do. We were put on this earth to be helpful and by all that is holy, we will lift our brothers and sisters up.”
2. Challenge students to practice right actions.
A quirk of soft skills is that they’re a synch to explain (they start with the golden rule) but take shibumi-level wisdom to master in an increasingly heterogeneous world. Practicing empathy and building relational skills in an age when ironic detachment is de rigueur takes vigilant effort. That’s the paradox of soft skills—they’re really hard. But if they aren’t taught systematically, an entire generation may grow up without the dispositions to support the world community.
Disciplinary knowledge and academic rigor will always be important and help students identify blowhards. But a community that has Jedi-mastered soft skills will know what to do about it.