Dear Mr. President,
I have so many thoughts right now, but I’ll try to keep this simple for you.
My school has students from 38 nations. It is hard enough for them to adjust to life in a new country as an adolescent without someone calling their homeland a “shithole country.” As a geography teacher, I’ve spent the better part of two decades trying to get students to see that ALL countries have problems, and ALL countries have cultures to be proud of. I’ve had hundred of students watch the TED Talk by Chimamanda Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story.” You should consider watching it, it would serve you well.
What 12-13 year olds understand, but you clearly don’t, is that we cannot, and should not judge an entire group of people by the actions of some. You have done this repeatedly with respect to Muslims, Mexicans, and anti-Nazi protesters. Now, with your latest comments calling Haiti and African nations “shithole countries” you repeat the behavior. These countries aren’t “shithole countries,” they are countries that struggle. They are countries that have problems due to colonialism, poor leadership, and poverty. The mothers and fathers in those countries want the same things that all parents want – safety, security, and opportunities for their children – things we value in this country.
The danger, Mr. President, is that other people around the world may start to do the same thing that you do and define all Americans by a single story – yours. But you don’t represent us anymore than warlords represent all Sudanese or corrupt politicians represent all Haitians.
Teachers across the country teach their students compassion and empathy everyday. We teach students that unless they understand people with other points of view, we are in real trouble. We teach students that words and actions matter. You could benefit from from the lessons that teachers across the country teach everyday.
So with that, I invite you to come into my classroom and learn. Not from me, but from the 12-13 year olds who understand how to have civil discourse, understanding, and common decency.
I look forward to your visit and until then, I leave you with the words that have been attributed to both Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
7th Grade Global Studies Teacher