Leading up to the election, The Chronicle of Higher Education released a Trump 101 syllabus to explore his campaign academically. Following that, N.D.B. Connolly and Keisha N. Blain released a corrective one called the Trump Syllabus 2.0 that more fully considered Trump’s campaign, focusing on xenophobia, racism, and sexism. Following the release of now-President-Elect Trump’s infamous “locker room talk” footage (wherein he made references to nonconsensual, predatory sexual advances towards women), Laura Ciolowski released the Rape Culture Syllabus in order to situate the culture in which Trump’s comments about sexual assault could be normalized.
Sexism and misogyny: what’s the difference?
Post-election, the Trump-related syllabi and online educational resources continue to appear. Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching released a five-step guideline with suggestions for faculty “Teaching in Response to the Election.” The Zinn Education Project released a special lesson and resource page dedicated to “Teaching After the Election of Trump.” And Teaching Tolerance, a Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, also offers Election 2016 Resources, including suggestions for recognizing and countering bias.
The rise of crowd-sourced syllabus is an important leap, in both disseminating and gathering knowledge and in shaping active learners, no matter what their age or location.
In 2014, following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, Dr. Marcia Chatelain started the #FergusonSyllabus movement to help explain the history behind the protests over police misconduct and the birth of the Black Lives Matter Movement sweeping the nation.
Today, less privileged white Americans are considered to be in crisis, and the language of sociologists and pathologists predominates. Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 was published in 2012, and Robert D. Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis came out last year. From opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, they made the case that social breakdown among low-income whites was starting to mimic trends that had begun decades earlier among African Americans: Rates of out-of-wedlock births and male joblessness were rising sharply. Then came the stories about a surge in opiate addiction among white Americans, alongside shocking reports of rising mortality rates (including by suicide) among middle-aged whites. And then, of course, came the 2016 presidential campaign. The question was suddenly no longer why Democrats struggled to appeal to regular Americans. It was why so many regular Americans were drawn to a man like Donald Trump.
Ripped Donald Trump signs lay on the floor at a rally in Radford, Va., Feb. 29, 2016.
“We don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.” So said Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti in announcing his company’s decision to dump its ad deal with the Republican National Committee because of Donald Trump’s comments about Muslims, Latinos, women, and the free press. Even though this is a business and not an editorial decision, the move will undoubtedly raise the issue of bias in journalism and increase the political vitriol aimed at the media. But here’s the thing; while journalists are expected to be unbiased in the delivery of facts, they should and must be biased against hate and prejudice. Historically, Americans have depended on that bias. Unbiased reporting doesn’t mean checking your frontal lobe at the door. I am biased in every link I share and every word I write. I won’t keep pertinent news from you and I save my most politically-motivated writing for other platforms. But the issues raised by Buzzfeed go way beyond normal political discourse. Americans can disagree on the best ways to deal with terrorism or improve the economy, but when the discourse clearly sinks into hate speech against our fellow citizens, it’s time to draw a line in the sand, not stick our heads in it. No one is going to build a wall between me and my ethics. If that means I lose some subscribers, so be it.