A New Teacher's Response to President Trump's "Mount Rushmore" Speech, a guest blog post by Zachary Tayler

By Robert Shaffer posted 07-16-2020 10:56:47 AM


One of the benchmarks in the revised 2017 NCSS guidelines for accreditation of teacher education programs is that candidates demonstrate “civic engagement.”  Just as we expect social studies education to foster civic engagement among our secondary school students, our future social studies teachers should model such activities as well, according to NCSS.  Zachary Tayler, who was in my Teaching Social Studies Methods course in Fall 2017 and then did his student teaching in Spring 2018, was in the first cohort of secondary social studies education students at Shippensburg University for which the civic engagement project was a requirement.  I am pleased to report that, as this response to President Trump’s July 4th speech demonstrates, Mr. Tayler’s commitment to civic engagement continues as he completes his second year as a social studies teacher in Maryland.  Mr. Tayler had originally submitted this piece to several newspapers, and he has given me permission to post it, as written, on the NCSS blog.  (The views expressed are his own, and do not represent an NCSS position.)

  • Robert Shaffer, Professor of History and social studies education, Shippensburg University

Trump Further Manipulates the American Public on Education. (What Trump calls indoctrination, I call perspective.)
By Zachary Tayler

            As a 24-year-old social studies teacher in Queen Anne’s County Public School in Maryland ready to enter my third year of my teaching career, I was taken aback by Donald Trump’s  4th of July speech at Mount Rushmore.  He continued to divide Americans rather than unite them during these turbulent times. However, where Trump struck a nerve with me- and other educators- was his divisive rhetoric about the current state of education. That is, “our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.” What Trump calls indoctrination, I call perspective.

            While listening to Trump’s speech I recalled my undergraduate student teaching at Central Dauphin High School where I taught students about Civil Rights in America. The class was aghast when they saw Emmett Till after he had been murdered. What was just as surprising to the students was that the suspects in the murder got off scot-free. Students began understanding the Black Lives Matter protests which began in 2013. How relevant a topic this was then and is today? Till was a victim of systemic racism and accountability of the suspects was not upheld. However, to Trump those conversations in a classroom equate to a “campaign” to re-write history.

            Growing up in a conservative family I heard that public education and college was left-leaning and biased. In fact, school had such an impact on my life that I became a teacher to educate young people about issues Trump neglects completely. During my student teaching for United States history, it was a privilege for me to teach young people about the anti-war movement in America and the Civil Rights Movement. not because I despise America, but to encourage young people not to make the same mistakes generations before them did. But also I wanted to remind them that, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “When a law is made that is unjust, thus unconstitutional, we should fight it: politically and legally.” These are the values I encourage in my class.

            The atmosphere in United States is reminiscent to the 1960’s where civil rights protests shook the foundation of what many Americans believed was normal for centuries. This is a time where difficult discussions about this country’s past should be taking place to explain why there is so much social unrest. Unfortunately, Trump not only avoids the conversation, he discourages having them at all.

            The charge that teachers are propagating a campaign to wipe out our history is an insult to historians and educators everywhere. Just two years into my teaching career I and other educators have felt the sting of the Trump administration’s lackadaisical response to education. And now, he blames the turmoil in the United States on what is taking place in the classroom. The reality of that statement is quite the opposite of his characterization. Teachers are attempting to give students a well-rounded view of the world and prepare them to be engaged citizens in the wider community. Trump’s baseless claims about education simply to appeal to his voters demonstrate how distant he is from what takes place in the classroom:  the effort and care teachers put forth to ensure student growth.

            To be sure, there are teachers that “fall through the cracks” and teach with minimum effort for the betterment of the students and community. But they are few and far between. The education system in America has its flaws and it is not perfect. However, educators work tirelessly to ensure young people growing up in Trump’s America

1 comment



12-09-2021 06:17:12 PM

This was a very thoughtful post about the world that we are living in even after the title of President has shifted to someone else. As educators we are receiving external pressures to teach a history that is black and white while also being told to teach our students to become engaged civilians once they leave. The truth of the matter is there is no such thing as black and white history. History can be beautiful as well as severally uncomfortable at times and all students should have access to this history even at the dismay of the people who consider it "indoctrination".