Political science professors have a quandary this semester: how do you teach a college class about Donald Trump and keep peace in the classroom? A professor at Southern Connecticut State University is diving in with an entire class on Trump’s first 100 days.
Professor Emeritus Arthur Paulson agreed to teach a class on presidential transitions last fall, before the election. The department has offered it before – it was supposed to be a topical but standard political science class.
“Of course, we knew it would be timely. We would be getting a new president. We didn’t know who was going to win and how interesting it was going to turn out to be.”
Trump 101 is a whole new field of study, so the typical professor job of putting together a lesson plan at the beginning of the semester kind of has to go out the window. Instead, Paulson lets his students start the class with their opinions.
“Unless there’s tremendous disorder, no need to raise your hands. You can just jump in.”
Paulson asks students how they think Trump is doing. David Blackmon, one of the class’s most talkative students, tells his classmates he’s baffled by Trump’s lack of response after weeks of nationwide protests against his actions.
“It’s really troubling that he hasn’t reached across the aisle at all. He thinks that he doesn’t have to acknowledge opposition. Which I think is very troubling. Very, very troubling.”
Peter Giardini sits next to Blackmon. He was the one vocal Trump supporter in the class.
“It’s only been three weeks, and people are constantly scrutinized him. And saying people are protesting? I haven’t seen too many protestors outside. And what are they protesting? They’re not protesting about jobs. Actual things that make people's lives better. We’re talking about civil rights, liberty, freedom, et cetera. What about what makes America great? What about Americans first?”
“Make America Great Again. What does he mean?” asked Fernando Guardado.
“To me it’s a racial background to say what is great. Like, make white people great again?”
The conversation gets pretty spirited, but Blackmon says there’s always an underlying sense of respect.
“We all have our biases, definitely. We have ideals and values that we hold that are very similar, even if our political affiliation is very different.”
“These students know that we’re in tumultuous times.”
Paulson, the professor, says some of them may disagree vigorously on the issues.
“But I don’t think they are as angry at each other as the American people are being portrayed to be, and they’re not as angry at each other as our elites are.”
He says what he sees is a room full of engaged citizens who are excited to take part in that hallmark of democracy – the free exchange of ideas.