Teacher’s Reactions to the Presidential Election

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Question: What can students learn from the 2016 election? 


Mr. Benesh

Some of the metrics that you would traditionally use [in modeling elections] really didn’t hold up. We’re going to have to rethink some of the math modeling and the analytics that pertain to the election. In particular we need to maybe find other metrics, maybe look at data in a different way or collect different data in terms of how to predict elections going forward. This particular election turned a lot of traditional election analysis on its head.


Dr. Ericson

I think the important thing to remember is that the election was legitimate and we don’t want to undermine the process. And the president-elect and those who come into office are sworn to uphold the constitution and the Constitution limits power. And I believe that that’s probably the most important takeaway… For everyone to have faith that the Constitution is here to protect all of our liberties.


Mr. Quinn

I think my first takeaway is that people are stunned by this and that means to me that they don’t have a lot of overlap. That the media that they consume, the information that they have, the people they hang out with… it’s  totally separated and people are stunned that they lost or stunned that people don’t get why they won. I think that’s because of a separation of information and… people don’t even agree on basic facts anymore.


Mr. Wilkes

The fact that certain people in certain communities are so stunned [by the election’s outcome] tells me that those people need to get out more… And I think that’s the biggest lesson. Part of this being in a silo and not knowing the other side is that we have been forcibly filtered in our dialogue. The people who pulled the trigger for Trump not only haven’t felt anyone was listening to them, but that they aren’t even allowed to say what they feel because someone else will say “Oh, that’s inappropriate.”… And the thought that we had a huge group of people who seem to have been lost until they got to sit in that [voting] booth, and many of them say “up until this election, I couldn’t express my views.” That’s a frightening thing. There was genuine concern that ‘wow, I can’t even say that because what will people say about me.’ And that’s scary.”


The reaction of your generation, particularly the reaction of students in this building. If I had one suggestion for you all: you need to go work at McDonalds, you need to go get a job at Subway… and then you will understand what just happened in this election. For a lot of reasons. I’m watching the reaction of students here and a lot of it is way over the top. And it’s not your fault… There’s a disconnect amongst many in your generation with this group of people who voted for Trump. And I think many of your generation, particularly those with high intellect in programs like this, aren’t in contact with those people. You don’t see them, you don’t know how they really talk, you don’t know how they talk to other people like them. And it’s really hard, from what I’ve detected, to comprehend who this gang is.



Something’s happened in the last generation or two generations that used to not be true. Tocqueville would talk about how in America it’s different because the wealthy mingle with ordinary people. That was true in the 1830s, it’s not particularly true today. The highly educated and wealthy do not mingle with other people, they’re remarkably bubbled off, as are working class people in a way too. As one social scientist put it, if a truck driver doesn’t understand the problems of a Harvard professor that isn’t that big of a deal. If a Harvard professor does not understand the problems of a truck driver, that is a big deal. That becomes a problem over time. And that’s where we are.


Another takeaway from this election is… don’t invest too much confidence in expert opinion. If expert opinion was that good, Hillary Clinton would have won forty states, but she didn’t. I thought she was going to win, but a few days before the election I got a call from my brother Frank… who looks at properties around the country and travels a lot in Pennsylvania. He called me up and said ‘well you know Trump is actually going to win, right?” And I was like, “what are you talking about?”… And he said no… I promise you he’ll win Pennsylvania. He said “I’ve travelled around this state many times, I’ve never seen something like it. I go into BBQ joints, diners, small hotels, there’s Trump stuff everywhere.” He said “This is for real, the media is not picking up on this, it’s not being reported.” And he was right, I was wrong. That’s what happened.


Mr. Brown

Echo chambers. While I think that applies to both sides I think the left has lived in a big echo chamber for about eight years. I think certainly you could say the same thing about elements of the right… I think it’s just happened to a greater degree on the left. And some of that goes back to social media, where we move to, where we go to school… we don’t want to hear about conflicting opinions so we isolate ourselves with people who only think like us and thus that is [our] reality.


Mr. Ulmschneider

Something that students aren’t learning from this is how to confront people who disagree with them… because it’s such a bubble here at Maggie Walker. Because there’s so little large scale political diversity the relatively few people here who are conservative don’t really feel comfortable articulating their views. And so one thing that students aren’t learning is how to have a dialogue with people who they disagree with.


Something that definitely is happening is students are realizing for the first time that things don’t always move forward, from their perspective. One thing that stands out to me from a conversation that I was having with another faculty member is that for a lot of students here who are more liberal the only president they have ever known is Barack Obama, and they always sort of felt like things were moving forward, things were going to get better. There was a lot of… optimism. And so this is kind of an uncomfortable moment when people realize that from their perspective things don’t always move forward, and it shakes sort of a teleological faith you have in the way the world is going. I think that’s a problem for a lot of students that’s shaped by their particular experience. If you had grown up at a different time or witnessed different politics, you wouldn’t necessarily have spent the first sixteen years of your life basically thinking things are getting better all the time, from your perspective. Students are growing, mentally, in that way.

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