In the Age of Trump, There’s a New School Bully

Teachers and students say the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric on display during this year’s election campaign appears to have seeped into the classrooms, creating a new level of fear and anxiety among students of color.

At a middle school in Tukwila, Washington, one of the most diverse schools in America, students say they’ve seen a different kind of bullying arise this year.

A Muslim eighth-grader says other kids, including some who were her friends, have called her a terrorist. That’s not something she’s heard until this year.

An Hispanic student who was born in the U.S. says he’s been told to “go back to the border” and “it’s not right for you to be here.”

“These are things that we hadn’t been hearing before. Our population hasn’t changed. So what seems to have changed, to me, is the political rhetoric,” said Debbie Aldous, a teacher at the school.

There’s always been bullying, but this new tone is something teachers across the country are seeing more recently.

More than two-thirds said they’ve seen an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment since the beginning of the presidential campaign, according to a survey conducted in March by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The survey didn’t ask about the rhetoric of specific candidates, but 1,000 comments received from respondents mentioned Trump. Fewer than 200 mentioned Hillary Clinton by name.

To be sure, these ideas and feelings pre-date Trump’s campaign, during which he’s spoken of deporting millions of immigrants, building a wall along Mexico’s border, and banning Muslims from entering the country.

His candidacy has “made lots of people and their kids feel more free to express certain bigoted ideas,” said Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of the history of education at the University of Pennsylvania.

“But at the same time, I think it’s dangerous to attribute this solely to Trump or to blame it only on his supporters,” he said.

Even if teachers don’t bring up the specifics of the campaign, kids are talking about these issues.

A majority of teachers who responded to the survey said their students have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.

“I just feel weird inside. Scared with a mix of frustration and anger,” said Jose Rios, whose parents are from Mexico.

He said he believes Trump will build a wall and move Mexicans away from America because every time he watches the news, there are a lot of people cheering Trump on.

“The people who agree with Trump, they don’t know the feeling to hear ‘go back where you came from,'” he said.

Shukri Diriye’s parents are immigrants from Somalia who fled the civil war. She was born here in the U.S., but when she hears other students call her a terrorist, it sometimes makes her question whether she does deserve to live in this country.

“If Somalia never had a civil war, I wish I could have just stayed there with people that look like me, so I wouldn’t be the different person,” she said.

12 Bullying Myths

What do parents really need to know about bullying? It’s not necessarily what you think.

Not a day goes by without another gut-wrenching tale of bullying making headlines. Schoolyards erupt in violence. Social media sites turn into cyber lynch mobs. Kids commit suicide after enduring months of abuse. Despite all the media attention, parents often remain in the dark about what actions to take when it happens to their children — or when their children bully others.

What can parents really do? What are the signs to watch for? How do you distinguish garden-variety personality conflicts between kids (which may include some mean behavior) from actual bullying? We contacted two experts, Drexel University professor and director of the Center for the Prevention of School-Aged Violence Charles Williams (aka Dr. Chuck) and clinical psychologist and author John Mayer, to clear up the the common misconceptions about bullying and give parents the facts.

Myth #1: You’ll know when your child is being bullied

Just because your child doesn’t tell you he or she is being bullied doesn’t mean it’s not happening. In 2007 almost a third of middle and high schoolers reported that they’d been bullied at school. And those are the ones who admitted it. “It’s one of those silent issues,” Williams says. Many kids don’t speak up because they think that it will lead to more abuse, because they’re ashamed, and because of the powerful unwritten code against snitching.

If your child comes home with torn clothing; starts complaining about going to school; has unexplained bruises, cuts, and scratches; or seems depressed and socially isolated, these are signs of bullying. If you suspect bullying, keep talking with your child and go to the school for help and input. Talk with your child’s teacher, a school administrator, or a school counselor to notify them of any problems, ask if they’ve noticed any incidents, and work with them to deal with the problem sooner rather than later.

Myth #2: Bullying always includes physical aggression

Bullying is when one child regularly harasses another child. This could be verbal bullying like name-calling, teasing, and using threatening language. It can also be physical abuse like punching, shoving, hitting, and spitting. It can be electronic too, via texting and the Internet. There is a gray area, however, that is important for parents to understand. Is it bullying when a child is excluded from a game? Not necessarily, but if your child is regularly left out, by all means talk with the teacher. (Check out the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program for a more detailed explanation of bullying.)

Here are the types of harassment students reported in a recent survey:

• 21% said they had been called names, insulted, or made fun of

• 18% reported being the subject of rumors

• 11% said they were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on

• 6% said they were threatened with harm

• 4% said they were made to do things they didn’t want to do

• 4% said their property was destroyed on purpose

Myth #3: The bully is always bigger

Despite media depictions from the ’80s (Biff from Back to the Future), ’90s (Nelson from The Simpsons), and more recently (Dave Karofsky from Glee), bullies aren’t necessarily large kids who pack a powerful punch. “Physical size is really inconsequential when it comes to this issue,” Mayer says. Bullying is often about power, and a child who bullies is often trying to counteract something that’s going wrong (real or perceived) in his own life. “In fact, there’s a strong case to be made that a bully is typically smaller,” Mayer says, adding that the aggression could be inspired by the bully’s lack of confidence and feelings of physical inadequacy.

“Bullying is mostly psychological,” Williams says. Girls report being bullied more than boys — and they’re more often victimized by passive aggressive behavior or social aggression over physical harm. “If you think about it, a small girl on the cheerleading team could be a school’s biggest bully (pun intended),” Williams says.

Myth #4: There’s one clear way to solve the problem

Because bullying scenarios vary so widely, no single response can be prescribed. The complicated truth is that different situation — and different kids — call for different actions. The key is thinking about these actions (and reactions) and discussing them with your child.

The case against fighting back:

Everything we know is that the ultimate right thing to do is to ignore the bully. Turn your back on the teasing and bullying and it’ll go away,” Mayer says. “That follows Psych 101 principles.” He insists an eye-for-an-eye response is ultimately ineffective and often hurts far more than it helps. Why? Although hitting back might bring a moment of satisfaction, it can lead to escalation — which, in light of reports of kids bringing weapons to school, could put both the bully and the bullied in mortal danger. Mayer compares it to an arms race, with the weapons just getting bigger and more destructive. Instead, he recommends discussing these possible strategies with your child:

Tell an adult. Whether it’s a parent, teacher or a coach, your child should tell an authority figure who can make sure the bully faces consequences. “Teach kids to inform an adult so that the bully will be restrained and face consequences,” he says. Ideally, if the rules of society are enforced against the bully, it should put an end to the behavior. “It’s a higher form of fighting back,” Mayer says.

Don’t react. Encourage your child not to cry, stop walking, or acknowledge the bully in any way. “This can be super-hard to teach kids, but it’s what works,” Mayer says. If your child responds, the bully will feed on it. By leaving the bully hanging, she or he will end up looking silly.

Consider the consequences. Does your child’s school have a zero-tolerance policy? If so, your child could be punished (even suspended) for self-defense. This consequence might seem unfair to children and parents alike — and, depending on how it is implemented at your child’s school, may be something you should consider discussing with school administrators.

The case for fighting back:

In some scenarios, “fighting back” in the form of verbal retorts and, when warranted, physical force can put an end to bullying. But it’s important to consider the child and the situation. “It’s safe to assume that the child who is more confidently able to defend him or herself is probably less likely to be a target of bullying,” Williams says. So simply telling a scared child to fight back isn’t enough. Ultimately, it’s about safety. Williams advises parents to tell their children to report bullying to an adult — particularly at school. “However, in a case where the bully will not listen to reason and where adults abdicate responsibility, appropriate self-defense has to be considered – and available to a child as a viable option,” he says.

Before this option is exercised, however, Williams says parents and caregivers need to carefully consider their position and communicate it clearly to their child. “A child should never feel conflicted about self-defense,” he says. Martial arts and boxing training are two great ways to help a child prepare for — or even prevent — being victimized by a bully. “Beyond physical preparedness, martial arts and boxing training give children the mental confidence and posturing necessary to project a sense of being in control.”

Myth #5: Bullies come from the top of the social pecking order

“Clearly, social gain is at the root of 95 percent of bullying,” Mayer says. So the idea that the bully is “on top” is “almost nonsense,” he says. Why? “If they were at the top, they wouldn’t be as motivated toward bullying behavior.”

Both Mayer and Williams agree that bullying is most often motivated by a desire for social power. “Developmentally speaking, social standing is huge for children and youth,” Williams says. “In fact, by the time they reach adolescence, it can have more influence than, say, the role of a parent. Bullying controls and manipulates the social order; and this is exactly what the bully seeks to accomplish.” Often, this means the bully is a social climber, seeking to increase his or her status. But when a child does seem to be popular, Williams warns, their social status may shield them from consequences — both from other kids and adults. “It lends itself to a type of social Darwinism thinking,” he says.

Commonly, Mayer says, kids who bully are often victims of abuse themselves or are going through difficult problems at home. They may even have cognitive disorders that impair their impulse control. “Something is wrong with that kid in that time of their life,” Mayer says. It doesn’t mean all bullies will turn into criminals, he says, but at that time they are trying to wield power in an inappropriate way. The kid who bullies feels a lack of control in his or her own life.

Often issues at home, such as divorce, abuse, or violence, leave children feeling helpless. Kids who bully don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with that powerlessness. So what do they do? Get power the only way they can. Or as Williams puts it: “Hurt people hurt people.” School administrators who understand this can address bullying more effectively by counseling bullies as well as victims.

Myth #6: Parental attitudes have no effect on bullying

In fact, parents can help pave the way for bullying behavior in kids when they don’t teach their children to respect differences in people. Some parents may pay lip service to the idea that all people are equal, but if their actions reveal a different attitude, their kids will pick up on it. If parents talk disparagingly about other groups of people or tell racist, sexist, or homophobic jokes, the message they’re sending is: “All people are not alike, and some are better than others.”

“Kids pick up on those things,” says Williams. “They learn that people have more or less value.” So be aware of what you say at home — and how it can translate into aggression in your child at school.

Myth #7: If your child is a victim, call the bully’s parents

“Parent-to-parent meetings can get nasty,” says Williams, who advises parents of victims to refrain from contacting bullies’ parents. The situation, already fraught with emotion, often gets only more heated when parents leap into the fray. (But if parents insist on talking with each other, Williams suggests they use a mediator.)

Instead, start with the school. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy that outlines the steps for dealing with bullies. Talk with the teacher and principal first and together figure out the next steps.

Myth #8: Boys are more likely to be bullied

In a 2007 survey, almost 34 percent of girls reported being bullied, compared with 31 percent of boys. Although boys often bully in a physical way, girls’ style of bullying tends to be more indirect. Girls bully by creating a hostile environment for their victims; they may spread rumors or exclude their targets from activities.

“In a way, it’s easier [to do] because it’s not direct,” Williams says. And because it’s so easy to spread a rumor or make threats, mean-girl bullying can do a lot of damage — without the physical clues for parents to pick up on. If your daughter is acting sad, depressed, and moody and is reluctant to go to school, talk to her about bullying.

Myth #9: Cyber-bullying is the gateway to other bullying

Actually, most bullying starts with face-to-face encounters and later may progress to texting, social media, and YouTube — which ups the harassment and humiliation with even more hurtful, and possibly fatal, results.

All the more reason to stop bullying before it goes viral, Williams says. If adults are vigilant and stop the bullying at school, it may never get to the cyber stage. And if your child is being bullied online? Don’t brush it off. Report it to the school, and if physical threats have been made, get copies of the messages and report them to the police. Also, encourage your child to come to you if he or she sees cyber-bullying happening to another kid.

Cyber bullying is on the rise. In a recent study of digital abuse by AP and MTV, 56 percent of teens and young adults ages 14 to 24 reported being bullied through social and digital media – up from 50 percent in 2009, just two years prior.

Myth #10: Parents are always their kids’ best defender

They should be, but they are not. Too often, Williams says he sees parents who dismiss their children’s reports of being teased and taunted. “You’d be surprised at how adults respond. They tell their kids to stop tattling or stop whining.” Teachers and other school leaders have also dismissed the problem, says Williams, often with tragic results.

Mayer says the only way to stop bullying is for adults to play an active role and take complaints about bullying seriously. Parents need to set consequences when they see or hear about their own children’s aggression, including bullying among siblings. “Parents have to stop the behavior from the start,” he says. “They can’t tolerate it at home or with anyone in the family.”

As for parents of the victims, explain that “there is something wrong” with the child who is bullying their kids. Victims are suffering from regular abuse and their self-esteem has been chipped away, while their sense of powerlessness has sky-rocketed. They need all the reassurance they can get that this isn’t their fault — they didn’t cause the problem. “Make sure your child knows they are not the problem,” says Mayer. “They’re not damaged. The other kid is.”

Myth #11: When bullies use homophobic taunts they’re always referring to the victim’s sexual orientation

Increasingly, bullies taunt other kids by calling them “gay,” even though neither party actually knows what the word means — especially in the younger grades. “This is where parental and social modeling come into effect,” Mayer says. Kids hear the word used as a put down, and they repeat it. “They’re mimicking language,” he says, “it’s not being used in the sexual connotation.”

Even in the later teens, when kids do understand the meaning, it can be used solely as a slur. “It is often used as the sort of nuclear option as it relates to male-to-male social aggression or put downs,” Williams says. “The mere insinuation is enough to cause the social harm intended by the bully.”

But Williams warns that a sexually confused child — of any age — may be a more likely target for harassment and bullying. And although it may be a challenging conversation, he urges parents (with the help and possible presence of a mental health professional) to discuss sexuality and gender with their child. “It is my sense that the child who is struggling with sexuality and gender identity, but who is simultaneously receiving support on the home front, may be better equipped to navigate the treacherous waters known as childhood – particularly in a school environment, where 79 percent of reported bullying takes place.” In fact, research by the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University demonstrates that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth with families who accept their sexual orientation are less likely to suffer depression, use drugs, or attempt suicide than youth who are rejected by their families.

Myth #12: Schools bear no clear responsibility for bullying

Bullying is a national issue, so much so that every state has passed anti-bully laws that define bullying and require schools to act when it’s reported.

Even so, some schools still aren’t taking it seriously, Mayer says. And this is not just a problem but a crisis, since most bullying happens at school. “Teachers have to take these things seriously,” he says. “They have to identify the bullies and tell them, ‘We’re watching you.’”

Parents should check that their kids’ school has an anti-bully policy and system in place. If you’re unsure what your school’s policy is, talk with the administration or check the school’s website. Let the school know that the safety of your child is important to you.


Bullying vs Conflict:What’s the Difference?

Conflict vs. Bullying – Bullying is different from conflict.

  • Conflict is a disagreement or argument in which both sides express their views.
  • Bullying is negative behavior directed by someone exerting power and control over another person.

Bullying is done with a goal to hurt, harm, or humiliate. With bullying, there is often a power imbalance between those involved, with power defined as elevated social status, being physically larger, or as part of a group against an individual. Students who bully perceive their target as vulnerable in some way and often find satisfaction in harming them.

In normal conflict, children self-monitor their behavior. They read cues to know if lines are crossed, and then modify their behavior in response. Children guided by empathy usually realize they have hurt someone and will want to stop their negative behavior. On the other hand, children intending to cause harm and whose behavior goes beyond normal conflict responses might think, “Cool, I have more power. This is fun! Let’s see if I can break this kid!”

Source: Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center

American Bar Association blasts Donald Trump as ‘libel bully’ and ‘loser’ who never won a free-speech suit

“Donald J. Trump is a libel bully. Like most bullies, he’s also a loser, to borrow from Trump’s vocabulary,” the ABA report stated about the GOP nominee.


Donald Trump is a “libel bully” and a “loser” who, despite having “been involved in a mind-boggling 4,000 lawsuits,” has never won a free speech-related case, a bombshell report compiled by the American Bar Association said.

But in an ironic twist, the ABA — the eminent 138-year-old law society that sets nearly all academic and ethical standards for legal education and the overall law profession — appeared to hold the article from publication over concerns that the group itself could face litigation from Trump.

The report, ultimately released by the Media Law Resource Center, was compiled by the ABA to help demonstrate the level of legal aggression — and subsequent losing record — that the GOP nominee has historically aimed at people and organizations who say and write things of him he finds objectionable — a pattern of behavior he has notoriously continued over the course of the 2016 presidential race.

“Donald J. Trump is a libel bully. Like most bullies, he’s also a loser, to borrow from Trump’s vocabulary,” the report stated. “Trump and his companies have been involved in a mind-boggling 4,000 lawsuits over the last 30 years and sent countless threatening cease-and-desist letters to journalists and critics. But the GOP presidential nominee and his companies have never won a single speech-related case filed in a public court.”

“Media defense lawyers would do well to remind Trump of his sorry record in speech-related cases filed in public courts when responding to bullying libel cease-and-desist letters,” the blistering article stated, adding that the mogul’s suits were “worthy of a comedy routine.”

All told, the article, which contained a whopping 81 citations, delves into seven cases brought by Trump and his various companies, all of which were either dismissed, withdrawn or arbitrated.

In one case, Trump sued Bill Maher in 2013, after the comedian joked he would give $5 million to charity if the mogul provided his birth certificate to prove he was not “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.”

Trump sent Maher a copy of the document and a letter directing Maher where to donate the money, and when Maher didn’t follow up, Trump sued him for “breach of contract.”

In another case, in 1984, Trump sued Chicago Tribune architecture critic Paul Gapp for $500 million in libel damages after the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist criticized various Trump properties.

Using those, and five other examples, the ABA article went on to call for stronger laws that limit “strategic lawsuits against public participation.” Under such so-called “anti-SLAPP” laws, defendants in certain libel suits may seek early dismissal and can recover some legal fees.

Trump, as well as his wife Melania Trump, has repeatedly threatened litigation against various media outlets over the course of the presidential race — including People magazine over a story by a reporter who claimed she was assaulted by the businessman in 1995, the Daily Mail over a story that claimed Melania Trump had once worked as an escort, and The New York Times for publishing parts of his 1995 federal income tax returns.

Trump has also threatened to sue several of the individual women who have alleged he assaulted or harassed them.

In addition, he has repeatedly vowed to “open up” libel laws in the U.S. to allow him to more easily sue media outlets.

“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” he said at a February rally.

Existence of the recent ABA article was first reported by The New York Times, which also reported that the ABA had refused to publish it over concerns that Trump could sue the organization itself.

The report ended up being published on the website of the Media Law Resource Center, a First Amendment law nonprofit site based in New York.

In a conversation with the Daily News, the ABA disputed that the group had “refused to release the article,” claiming instead various staff members had only recommended edits, some of which of which were aimed to avoid “the possibility that it would attract a meritless lawsuit.”

The article goes on to document seven cases brought by Trump and his various companies, all of which were either dismissed, withdrawn or arbitrated.

Carol Stevens, a spokeswoman for the ABA, added that the article, as it was originally submitted by author Susan Seager, a former journalist and current First Amendment lawyer, “did not reflect the non-partisan nature of the ABA.”

“After the article was submitted to the ABA, some individuals raised some concerns about it and we looked at it as part of a normal editing process and suggested some minor edits,” she told The News.

But internal communications from ABA deputy executive director James Dimos, revealed worries over the article’s “ad hominem” and “partisan attacks” as well as the potential it could create for a Trump lawsuit.

“Such language transforms a legitimate scholarly article into a partisan attack,” Dimos wrote in an Oct. 19 email to Lee Brenner a member of the ABA’s communications forum editorial board. “The American Bar Association is a nonpartisan voluntary membership association.”

“The publishing of a partisan attack piece in the midst of a highly charged election season will certainly create the perception that the ABA is aligning with one political party against the other and will hurt our credibility with members,” Dimos wrote.

“The gratuitous use of the ad hominem attacks will increase the risk of the ABA being sued by Mr. Trump. The article itself proves this point,” he continued. “While we do not believe that such a lawsuit has merit, it is certainly reasonable to attempt to reduce such a likelihood by removing inflammatory language that is unnecessary to further the article’s thesis.”

Meet the Men Who Taught Donald Trump How to Bully

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump debate during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2016.
Robyn Beck—AFP/Getty ImagesDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump debate during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis on Oct. 9, 2016.

Christopher Lane teaches at Northwestern University and is the author most recently ofSurge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life

‘Sow doubt, stir outrage, fabricate conspiracies and cause national havoc’

Parry and deflect. Counterattack, insult and wherever possible avoid apologizing. The Donald Trump watched by tens of millions of Americans in Sunday night’ssecond presidential debate is said to have learned this strategy fromRoy Cohn, one of his mentors and lawyers. Cohn tirelessly assisted Joseph McCarthy in the mid-1950s, at the height of the senator’s crusade against Communism. Observers described Cohn as “vicious” and “reprehensible” in his dealings, but also “defiant to the end”—prepared to destroy everything and everyone in his path to achieve victory over an opponent.

In Sunday’s debate, Trump displayed much the same temperament and many of the same bullying tactics. He told the nation that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would be imprisoned under his administration and that, despite a lifetime of public service, the former senator “has tremendous hate in her heart.” At one point he called her “the devil” and flatly declared, “You should be put in jail.”


The Republican nominee also learned much from Norman Vincent Peale about the art of lobbing a powerful political grenade. The minister and best-selling author of The Power of Positive Thinking, whose religious services Trump attended for many years, is often invoked as his religious counselor. Peale had a habit of attacking and demonizing his opponents, invariably Democrats, in ways that held them up to public ridicule and scorn.

Trump’s political career dates to his questioning volubly and repeatedly whether President Obama is a U.S. national—accusations that recently stretched to his calling the president the “founder” of a terrorist organization.

Peale’s interventions in major-league politics began with his claims that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was “indifferent to religion,” prone to “dictatorship,” and thus to be spurned for his New Deal. From his pulpit in Manhattan, with press and public riveted by his every move, Peale attacked the polio-afflicted Roosevelt as “a presumptuous seeker after improper power” in light of strife over appointees to the Supreme Court. He assailed the federal government and its social policies as weakening the nation, and warned the voting public: “The man who shows no interest in Christianity and fails to support it is the real enemy of our social institutions.” The contempt that Peale heaped on Roosevelt extended to his saying of a statesman who won an unprecedented four presidential elections, “We can pull him down when we wish.”

As minister of one of the nation’s oldest churches, with a vast media platform and the ear of the country, Peale was exceptionally well placed to make his political opponents seem unbalanced, ungodly, and un-American. Like Trump, he took on the task with relish. Political attacks on Washington flew from his Sunday pulpit, with the message packaged as a promise of national renewal through personal and religious redemption. Also like Trump, Peale saw his press folders crammed with the activities and accusations of a man possessing an extraordinary appetite for political conflict.

In the 1930s, when the religious ministry was seen as inherently nonpartisan and thus politically valuable, Peale’s denigration and demonization of his opponents helped inflame national passions and resentments. The result was a potent redrawing of “us” against “them”—with the latter chiefly made up of immigrants, migrants, the destitute and the nonreligious. A comparable firebrand today, Trump has taken a page from the same rulebook, with equally dismal results. The pattern is to reduce an issue to its most polarizing elements, then denigrate the rejected parts as menacing, absurd, untrustworthy, or—if need be—all three.

Time after time, from his televised mockery of disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski to his disdain for the parents of slain Muslim veteran Army captain Humayun Khan, from his repeated characterization of undocumented immigrants as “criminal aliens” to the insults tossed at Hillary Clinton and numerous other women, Trump has zealously pursued the same polarizing strategy: attack, ridicule and demonize. Divide the world into winners and losers, and pour scorn on the latter. Sow doubt, stir outrage, fabricate conspiracies and cause national havoc if it leads to personal, political or commercial gain.

The guaranteed outcome of such a strategy, Peale could well attest, is greater acrimony and division ahead.

This Election Has Become a Referendum on the Pigheaded Lifestyle. Non-learners are spin doctors for one cause only: Their right to claim to be right always.

This election is no longer really about Democrat vs. Republican or left vs. right. It has become a much-needed referendum on two lifestyles: Learner vs. non-learner.

Non-learners are just too tired, bored, anxious, fragile or proud to tolerate ever having to learn anything ever again about the big picture, in particular the correct way forward. Under the guise of faith, principle, commitment, steadfastness and confidence, they pronounce themselves graduated know-it-alls. They pack themselves a little bag of cheap tricks for deflecting all challenges and float out into their own realities, their paths never to be corrected again.

One can become a non-learner out of arrogance, but as easily just by being out of one’s depth. Some are born non-learners, some achieve non-learning, and some have non-learning thrust upon them by overwhelming circumstances.

The difference between learners and non-learners isn’t in the beliefs they hold but how they hold them. Since the non-learners’ priority is self-certainty at all costs, their beliefs are secondary, a thin rationalizing layer they wrap around their core belief that they’re right.

Non-learners rationalize by means of any convenient doctrine. While debate rages about whether to call ISIS Islamic terrorism, the better solution is to call it Muslimized terrorism, extreme non-learning under thin cover of Islamic doctrine.

There are Christianized, spiritualized, atheisized non-learners. There are conservatized, progressivized, ecologized and libertarianized non-learners. There are also learners who lean toward each of these belief systems while remaining influenceable.

Non-learners proudly demand their freedom, which to them means freedom from doubt, from ever having to rethink anything. They declare that they have seen the light and that anyone who disagrees with them is still in the dark.

It’s much harder to be a learner than a non-learner. It requires that you learn how to stand corrected, your dignity intact even while admitting that you are wrong. It requires that you be able to change your mind, which is taxing work for any of us. It means living with doubt.

The non-learner lifestyle is much easier. Learn a handful of cheap shot “I know you are but what am I?” tricks, and rationalize using them because your cause is so virtuous or because life is just a dog-eat-dog competition to be fought without reservation. Non-learners are spin doctors for one cause only: Their right to claim to be right always.

Politics isn’t one skillset but two, first making difficult political decisions—which requires learning—and second, selling ones’ decisions, which requires a steadfastness that appeals to non-learners.

Donald Trump is the most devout non-learner ever to run for the presidency. Some people (for example Scott Adams, creator of “Dilbert”) describe him as a communication genius. But that’s inaccurate. The test of a communications genius is adaptability, an ability to learn what works with different audiences, definitely not a genius Trump displays.

Vote learner this election. These are very uncertain times. Non-learners have given up on adapting to them. We will only survive if we keep on learning.

Jeremy Sherman, Ph.D. is an evolutionary epistemologist studying the natural history and practical realities of decision making. Read his work at Psychology Today.

Glenn Beck & Michael Moore on NBC’s Meet the Press

Recent comments by Glenn Beck,, on NBC’s Meet The Press supports our philosophy. Mr. Beck comments that “we have to change our course…as individuals, now.” The overall feeling in America is that nobody is listening, we’re shouting over each other. Nobody is listening to the hard-working American who doesn’t feel like they belong to anything anymore. 

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