The hate speech from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during this election cycle is unprecedented and dangerous. During this time, we must ask ourselves how each candidate affects the youth of America. What are the candidates teaching our children through their rhetoric and behavior?
Researchers have pointed to an increase of racially charged hostilities in primary schools over the past year, but few have offered meaningful responses to the issue. The Southern
Poverty Law Center released a harrowing report on the “Trump effect” of this election cycle. The report highlighted increased levels of fear in children of color and a rise in racially charged bullying and hate speech in classrooms.
This rise correlated with unprecedented levels of explicit bigotry and policies of hatred in the election. A single anecdote from the report is enough to raise alarm: One high school teacher wrote, “A lot of students think we should kill any and all people we do not agree with. … They believe all Muslims want to kill us.”
However, hatred and hate-inspired rhetoric, of which Trump and his supporters are partially responsible, can be counteracted through meditation. There is enough evidence from SPLC to suggest that by using a ground-up approach to quelling hostilities, meditation can counteract the hate and improve the lives of our nation’s youth.
The modern tools of hatred employed by Trump are being counteracted in our youth by an ancient tool of compassion. Meditation has been empirically proven to reduce hostilities in the classroom and to increase compassionate behaviors like inclusivity. Studies find that children are more apt to perform pro-social behaviors following participation in a mindfulness-based “kindness curriculum.”
Across the nation, more schools are finding that a practice based on the assumption that people should be objects of compassion, not our contempt, can reverse hatred and bigotry. A Newsweek article from September noted how a Baltimore elementary school replaced kids’ detentions with an after-school meditation program. The change in practice allowed the school to influence children’s behavior through breathing exercises and emotion control, causing the total suspension rate to drop to zero percent, with teachers even noticing fewer fights throughout the school.
Similar initiatives have been introduced into public elementary schools across the United States and are being facilitated by nonprofits with the goal of teaching kids compassion and mindfulness through meditation. What is most important to note from these articles and practices is how the power of meditation can influence the minds of kids to better understand emotions and deal with each other more compassionately.
Admittedly, meditation is not a panacea, but it is a powerful and effective way to transform the minds of our youth. For meditation to be transformative, it must be coupled with compassion and understanding. That is the lesson we should be teaching our nation’s youth.
If the issue of what we are teaching our children is to be taken seriously, we have to recognize the stark contrast between children who meditate and children who mimic the behavior of a man devoid of compassion, known to speak misogynistically, encourage violence among his supporters and insult individuals based on their religious beliefs and ethnicity. We have to take seriously the potential for unprecedented goodness and love available in our youth.
Nicholas Scrimenti is a junior in the College. Spiritual Search appears every other Friday.