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Sixth Graders Need To Talk Out Trump's White House Win

Nov 10, 2016
Originally published on November 10, 2016 5:58 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now let's get some election reaction from a group who couldn't actually vote. It is a classroom of sixth-graders. NPR's Eric Westervelt, with our Ed team, spent time with a middle-school class in Northern California.

ERIC WESTERVELT, BYLINE: On Tuesday, the teacher's lounge here at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in North Berkeley, Calif., was a polling station. The morning after, with signs still up pointing the way to vote, sixth-grade teacher Ryan Keeley sees lots of teachable moments. But he senses that this day, his students mostly just need to talk it out.

RYAN KEELEY: And there kinds of questions about how the system of the voting works? Are there questions that you have about - I don't know. I don't want to lead you too much (laughter).

WESTERVELT: He breaks the class up into groups of four. A sixth-grader named Jackson (ph) - the school asked us to use only first names - tells his classmates he's unsure and a little anxious about what comes next.

JACKSON: But I think it's definitely going to be a big change, not necessarily a good change or a bad one, just - it's definitely going to be big and different.

WESTERVELT: Min Quy (ph), whose family emigrated from Vietnam, says she's now worried about her father, who's in the process of getting his U.S. citizenship. She asks, what if he leaves the country for work or a vacation?

MIN QUY: And he's not, like, a citizen yet. So I'm not sure if he will be able to come back to America.

WESTERVELT: Nate (ph), sitting nearby, wearing a Cubs T-shirt, says, I hear Trump wants to start trade wars. But I don't really know what that is. Eleven-year-old Paxton (ph) makes a plea for cooperation, for Democrats to reach out to Trump.

PAXTON: If we work with him, then he - we might be able to change his mind about building the wall, sending all the immigrants back.

WESTERVELT: After the teacher plays them Trump's victory speech, Sarah (ph) tells her classmates she wants to hear more from Trump about unity. He's said some really horrible things, she says, about women, Muslims and Mexicans.

SARAH: Even though he has apologized, it's kind of like a forced apology, like when a bully does something to you, and you tell a teacher. And the teacher tells them to say sorry. It's not a heartfelt apology. And until he really gives a heartfelt apology, I don't believe that he will be able to lead this country for every single American.

WESTERVELT: Keeley tells his class he came to work feeling uneasy but says, you guys have really picked me up.

KEELEY: I just love how thoughtful you guys are being. I love the feeling of how engaged you are in all of this. So thank you.

WESTERVELT: But they still have to do the math homework, a worksheet on proportionality and the Electoral College. Eric Westervelt, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.