In the White House, anti-science, alt-facts and frequent lying are commonplace, and it is taking a toll on our youngest generation.
President Trump’s reaction to the recent job report from the Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics is one of the most recent demonstrations of this alt-presidency. The report indicates an increase of 235,000 new jobs for the month of February. The jobless rate for the month of January went down from 4.8% to 4.7%. The current administration is taking all the credit for the increase in jobs, even though his administration was only in its second month of office. More shocking was President Trump’s pride in the numbers, considering that Candidate Trump called these job report numbers “phony” in rally after rally to deride the economic recovery under president Barack Obama.
These kinds of lies are having an enormous impact on our students. I am ethically and scientifically bound to science, facts, honesty, and integrity. I have experience in teaching hardcore science as well as research ethics. I hold these principles as inviolable and essential to the practice of science and medicine, as well as life. In all of the professional fields of healthcare, student learning is dependent on evidence-based data and principles. You would not want a doctor who did not rely on factual data, reproducible research, integrity and honesty of reporting scientific data. Nor would you wish to participate in medical research unless you could rely on the information provided to be accurate. But now, our students are watching the actions and words of the Trump administration and they are questioning if constructs such as “truth” can hold in this environment. Having taught in schools of higher learning for 45 years, this line of questioning is new and frightening to me.
The scientific and methodical way of determining the creation of new jobs and the jobless rate are the same as it has been for years. The White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, informed his audience that after talking to the president about the new job numbers the President said: “They [the numbers] may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.” Mr. Spicer and the reporters in the briefing room gave it a big laugh. Unfortunately, telling falsehoods by Mr. Trump has become commonplace in the past year. A more disturbing issue is that hundreds of presidential aides are happy enablers, perpetuating the lies.
We teach our students to respect others, do no harm, do good, and increase benefits to patients. We teach facts that are supported by data obtained by an honest process that ensures integrity. In the age of Trump, many students rightfully are questioning the ethical foundation of what we are teaching. If the ethics of our teaching are lacking, the scientific information is automatically suspect. Now our students are questioning the value of ethical principles taught -honesty, integrity, and humility- because we have leaders showing disdain for these values.
If this is the impact on our collegial and professional settings, one can imagine the impact the lack of truthfulness, honesty and integrity have on our younger K-12 students. In this age of Trump, how can our younger generation reconcile the teaching of honesty and integrity while our leaders produce falsifications and fabrications daily?
During this past campaign for presidency, many of our citizens showed their willingness to tolerate Trump’s lies. Yet recent polls also indicate that the majority of Americans disapprove of President Trump’ s performance, with a 58-38 margin of disapproval of Trump’s values. In a culture in which a spectrum of lies are tolerated in many corners- marketing, business, politics, and more- it seems that Americans are on the fence about the importance of truth.
Teachers must formulate an expressed mission commensurate with the level of their students that espouses the value and validity of science, facts, and integrity. Otherwise, when Trumps lies, our ethical principles die, too.
The fundamental principles of our society must stand. Explicitly reminding our students of the importance of truth will benefit us all. We must succeed in a peaceful revolution by stopping Trump and his enablers from destroying our democracy- It is the only way to save our country.
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Adil E. Shamoo is a senior analyst at Foreign Policy In Focus, and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He writes on ethics and public policy. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.