Tuesday, 2 August 2016

A former English Teacher’s Take on (teacher) Trump v (teacher) Clinton

To start with, we have Mr Trump’s part in this analogy:

Unlikely as it may sound, Mr Trump is like an effective teacher whose lessons are memorable. Such a teacher got into a red-brick university through clearing, and only scraped a 2:2, because he was too busy dicking about. However, he knows enough to teach the curriculum and understands the average child. An effective teacher knows that the average child can only take in so much information in one lesson; he knows that an overloaded curriculum is an impediment to a good education; and he teaches his lessons accordingly. This means sticking to one or two points which he will elaborate upon a little, return to again and again and again, and intersperse with digressions in the form of eccentric red herrings – which may be true, a pack of lies, improvised, well-rehearsed, funny, etc., and which make the lesson compelling. And memorable.

In this analogy, the purpose of teacher (politician) Trump’s lesson (campaign) is to teach his class (the undecided American voters) two main points (1. His slogan: Make America great again; 2. How he would like them to see his adversary: Crooked Hillary). He returns to these two points again and again and again and again, so that his pupils remember them. All the other stuff which teacher Trump says and does (build a wall, ban Muslims, climate change is man-made because the Chinese invented it) belongs in the realm of the red herring: these may be true, a pack of lies, improvised, well-rehearsed, funny, surreal, etc., but they make the lesson (campaign) compelling. And memorable.

Some of the other pupils in the school (in this case, the Americans who have decided to vote for Mrs Clinton), have heard about both his lesson and his red herrings, which they all agree are in very poor taste and have bugger all to do with education (politics). They also really, really hate the way that he takes the piss out of some of the pupils. These other pupils often talk about teacher Trump as they play in the playground (post videos about Trump on Facebook and Twitter, etc). While they may talk about his dreadful red herrings with disapproval (click on angry face, etc.), they are also, weirdly, able to articulate his lesson’s two main points at the drop of a hat (Make America Great Again and Crooked Hillary).

So, on to Mrs Clinton and her part in the analogy:

Mrs. Clinton is like a super-clever teacher, a super-duper clever teacher, who knows absolutely everything there is to know about her subject – apart from how to teach it. Mrs Clinton went to a top university, got a First, and enjoyed her time there: she was so clever that she could do both. By the way, her husband used to be the Headteacher (the President of the USA), but the less said about that, the better.

As alluded to above, super-duper clever teacher (politician) does not always equal effective teacher, and teacher Clinton, while being a super-duper clever teacher, with experience as a Head of Department (Secretary of State) is also an ineffective, or useless, teacher. Teacher Clinton wildly overestimates her own abilities as a teacher, and likewise, she overestimates the interest levels and attention spans of the pupils in her class (the undecided American voters we met earlier; they are, after all, being courted by both Trump and Clinton, and you take more than one class in school, as we all know). Thus, she overloads her lesson (campaign) with a Gradgrind-esque nightmare of facts, facts, and more facts, some further facts, additional facts, extra facts, new facts, a handful of supplementary facts, a few more important-sounding facts, lots of relevant-looking facty facts, and yet... more... fucking... facts (which are her slogans, plural: 1. Hillary for America; 2. Fighting for Us; 3. I’m with Her; 4. Stronger Together; and... How she would like these voters to see her adversary, which is not encapsulated in one, overarching memorable image, but is, instead, a total shower of shit: Mr Trump is dangerous; he’s unprepared; he’s thin-skinned; he has no ideas; he’s a climate-change denier; he’s a racist; he’s inexperienced; he’s temperamentally unfit.)

Her lessons go from one fact (slogan) to another (thing about Trump) to another (slogan) to another (thing about Trump) to another (slogan) before her pupils have had a chance to digest the last fact (about Trump) which has just fallen out of her mouth, leaving them confused, uncertain and switched off before she’s even walked into the classroom (their house, via TV and the internet). In addition to this, some of the boys have become really pissed off with teacher Clinton’s perceived favouritism of the girls. Not all of them, of course (hmmm...).

Some of the other pupils in the school (in this case, the Americans who have decided to vote for Mr Trump), have listened at the door to teacher Clinton’s lesson. Although some of them can follow what she’s saying, none of them can be bothered to do so and many of them furiously join in with the conversations about teacher Trump as they lark about in the playground (post videos about Trump on Facebook and Twitter, etc). They ignore his red herrings and instead remind everyone about teacher Clinton’s time as Head of Department (Benghazi, emails) and her husband’s time as Headteacher, when he didn’t have an affair with someone who wasn’t his secretary. They are, unsurprisingly, able to articulate his lesson’s two main points at the drop of a hat (Make America Great Again and Crooked Hillary).

Now, there’s going to be a Student Council (the American General Election) on November the 8th which will ask all of the pupils in the school to decide who they think would make the better Headteacher (President of the USA): Teacher Trump or Teacher Clinton? However, it is mainly the pupils who sat in on Teacher Trump and Teacher Clinton’s classes (the undecided American voters) who get to swing the decision one way or the other. It is highly likely that almost all of these pupils will base their decision, not on who was the smartest teacher, but on whose lesson was most memorable: teacher Trump’s two-point lesson, or teacher Clinton’s Factful Encyclopaedia Trumpiana?

The School Council’s decision is very important because it will determine who The School Governors appoint as their new Headteacher.

You can work out what last line means all by yourself.

Happy campaign following!

Background/context to the analogy:

I recently had a conversation my father, who’s a retired Deputy High Court Judge and therefore no slouch, about the current American election campaign. “Trump’s talking about make America great again,” he said, which I took as my cue to interrupt him.

“You know his campaign slogan, then?”

I had derailed His Honour’s train of thought.

“What? Oh... yes.”

“What about Mrs Clinton’s campaign slogan?”

 “Errrrrm...” His Hon. never normally says “Errrrrm...” and I knew he was a bit nonplussed. He knew Trump’s campaign slogan but not Clinton’s? How was this possible?

I changed tack while Monsieur le Judge considered this.

“It’s interesting how the Trump campaign has characterised Clinton, though, isn’t it?” I asked.

“What?  As Crooked Hillary?” came the reply.

“That’s the one,” I said. “With Clinton’s equivalent characterisation of Trump being.....?”

“Errrrrm...” He instantly knew how Trump had been characterising Clinton but was not immediately certain about how Clinton had been characterising Trump? Yet he had, to a certain extent and albeit from a distance, been following the American election campaign? What was going on?

While he sat there pondering his response, I jumped in and started talking about the analogy which I had been constructing (this had been my intention all along, devious bastard who loves the sound of his own voice that I am). I hoped that my analogy might go some way to explaining his respective knowledge/lack of regarding the Trump/Clinton race - which I had assumed he would demonstrate (gotcha! Dad). It’s a flawed analogy, but I hope you agree that it has its good points. Thanks for reading.


  1. A good piece.

    It is tempting, but too easy, to blame a dumb electorate. Trump’s sound bites – “Drain that swamp”, “Lock her up”, “Build that wall” , resonated. Clinton’s didn’t.

    Clinton’s greatest strength, her experience of government and power, was her greatest weakness to an electorate disenchanted with the Establishment. Trumps greatest weakness, his inexperience and disdain for culture was his greatest strength to an electorate who had no track record to assess, and whose barrack room philosophy was an antidote to perceived failed contemporary mores.

    Trump, like Johnson and Farage, understand the Mob. They have the rhetoric to inflame and incite. Beyond that they offer little.

    America will now to bear witness to a paradox. The inexperienced Trump, faced with the largest bureaucracy in the world, is more likely to be swallowed up by the Establishment Administration than Clinton would have been.