Immediately after the election, I began boring my friends with the idea of a domestic exchange program, where city kids go to rural towns and rural kids come to the city. Because it can't be good for our kids—rural or urban—to grow up thinking the country's being sabotaged by some faceless, monstrous others whose lives they can't begin to understand.
Well, the exchange is actually happening, in tentative steps. A bus full of kids from Chicago's Lake View High School spent a day with kids in Pecatonica High school, in Blanchardville, Wisconsin (pop. 825). And the Blanchardville kids visited their Chicago brethren.
The result? Pretty unsatisfying, judging by the story at Chicago's public radio station, WBEZ.
The kids got along well enough, to their surprise.
“I thought they would be like hillbillies who would be really rude and closed-minded,” the soft spoken Latina girl with striking eyes said as the day wound down. “I thought we’d be more accepting, but they’re just as accepting … as we are.”
But what did they learn?
“I think it confused me even more,” said Neyda Diaz, a Lake View student who also helped organize the trips. “Or maybe not even more, but like, it didn’t answer my questions of why they voted for who they did.”
Well, maybe Diaz and her classmates should have asked why their country counterparts' parents voted for Trump. Or maybe they needed a little more time with one another, a little more context, a little more thoughtfully organized an experience.
This fall my 13-year-old daughter is traveling with her Mandarin class to spend two weeks in China.
I'm excited for her. But I'm thinking maybe at this moment in American history, she'd have a more profound and socially useful fortnight living with a family in Chandlerville, Ill.