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A Productive Class Discussion About Trump and Narcissism

A Productive Class Discussion About Trump and Narc...

I keep asking myself, "When I discuss narcissism in class, how can I not mention Trump?" Students will probably him up themselves.  


Two things to make clear to the class:


  1. Psychologists usually don't diagnose anyone based on what is seen or read in the media. Neither will our class. 
  2. Politics is often a sensitive topic. Our goal is not to criticize anyone but to discuss. 


One thing's for sure:


Asking Students "What do You Think About Trump?" Won't Work


I could show a video of a Trump rally (and a Clinton rally to be neutral) and then ask students "What do you think – is this Narcissism?" I'm sure we'd get plenty of discussion, but I doubt it would be productive.


Okay, so I asked myself, “What’s the goal of bringing him up anyway?” Here’s what I’m thinking:


  1. To get students to understand that narcissism isn't an either/or kind of thing. Narcisstic Peronality Disorder is a diagnosis (NPD) and we won't be diagnosing anyone.  Narcissism is a characteristic we all show to one degree or another.
  2. Having a high level of narcissism doesn't mean you can't be successful or effective.


So instead of asking the class "What do you think of Trump?" I'm going of try this:


  • Think-Write-Pair-Share: After showing students how Trump displays characteristics of narcissism (and again, I could do this with Clinton as well), I'm going to ask them, "Do his narcissistic tendencies mean that he can't be a good leader?" Here are my instructions: 
    1. Take out a piece of paper, write a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = "No he cannot be a good leader" and 10 = "Yes, he can still be a good leader".) Circle a number.
    2. Pair up in 2's, compare numbers and discuss why they feel that way.
    3. Groups of 2 become groups of 4 - again comparing numbers and reasons.
    4. Each group of 4 picks someone to share their group’s ideas with the class. 

My hope is that my two goals will surface during the discussion. Other ideas will come out as well, so I hope it’ll be both interesting and productive.


I’m struggling with how to broach this topic without the class getting off track and the whole thing devolving into political rants. Do you think this approach will work or do you know another way to have a productive discussion on narcissism and Trump?






I'm faced with the SAME dilemma!!  In my Intro to Computers class we start with a hot technology topic each week and it seems to be all about TRUMP and politics  with his twitter rants and hacking rants and online bullying.... 


By the way, we also have a READING Apprenticeship Quality Enhancement Plan at our college for accreditation and Think-Write-Pair-Share is one of our strategies to improve student reading and comprehension; great tool!

Valued Contributor

I think this is an excellent active learning strategy Michael and yes, I think it's impossible for us not to bring Trump into our courses, because if we believe practical application of our course content to the world around us is an important engagement strategy, than whether we like it or not, or feel he should be or not, he is currently in the role of President of the United States.  


However I do absolutely agree with you that there would have to be some ground rules set up in the classroom.  I always encourage students to set ground rules for our classroom since it's 100% active learning and student centered.  It's something we usually do on the first or second day and they almost always include, respect for one another, openess to sharing honest opinions without being criticized, etc...  So you may just need to remind your students of these rules before this activity, as I occasionally do have to remind mine.  


Another individual activity that could lead to a group discussion in a subsequent class, or an activity that could be used in an online course , could be to challenge students to view a speech or read literature about decisions he is making, executive orders he is passing, etc... and identify evidence of narcisism.  This will engage students in critical thinking, as they have to understand the concept well enough to then be able to search for practical examples.  Although, I suggeste this activity somewhat hesitantly because just the thought of forcing them to be exposed to the rhetoric, may be questionable. But for me the goal would be teaching them to be educated consumers of information.  Students could each find and post a brief youtube video or other media byte that they feel demonstrates some form of narcissism and without describing why, we could ask them to comment on each others posts.  This could create a rich discussion in ConnectYard in MindTap.  


What do our other colleagues think?  Does anyone have other activities they could suggest related to this topic or do you avoid the topic in your course?  

No kidding? The topic of Trump comes up in a class on computing? Well, I guess I do see the twitter tie-in and the online bullying issue.  Interesting.  And yes, the "Think-Write-Pair-Share" method is a great way to get students to think first, commit to some position on an issue (write) and only then share their ideas with other students.  Needs to be used more often in higher ed! 

Thanks for your thoughts Stacy.  I totally agree with you that the instructor should preface the discussion with a mention of why we're talking about Trump and some mention of what makes a good discussion (i.e., respect for one another's ideas).  I edited the original post and added a little of that at the beginning.


I'm fascinated by this part of your comment that your class is "100% active learning and student centered".  Can you give a little more info on how you do that?  


HI Michael,


This is a great topic-- for us to chat about here about how (or why/why not) to bring up in our classes.


I thought I would share this article from 2013 from The Pew Research Center.  It doesn't address Trump, but does address other presidents.



Have a great day!