This morning I got an email from the school superintendent. It read, “There is a current controversy about President Obamaâ€™s speech to the nationâ€™s school children next Tuesday. The district is receiving conflicting feedback from parents and others about whether and how the district will handle this situation.”
And this is how I learned about the controversial “Back to School” speech President Obama will be giving on Tuesday; the first day of school for many children across the United States. The White House says President Obama wants to talk to school children directly to encourage them to “work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.” Conservatives, however, believe this is just an excuse for President Obama to drill his socialist ideals in to the minds of children.
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer said:
I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power. While I support educating our children to respect both the office of the American President and the value of community service, I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda.
Drama queen much? How did a speech about hard work, education goals, and personal responsibility turn in to the President talking to first graders about a government-run health care plan (as if they’d even understand what the hell that meant…even high schoolers would be a little sketchy on that)?
Several parents are calling and emailing school principals to ask the school not to air the speech. A few parents have decided they will go to school with their child on Tuesday to watch the speech with their child. Some parents are drafting letters as we speak excusing their child from the speech. Others have threatened to keep their kids out of school on Tuesday.
I can’t believe we are even having this discussion. I can’t believe we are having this fight. Seriously?!?
You don’t want your kids to listen to a speech on education? You don’t want your kids to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning? Really? These are all lessons we are already trying to teach our kids. But the response we usually get from our kids is a big, heavy sigh and maybe even an eye roll. If we’re lucky we get an, “I know. I know. You’ve told me this a million times.” My kids are now tuning me out. So I welcome another authoritative figure preaching the importance of education to my kids.
The political process has always been a part of the curriculum at schools. We all spent hours and hours in a social studies class learning about government and presidents and world leaders. We need to take an interest in government. We need to listen to what our politicians are saying to us so we can make informed decisions and vote intelligently. Why not start this habit early with a speech on education?
I am an extremely liberal Democrat, but I don’t agree with everything President Obama says and does. However, I welcome his message of “stay in school” and “work hard.” I didn’t like President Bush. In fact “didn’t like” is being really nice. But if President Bush wanted to address my children and preach a message on the importance of education I would have welcomed it.
What would President Obama have to gain by “brainwashing” students with his “liberal propaganda?” It’s the beginning of his term. He already has the job. He’s not campaigning for votes. And most of these kids won’t be old enough to vote in 2012. These kids have no political influence. So why bother “indoctrinating” them?
And, even if President Obama does slip in some propaganda (although I seriously doubt he will), how would one speech brainwash them? Does President Obama have some super power I’m unaware of. You are the parent. You’ve been preaching your ideas to kids their whole life. Is one short speech from President Obama going to overturn all of that?
You want to take action. Fine. Get acquainted with the speech yourself. The White House has promised to post the transcript on Monday so you can read it before you children watch it. Or you can watch the video live on TV or streaming on you computer. Talk to your kids about the speech. Talk to them about your beliefs, your opinions, your morals. Give them exposure to both sides and trust them to make their own decision.
Like I said, I’m a liberal Democrat. My 15-year-old son? A Republican. [I know, I don't know where I went wrong.] I often call him Alex P. Keaton (you know, cause his name is Keaton). We have some pretty good debates; me arguing for the liberal side and him arguing for the conservative side. He makes some excellent points and he amazes me with how well thought out some of his arguments are. Although I wish he was a democrat I’m glad he’s not claiming to be a democrat just because I am. I’m glad he’s taken the time to think it through and form his own opinions. Let your kids use their brain, improve their critical thinking skills, and get involved in government.
So what are the big arguments against President Obama’s speech?
Hall Pass on That says,
The only time President Reagan addressed schoolchildren was after the space shuttle disaster? Really? On May 13, 1986 (almost 5 months after the Challenger disaster) President Reagan addressed a group of high school students in his Remarks and a Question-and-Answer Session With Students of John A. Holmes High School of Edenton, North Carolina. And if you read the transcript of this speech you will see that President Reagan did express his political agenda. It was not a speech that was given because “circumstances required it.”
But President Reagan’s speech wasn’t broadcast to millions of schoolchildren? Actually it was broadcast on the Instructional Television Network. And in the speech President Reagan said, “As you know, my remarks are being broadcast live over radio and television to high school students throughout the country.” However, in 1986 not many schools had televisions in the classroom.
But President Reagan was talking to high school students? President Obama wants to talk to younger children too. Ok, so in 1991 the first President Bush addressed a classroom of junior high students in his October 1, 1991 speech (which, btw, was just a year before the 1992 election in which he was a candidate) Remarks to Students and Faculty at Alice Deal Junior High School. This speech was also broadcast live by the Cable News Network, the Public Broadcasting System, the Mutual Broadcasting System, and the NBC radio network. In 1991, thanks to Channel One, more schools were installing TVs in the classroom, but it still wasn’t the norm. However, President Bush started the speech with, “Thank you, Ms. Mostoller, and thanks for allowing me to visit your classroom to talk to you and all these students, and millions more in classrooms all across the country.”
And President Bush did address drugs in his speech…briefly. Go read it. Out of roughly 30 paragraphs three are on the subject of staying off drugs. THREE out of THIRTY. I wouldn’t consider the speech a plea to “Just Say No” as Nancy Reagan coined. The gist of the speech is about education. About staying in school and working hard. Sound familiar?
President Bush ended his speech with:
Let me leave you with a simple message: Every time you walk through that classroom door, make it your mission to get a good education. Don’t do it just because your parents, or even the President, tells you. Do it for yourselves. Do it for your future. And while you’re at it, help a little brother or sister to learn, or maybe even Mom or Dad. Let me know how you’re doing. Write me a letter — and I’m serious about this one — write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals. I think you know the address.
Did you catch that last part? “Write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals.” Hmm…President Bush was asking kids to send him a letter to tell him some ways kids can help President Bush achieve these goals. Sounds a little familiar doesn’t it? Sounds exactly like what President Obama was asking our kids to do on Tuesday. Only today’s republicans think asking “What can you do to help your President?” means President Obama is brainwashing our kids. Double standard much?
If President Bush can give a speech to millions of kids in classrooms all across the country (Bush’s words, not mine) about the importance of education, why can’t President Obama? Why don’t circumstances warrant it today? We still have a pretty high drop out rate in the U.S. There are still kids not living up to their potential. Wouldn’t another little push from the president be a big help?
Hall Pass on That continues with:
Parents have a right to know what their children are exposed to in school â€“ even if it is from the President of the United States. If what he has to say is so important, he would have gone through the proper channels to do it. That includes allowing parents, eduactors [sic], school boards to preview before airing it to minors. What if he â€œmis-speaksâ€ about something again? What if he calls Policemen â€œidiotsâ€ again. That would be very harmful to children. He also has a real habit of telling â€œnon-truthsâ€. This man has a different value system than I do. It is my right and duty as a parent to protect my children.
Do your children’s teachers give you a transcript of what they will say in the classroom each day? Do guest speakers that come to the school give you transcripts? Does your preacher give you a transcript? How about the checkout girl at Wal-Mart? Any of these people could have a political agenda. Any of these people could mis-speak. Heck, sometimes I would cringe when an older family member would say something politically incorrect in front of my kids. And yet I never asked for a transcript before going over to grandma’s house. Teachers give us the gist of what they will teach in their classrooms and we trust them to do their jobs. President Obama gave us the gist of what he’ll be saying to students and we need to trust him to do his job.
Katie Gordon, a spokeswoman for the Florida Republican Party, says the problem is not that President Obama is giving a speech to children (after all, other presidents have done that). The problem is with the accompanying lesson plans. The “lesson plans” she refers to are actually called a Menu for Classroom Activities. Our school superintendent addressed the menu well:
Several thoughts went through my head as I read the documents:
â€¢ The suggested activities are educationally sound strategies to encourage deeper thinking.
â€¢ It can be inferred from the activities that the emphasis of the speech is â€œpersonal responsibility, persistence, and goalsâ€ related to school effort – ideas that are important in education and are not â€œownedâ€™ by a particular party or political group.
â€¢ There are probably many more activities on the â€œmenuâ€ than any teacher would possibly use. That is why it is a menu â€“ no one is expected to order everything on a menu or required to order anything from a menu. No one is expected to do each activity or to do
â€¢ Our individual teachers are also capable of designing appropriate activities to extend learning and teach personal responsibility, persistence and goals in the classroom.
The menu is clearly designed to encourage discussion and critical thinking. Questions like “Who is the President of the United States? If you were President what would you tell students?” are questions any social studies teacher would ask in a normal class period. Questions like “What is the President trying to tell me? What is the President asking me to do?” and “What resonated with you from President Obama’s speech? What is President Obama inspiring you to do?” are thought provoking questions. What is President Obama inspiring me to do? Hmm…study harder, stay in school, try my best. Hardly sounds like political propaganda does it?
So before you get your panties in a wad, please do your homework. Read U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s letter to principals. Read the Menu for Children’s Activities. Read the transcript of President Obama’s speech when it is released on Monday. Talk to your kids about the speech. Talk to you kids about the controversy surrounding the speech. And then if you still want to ban your child from listening to the speech then ok. As a parent you have that right. But I really hope you will consider allowing your child to participate.