Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's School Address

Sept. 8, 2009

President Obama addressed the nation's school children today, exhorting them to stay in school and work hard to achieve great things.

Well, President Obama addressed some school children, but not mine. Due to parent protests and concerns, our school district thought it would be best to tell teachers that they were not permitted to show the live broadcast. There was concern that the President might try to 'indoctrinate' our children or push an agenda other than his 'stay in school' message, so the easiest way to avoid the controversy was to simply tell teachers they could not show it.

The trouble came to light when the Department of Education released proposed discussion questions to go along with the President's speech. Honestly, I can see why someone who was leery of the President's motives might have been a little concerned about some of the questions (i.e.--What can you do to help President Obama?). Some of these children have parents who don't want to help President Obama, so why would they want their children to have to answer that kind of question? I get that. But within the context of the whole question set, you can see that the question was directed at what can students do to help the President lower the drop-out rate and encourage kids to stay in school. Not terribly subversive stuff. Vague questions? Perhaps. Dangerous message? Hardly.

There were lots of parents who said, "It's not Obama's job to tell my kids to stay in school. I do just fine giving them that message myself--let him parent his own kids." Well, I tell my own kids to stay in school, too. But if any of y'all wanna chime in and tell 'em to stay in school, too, I won't be mad at you. I let their aunts and uncles tell them to stay in school, too. And when their teachers tell them they need to work hard and put their best efforts into their school work, well, that's also okay. And if my son or daughter pays a little closer attention because the President of the United States had something to say about education, I don't count that as a bad thing.

Similarly, there were lots of adults who thought that President Obama was spending his time on a relatively trivial matter to promote his own self-image, when perhaps he should have been focusing on more important issues facing our country--the economy, healthcare, unemployment. And yet, what could be more important than the education and the future of the youth of America? The kids in this country will determine the direction our country goes in the future; addressing them and reinforcing that what they do as individuals matters is vital.

Our nation's President spoke to the students of this country today. His message was positive, encouraging, uplifting, and partisan-free. This was not a political message, nor was it one that warranted the high level of controversy that it generated in school districts across the country. Nonetheless, a vocal group of parents in my district generated enough concern that students were not allowed to see it in classes today when it was aired. If it had been, in my household we certainly would have had a conversation about what they saw and heard. This is what we do anyway--I talk to my kids about what goes on in their day, and what their perceptions are, and why they think they're learning about whatever they're learning about during their days.

As it was, we sat down and watched it together tonight as a family, and still had our discussion. That's not a bad thing, by any means. But it does sadden me that our teachers were not given the respect and professional courtesy to choose whether or not the speech was relevant to their curriculum. I am disappointed that we did not have enough faith in our teachers to feel that they could conduct open and honest discussions. It is frustrating to me that we do not have enough respect for the office of the President to allow our children to view and participate in a historic address. My kids saw what happened--after the fact. They see and read about history all the time, but the impact of the immediacy of being a part of that history? Well, that opportunity doesn't come along very often. It did today for some kids. Some kids, however, missed out.


  1. Doesn't it seem awfully un-American to actively prevent the viewing of an address from the President? How can any civics, history or social studies be taught if anyone disagrees with the source of the content?

    People have to respect the office, if not the person. If you don't like your representation, you have 4 years to work hard and replace him. Until then, don't be cry-babies parents.

  2. So well said! My son's school had technical difficulties yesterday, but plan to show it today. They sent a letter home telling parents that the kids were going to watch it, but if they didn't want them to then another activity would be planned. I thought that was a good way to handle any naysayers.

  3. My sixth grader was able to see the video today. Her teacher sent an e-mail last night stating that she believed that the President's message would be encouraging and meaningful to students, and to respond to her only if you did not want your child to watch the video. Although, I consider myself a conservative, I'm disgusted with all the negativity and disrespect towards President Obama. These parents need to chill out.