Saturday, September 5, 2009

President Obama's Speech To Schoolchildren


barack obama democrat presidential candidate senator photo gallery Photo

In the past, candidate Obama has spoken to parents and addressed their role in their children’s education.  He has spoken directly to the fathers of children who have so often shirked their responsibilities as prime mentors and behavior examples.  In July of ’08, when Obama was running for president he took fire from some in the Black community for being so open with his criticism of absentee dads.  Even Jesse Jackson, when he believed that his mic was off, spoke of Obama, “talking down to black people,” and wanting to “cut his @#$% off”.  Interesting.

Can anyone disagree with the fact that parents should take an active interest in their children’s upbringing?  How can there be objections to that?

This week, school children from across the country may be asked to watch President Obama address students on, what is traditionally thought of, as the first day of school for most of the US.  In our part of the country the kids have been in class for a couple weeks. 

The speech will be about students taking responsibility for their education. Here is a chunk of the White House blog:

At noon on Tuesday, September 8th the President will be welcoming America’s students back to school – after all, sometimes they need a little extra motivation after a glorious summer. The President has spoken often about the responsibility parents have for their children and their education, but in this message he’ll urge students to take personal responsibility for their own education, to set goals, and to not only stay in school but make the most of it.

For Republicans, Democrats, Independents or Libertarians, it seems like a no-brainer.  Black, White, Latino, Asian, Native Americans… How can you argue against students taking personal responsibility for their own education?  That doesn’t seem very insidious. 


Does it? 


That’s why I was honestly surprised by the backlash about this speech.  In the last two days I have heard the proposed speech labeled “indoctrination,” “brainwashing,” “troubling,” “socialist” and “blatantly political”.  There are school districts refusing to allow teachers to show the address.  Lots of them.

When I was a kid I remember teachers (many Catholic nuns) setting aside lesson plans so we could watch the Saturn and Apollo spacecrafts lifting off into space and the ensuing splashdowns and recoveries.  Those were always special occasions for us.  We’d be there to watch history happening.  The teachers were not reading the newspaper or checking student work.  They were right there with us.

This is a historic moment too.  For one thing, we have the first American president who is not a white man.  Whether you voted for him or not, you have to admit that IS historic.  And he wants to address school kids.  Talk right to them.  He wants to wish them well and to set goals for themselves. 

There are the obligatory conspiracy theorists, those who would love to see Mr. Obama fail at anything.  Everything.    features a lot of them.  I guess if you say something long enough and loud enough and say it with enough conviction and authority then there is a certain percentage of people who assume it’s true.  The DEATH PANEL thing started by Ms. Palin herself, for example.  Here are a couple samples from momsforsarah…

I don't care what president it is and what letter they have behind their name, they have no business addressing the children of our nation in our schools.

Downplaying academic achievement in favor of left-wing radical activism in the public schools is rooted in old neighborhood pal and Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers’ pedagogical philosophy.

Instead of practicing cursive, reviewing multiplication tables, diagramming sentences, or learning something concrete, America’s kids will be lectured about the importance of learning.

It is difficult for me to understand.  Is anyone honestly afraid that Barack Obama’s speech to school children on their first day of school about the importance of learning is some kind of left-wing, socialist plot to prevent children from learning how to diagram sentences or how to multiply?  Honestly? 

I guess if that is true then NASA was in cahoots with these left wing radical activists because every time there was a rocket blasting off into space my school was there.  I’m guessing there were many schools watching.  Were all of those teachers and principals involved in the plot to destroy cursive and knowledge of multiplication facts?  How about our parents?  Why weren’t they forcing us to do our homework instead of allowing us to watch all of that liberal space exploration stuff?  I mean, my folks sat right there with me and watched it. 

Come to think of it, I am probably part of the plot as well, but I didn’t realize it… until just now.  Last year during the presidential campaign I showed campaign speeches by McCain and Obama to my second graders.  Several children asked, in the course of our discussions about the election and the Democratic process, about the differences between Republicans and Democrats.  Rather then give my opinion on the subject, we watched and listened to speeches, campaign videos, read the newspaper and magazines and compiled a list ourselves of what the two parties would have us believe they stand for.  It was a brilliant and insightful list (of course I am biased about my class). 

Our class surveyed other classes in our school.  We created pie graphs, picto-graphs, line graphs and bar graphs to display the data.  We displayed the information in the halls.  The fifth graders must have also been involved in this plot to interfere with real education because they held an election of all of the children in our school and for their learning celebration on the Friday before the election, shared the information they collected with the entire school.

If George W. Bush were to address students on the first day of school and ask them to take school seriously and to take charge of their own future, I’m sure there would be Democrats who would object, thinking that it was opportunistic.  I’m sure the liberal radio talk shows (if there are such things) would go after him and say he was pandering to children.  But honestly, as a teacher of little kids, I would be there to watch right along with the children.  And, at the risk of sounding too patriotic, I would support my president for talking right to students about something as important as their future.  And, at the risk of sounding like an educator who sincerely cares about children, I would agree with him that students should take responsibility for their own learning.  What is more important to them right now?  Seriously, would 45 minutes spent on cursive writing or practicing multiplication tables make more of a difference to students than being told directly by their newly elected president how important school is to their future?


Presidents make speeches.  It is an important part of their job.  Politicians are opportunistic by definition.  It’s how they try to get reelected.  But a president making a speech right to schoolchildren?  Addressing the most important issues in their lives? 

I’m too patriotic and care too much for children to find fault with that.  Count me in.  I’m watching right along with my students.


1 comment:

The Nicholsons said...

Thank you! I wish the school districts had been more supportive of teachers in this. Instead of providing an opt-out, teachers are being forced to jump through hoops just to opt-in. All teachers who want to be identified and marked as radical socialists, please raise your hands?? Really? Geez, I just wanted my kid to remember the day the President spoke to her class!