Monday, September 7, 2009


President Obama is giving a speech to the students of our schools tomorrow. He wants to talk to them about education. To encourage them to do their best, to take ownership of their own education. For many school districts around the country, it will be the first day of school, though ours went back weeks ago, so it seems to be a good time to talk to the kids about their future.

I have been asked a few times by different people what my opinion about this upcoming speech is. My knee jerk reaction is that I didn't really have one. I obviously had not seen the speech, or read the text of it, since it had not happened yet. He's the President, and if he feels the need to talk to kids, so be it. Clearly, I was in the minority. Everyone else, it seems, has an opinion.

The right wing media picked up on the plan and ran with it. They are pretty good at that. And they are even better at stirring up unnecessary drama at every possible opportunity. Never mind the fact that the past Presidents who have done this exact same thing have been Republicans. George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan both spoke to children at school. And though I was a child at the time, I remember those speeches. What I don't remember is any drama surrounding them. The "liberal" media must not have thought it was worth making an issue of. But times are different now. He's a Democrat.

Like it or not, he is the President. Though not everyone may have voted for him, he did win. And the office of the President is the most important in our nation, one that must be respected regardless of who holds it and whether you agree with everything they happen to be doing at the time. I did vote for him. Do I agree with everything he has done thus far? Of course not. But he is the President.

I have many conservative friends who have expressed not just displeasure, but bold faced outrage about the speech. Words like brainwashing and stumping have been mentioned. It's not an election year. He's not running for office. Just because he is a politician doesn't mean that everything he has to say is, as a result, political. Why is it so objectionable for him to talk to kids? Do people honestly believe that he would use that platform to manipulate children for political purposes? If the answer is yes, as I know for some it is, it's a shame.

There are other parents that just don't want a political figure in the classroom at all. Who feel that it is their job alone to teach their kids about the way our government works. I'm the opposite, obviously. I majored in public policy in college. I went to government leadership programs in high school. I feel pretty strongly about the fact that children need to be taught about our system from a young age. And they need to be taught about it not just by their parents, but by a neutral third party. I would hope that school could be that neutral third party. That it could be somewhere that children are taught about our government without being taught the biases that come with politics. The biases that parents have.

The school the kids go to, already in and of itself a highly political creature, has wavered. The district's policy was a total cop-out. They made a decision not to make a decision about the speech, giving the teachers instead the discretion about allowing children to view the speech. Parents could opt out if they chose. The school was originally going to follow that policy, much to the chagrin of some insanely vocal parents. Upset that their children would be missing out on valuable time that should be spent in the classroom, they basically threw a collective fit. Never mind the fact that the kids were pulled out of class last week for an hour for something even less important to their education. They had an assembly that amounted to little else than a sales pitch lesson for the PTO fundraiser. President's speech = bad. Peddling crap for $ = good. Interesting priorities. Yeah, I said it. Flog me.

Giving in to the demands of a few parents, the school changed the plan. They sent home permission slips Friday, which must be signed and returned if we want our kids to be allowed to watch the speech. Instead of opting out, we now must opt in. Such a seemingly small change will result in a huge difference. And the kids who have parents that are paranoid about politics will be denied the opportunity to see the speech. The ones who will deny their kids the chance to learn something from the leader of the free world in the name of protecting them. Missing out also will be the kids that forgot to have a parent sign the sheet. Or that forgot to give it to their parents in the first place. Or that lost the form on the way to school. Or that weren't at school on Friday and never got one in the first place. You see where I am going with this, right?

Last time I checked, communication wasn't a bad thing. With all the influences that come into our children's lives, whether through tv, the internet, movies, music, friends, parents, or elsewhere, this warrants a permission slip? Surely, commercials on tv are more manipulative, more persuasive, more influential in our children's daily lives than anything Obama could say. Any parent who thinks that they really know everything their kids are absorbing from friends is in terrible denial of reality. But this, a speech from the President of our country, inspires insult slinging debates? An uproar from parents? Permission slips?

There is a saying that you can't please everyone all the time. Not even the President can. It doesn't matter which side of the aisle he aligns himself with. It's impossible. Just make sure your kids don't need a permission slip for school tomorrow. You wouldn't want them brainwashed or anything.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Some of My Most Popular Posts