President Obama will be speaking directly to our children and youth on September 8,  The U.S. Department of Education announced:

On September 8, 2009, history will be made. Will you be a part of it?

At 12:00 p.m., Eastern Time (ET), President Barack Obama will deliver a national address to the students of America. (Please note that this is a change from the originally scheduled time.) During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation’s children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

It’s historic in the fact that it’s never been done before by any other President.  Now I don’t think it’s bad to listen to a Presidential speech in the context of a social studies class, history class, or political science class, etc.  I’m not sure students need a pep talk from the President to buckle down.  I’m also not sure why it’s necessary for elementary students to listen.

This seems to be some sort of default mechanism that President Obama has.  My health care reform plan is sinking… give a speech.  Our public schools aren’t doing very well… give a speech.  Sort of reminds me of when I got in trouble with my dad, out would come the lecture (and they worked incredibly well Dad!).

A few things I’m wondering…

  1. How will school districts decide whether or not to participate?
  2. Why the White House feels it is necessary to do this? 
  3. Will they release a transcript of the speech before hand?
  4. How many will use the lesson plans that accompany?

Yes they have lesson/activity plans for secondary and elementary aged students.  This concerns me… because of what it lacks – giving kids (and teachers) permission to view the speech with a critical lens.  Take for example a set of questions given in the secondary activity plans:

Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? How will he inspire us?
How will he challenge us?
What might he say?
Do you remember any other historic moments when the president spoke to the nation?
What was the impact?

It’s making the assumption that President Obama will be inspiring and challenging.  Also asking kids how many speeches he gave that would be considered “historic” seems pretty arrogant to me.  I mean what if a liberal teacher asks their class that question about “historic” speeches and one students says, “his primetime press conference on healthcare,”  not really a speech per se, but roll with me.  One student answers the “impact” question saying, “his poll ratings went down.”  How will that teacher respond?

Perhaps a more educational question would be this instead of focusing on the Obama Presidency ask, “What would be some examples of historic moments when Presidents spoke to the nation?”  And then ask the impact question… instead we have a “all hail Obama” thing going here.

Another example from the secondary activity ideas are questions given to be part of a guided discussion:

• What resonated with you from President Obama’s speech? What lines or phrases do you remember?
• Whom is President Obama addressing? How do you know? Describe his audience.
• We heard President Obama mention the importance of personal responsibility. In your life, who exemplifies this kind of responsibility? How? Give examples.
• How are the individuals in this classroom similar? How is each student different?
• Suppose President Obama were to give another speech about being educationally successful. To whom would he speak? Why? What would the president say?
• What are the three most important words in the speech? Rank them.
• Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything? Is he challenging you to do anything?
• What do you believe are the challenges of your generation?
• How can you be a part of addressing these challenges?

One glaring question is missing… “was there anything in President Obama’s remarks that you disagree with?  If so, why?”  Shouldn’t we be developing critical thinking skills with kids?  Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for students if they do dissent to be able to articulate why?

I question the educational value of taking school time for this type of speech.  I think it would be of better value for his address to Congress or first State of the Union speech to be watched, dissected and debated – in the appropriate classes.  This seems more like indoctrination than education to me.  What do you think?

30 comments
      1. @Shane Vander Hart, I’m not so sure. This time he’s talking about staying in school. This is just to get people used to the idea of the POTUS speaking directly to school children. Gradually the speeches will become more and more left-leaning until he’s telling kids about the importance of the “right to privacy” and “making sure everyone has an equal piece of the pie.”
        .-= Casey´s last blog ..A picture’s worth a thousand words =-.

      2. @Casey,

        but from the guide, he’s *not* just talking about staying in school. He’s talking about citizenship, personal responsibility, and civic duty.

        Passing over the personal responsibility bit for now… do we really want someone who’s trying to re-purpose 9/11 into a “public service” day talking about civic duty?
        .-= Foxfier´s last blog ..There is a good death =-.

      3. @Foxfier,
        I’m pretty sure it will be benign this time. I think the goal is to say, “Why object to the President talking to school children and giving them such a positive message? You see, these right-wingers are just paranoid.” It’s the old tactic of misdirection. Every time anyone criticizes him, they’ll just dismiss them as nutcases, and the media will happily go out and find some frothing-at-the-mouth moron to back up the claim. When Obama actually begins promoting socialism and anti-Christian messages, the public will already have been programmed to dismiss the criticism.
        .-= Casey´s last blog ..A picture’s worth a thousand words =-.

  1. I have three in Catholic elementary and one in public high school. I recommend parents call their principal(s) or just send an email as I did, and ask. In our public high school, the principal left it up to individual teachers, so I had to email each of my son’s teachers and ask if they plan to participate. I told them that I needed to know because both my son and I are opposed to this president’s policies. Also, I let them know that I had read the letter on the Education Dept website along with the activity sheets and have concerns. I let them know that I would be keeping him at home for the whole day or a partial day if any of them were going to participate and framed it just in the context of planning our schedule. I didn’t otherwise complain. Teachers have enough to worry about. Three of my son’s four teachers have already emailed to tell me they won’t be participating. I’m waiting to hear from the other teacher. If he says they won’t participate, I’ll let my son go on to school, but prepared for any foreseeable problems.

  2. I think the schools are trying to indoctrinate but, I think it’s going to backfire.

    Obama is just not cool anymore and I can see the collective eye roll from the students as ‘The One’ lectures them…

      1. @Shane Vander Hart, Great point, Shane. My kids would do fine because of how I’ve educated them. Because I have educated my kids, they know what this is all about. They’ve seen the videos of movie stars pledging allegiance to Obama and of the AmeriCorps routines developed since Obama took office. My kids know the score and what this speech is all about. But it is an added pressure for them to have to protest by asking for permission to leave the room. Also, an update re: my previous post. The fourth teacher finally emailed me back and said that if he were teaching social studies he might, but not in his computer class………so my son will be going to school the full day.

      2. @Shane Vander Hart, I grant that Obama is a celebrity (what modern President isn’t?), but he’s also the first African-American President. That makes him a pretty big role model for a lot of students.

  3. If this is completely innocent, then it’s a sign of his huge ego that he has to talk to the students about the importance of education.

    Or it’s just plain ol’ indoctrination.

  4. I have never heard such a collective voice of ignorance people! Let go of your political views and allow your children to participate in history. He is trying to encourage education and creative thought-NOT brainwashing-you are already doing that! Your kids need to understand both sides before they can make an educated decision about what they believe in-GEEZ!

    1. @ShannonR, Let’s see yep you are following rule #1 of liberal engagement of people on the web… insult their intelligence.

      What history are they participating in? The fact he is making a speech. Can I gag now? I have no problem with him encouraging kids to stay in school. Do a PSA on it, etc. I don’t have even a problem with the speech.

      I have a problem with the curriculum. And I don’t brainwash my children, I parent them. We have sat down and watched his speeches before. I had them watch his inauguration. The point is that they aren’t getting both sides in most public schools.

      I didn’t see this type of activity in schools when President Bush was in office. Perhaps a little consistency would go a long way.

      Then there is the whole federal involvement in education, but that a completely different subject.

  5. When has the public education system encouraged students to think critically about anything? The lesson plans coming from the Dept of Ed fall right in line with the type of “discussions” I remember having in class.

    If Bush Jr had planned a similar speech during his presidency, would folks have worked themselves into such a froth? What is it about Obama that makes a certain part of the population so irate?

    1. @Tiffanie, Good point Tiffanie, they haven’t.

      Classroom discussions over any topic should include varying perspectives and promote the marketplace of ideas (provided they are age appropriate).

      I think the issue isn’t so much his giving a speech, but the curriculum involved. The Ed Dept. has already made changes to it. I would submit if this were President Bush and the Ed Dept. offered similar curriculum yes there would be a backlash. From the left certainly, but also some on the right. You have to remember there are a number of conservatives who would like no federal involvement with education. A number of us weren’t happy about No Child Left Behind, for instance, as it took authority away from the state and local school boards.

      You could turn around your last question and ask the same thing about President Bush and the left.

  6. Indoctrination, plain and simple. I just finished reading Glenn Beck’s “Common Sense.” How timely is your post, Shane.

    Obama and the rest of the progressives need to ensure their survival. So let’s “get ’em while they’re young, and brainwash them!”

    My wife is home-schooling our high school junior starting this year. Why? Because we have had it with the public school system. He was falling by the way-side and no one was helping him. So we’re taking matters into our own hands.
    .-= Joe Chavez´s last blog ..Job: Tragedy, Repentance & Restoration – Part VIII =-.

    1. @Joe Chavez, I still need to read that. Making my way through Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin.

      That is why we home school as well. If parents have their kids in public school (or even private school) they need to be engaged, involved and informed about their kids’ education.

  7. Why aren’t all of you gatekeepers to the nation’s psyche out in the streets over the unjust war we are waging, the lives we are taking needlessly, instead of the “tax tea parties” and an education speech? Bush was the one who overspent all our money and left children behind. Seems like a lot of fear going on now that we have a thinking president in charge. I don’t think we have anything to fear that is worse than the shape we are in now due to the Bush administration. Can we take a collective breath for once and stop conjuring up shadows?

    1. @Kay Bone, “unjust war we are waging” – I would dispute that.

      I agree Bush overspent our money. Many conservatives criticized him over that. President Obama in the six months he has been President is making President Bush look thriftwise. Wouldn’t change mean cutting spending?

      Exactly how did President Bush leave the children behind? Why is the federal government even involved with education to begin with? He actually expanded the role of the Dept. of Ed with NCLB (which I’m not in favor of, I want the Feds out of education).

      You are arrogant to think that President Bush wasn’t a thinking President, do you even have a clue how much of a voracious reader he was? Yes, President Obama is smart, book smart. Nobody is denying that. What he lacks is common sense, and that is evident in his governance.

  8. It concerns me that there IS any ‘concern’ that the President wants to give a back to school message. It seems logical and I dare say appropriate that a president with school age children of his own shows interest in education.
    What are we afraid of people? Does anybody really think that he will use the time to ram down the torrid socialist details of death panels or open this school year by bragging that he made it all the way to the White House in spite of the fact he isn’t a citizen, but is really is a Martian? Common folks.
    Kids SHOULD be inspired by their president. You can still disagree with his policies. How about modeling some adult behavior? Even if you disagree with policy at the very least there should be engagement. Is that no longer a good thing? In class teachers can ASK engaging questions after the address. TALK about it — and LISTEN to each other. Mediate mutual respect for differing opinions. When did we become a nation of whiners and screamers whenever we disagree with something. When did critical thinking and analytical thinking become a bad think and, dare I say, feared!?
    This could be a fabulous opportunity to for “Synergy.” How powerful it would be to model critical thinking for our youth rather than rant?
    Because of the overly high emphasis on the importance of standardized testing (as per NCLB) our education system routinely produces students with permanent deficits to their problem solving skills.
    Some of your concerns regarding “..time better spent..” make me compelled to ask you if you are aware of the days and days taken from a school year used to prepare for the standardize test. The once rich, complex and interesting lessons found as recently as 9 or 10 years ago have been replaced with dull, fact laden curriculum that has been purposefully designed to emulate the format of standardized test (designed to raise the scores, but these lessons do NOT necessarily make the student smarter. They certainly don’t foster thinking skills.)
    Fill in a bubble?— yup, they can do that. But make change for $16.28 if you hand them a twenty, a one, and three pennies? Not so much. Defend an opinion? Can’t do it. (and ranting doesn’t count)
    If you are pissed off about anything, you should be ticked that you child’s school day has been reduced to drilling and killing.
    We have an articulate, calm, president who wants to address school children. You can lead by example and show your children that you can disagree with a person’s policies, but you can be mature enough to listen.

  9. I agree with the concern for “curriculum” attached to the President’s speech. An intelligent Teacher would only use it as a guide, not a staunch policy.There are other things in my children’s education that I, as a parent, felt compelled to “correct”. I allow the educators to teach what they teach. I have conversations with my children and get their perspective. Even Elementery students have one of those. When I have a concern I speak to their teachers. It is PUBLIC SCHOOL. If you want to attend class with your kids, and I recommend doing it, no one from the school will hinder your interest in your child’s education. Private schools will not stop you either. I ask, has the President given the speech yet? If not we do not know what he is going to say. Let him speak, is it his right also. We can then exercise our right to redress, ask questions, rant and rave, or praise. It will bear fruit or rot on it’s own merit.

  10. I have not seen what the President plans to say in his speech, but I cannot foresee that he can have a message that elementary age children can grasp at the same time as “inspiring” and “challenging” high school students!! My personal opinion – let parents OPT IN to a national TV broadcast rather than OPT OUT!! I don’t like the idea that the government feels it has the right to side-step parents by going through the schools… even if Obama’s speech falls flat on Tuesday it sets the precident for future “indoctrination”……

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