Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Statement of Purpose NOT Willing to be Heard

Recently there has been a major uproar over President Obama's upcoming speech to America's youth. At first I thought this was just a faction of those that are against his policies and his political affiliation. As things, statements, and positions have come to the forefront we have seen that it is not just those against his policies, but also those against Education. Why do I say this? Well here are my thoughts sprinkled with some opinions.

The purpose of the speech is to encourage America's youth to perform well in school this year and to discourage, those who are considering it or that would do it, not to drop out. In fact, on the Education Department website is says specifically, "During this special address, the president will speak directly to the nation's children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school." What is the harm in that?!? In fact, based upon my years of teaching and research, a message from the President will carry a significant amount of validity to many of the youth that will hear it. Oh wait, there is a significant percentage of our youth that will not hear it.

The unfortunate, no sad, NO pathetic reason many of our youth will not hear it, is because many parents and school districts are refusing to air the speech. They have folded (feel free to insert cut and run here) under the pressure of a bunch of pundits and political persona's. Therefore, arguably the rights of the students and their teachers are being violated since they are being told what they can and cannot hear. Again, what is the harm in the President encouraging children to make a conscious effort to persist and succeed in school?

Many times in Educational circles you will hear the words "teachable moment" and this is not only one of those, but districts and parents are completely clueless to it. Instead of censorship, why not promote discussions? Instead of keeping your children out of school for the day, why not discuss the speech at the dinner table with your children (Of course this assumes many are even assuming their parental responsibilities)? Instead of blocking the speech in the district why not create a district wide assignment in which the students utilize multi-media (this assumes districts have a clue about the use of technology which will be addressed another time) or any other means of creative expression on how they would commit to themselves and stay in school as well as perform to the greatest of their capabilities?

Sadly these things are NOT happening. This whole issue has turned into partisian positioning and just another way to condemn the Presidents actions regardless of the good intentions. I recently read a statement that if the President were to give a speech on oxygen those in protest would suffocate themselves rather than take a deep breath. I also read the uproar over the lesson plans provided. I have perused them myself and while I am not that fond of a few items on them for pedagogical reasons I see no problem with them. The Prek-6th grade lesson plan can be found here and the 7th-12th grade plan here. The thing here is the those that are vehemently against these lesson plans have yet to propose a viable alternative. They are the classic complainers that are not willing or perhaps even capable of developing an alternative.

The bigger picture here is that our youth are far more influenced by their parents or guardians. The statement that Obama is going to "indoctrinate and brainwash" our youth with this speech is about as preposterous as thinking he has the ability to use a Jedi mind trick on the kids. Therefore, what message are they sending to their children about authority, the President, Education, Free Speech, Differing Opinions, Public Trust, and worse the things they feel are most important for their kids. This is a golden opportunity to get the students to evaluate, analyze, and apply the message about the importance of Education and School. Having meaningful discussions in which students can freely express their opinions in whatever method the teacher feels suitable is the call of order here. In fact this would really get students what I am constantly stressing and even have a huge poster on a wall in classroom of, the word THINK. I was inspired to write this blog posting after reading postings by Will Richardson and Heather Wolport-Gawron who both wrote very poignant and brilliant pieces on this. I kindly thank you for your attention and welcome your comments, yes even if they differ from my position on this matter. After all productive discourse is how we learn, respect, and appreciate others positions. Is it not?
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Louise Maine said...

You know, this may be way out there, but I now think that the reason 21st century skills and the change in schools is not happening is purely because a large majority of people cannot think critically and discuss issues.

eplybon said...

Ken, I've been dumbfounded by the reaction to the upcoming speech. Regardless of one's political beliefs, President Obama IS our president and any presidential speech is worth listening to and encouraging students to listen to as well. I understand that the timing may not be the best (it's during lunchtime here), but I have no fears about my children watching the speech and being "influenced" in a negative way if they watch a recorded version later in the day or week. I've raised my kids to be critical thinkers, able to analyze the information they are being fed. If I start keeping them from hearing something as momentous as a presidential address specifically aimed at students, then I'm the one who is guilty of abusing my power to influence.

Regardless of whether my children see the address at school, they'll be watching it in the evening at home.

lucydrake said...

Send the kids or don’t send them…either way, they will find out what was said…with the media and people talking, it will get out…

K. Shelton said...

Louise you are on to something there and I wholeheartedly agree with you.

Elaine I am with you. My school has not started yet, but I intend to show a recording of the speech and give a number of assignments based upon it.

Lucy you are correct unless their schools and parents lock them in a closet, which given their reaction to this would not surprise me

Anonymous said...

I have been completely at a loss on this whole thing since it first came up. Frankly, I don't think I've ever seen this much disrespect towards a President.

I really did not care much for our last President, but there were a couple of times my daughter wanted to watch his State of the Union address. I would have never denied her of that. We spent time talking about it after wards and I even let her know that she would do well to discuss it with others because I as a little biased.

One of the things that bothers me most are the out right lies that were being put forth. The two I'm thinking about are:
1. All of the lessons plans were glorifying Obama and

2. No other President has ever done this.

Like you I spent a lot of time looking at the lesson plans and none of them glorified Obama himself. For most of them I was able to find a state standard that matched it well. It has been documented that Both Reagan and George H.W.Bush directed speeches towards student's. Bush's Anti-drug speech was used it to help push stricter drug laws.

The only thing I can figure is they were referring to the fact that with the tech we have now it would be much easier to see the speech in the classroom.

Misplaced Heroine said...

I'm reaching out to education bloggers to get this new education documentary on the radar. It's called WAITING FOR "SUPERMAN" and it features some great commentary from Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, Bill Gates and Randi Weingarten. It was directed by Davis Guggenheim, the same guy who did AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.
Check out the trailer at

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