Saturday, September 5, 2009
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?