Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

Can we talk?

I need to mull something over with you.

Did you see this headline today?


Seems harmless enough, right?

Think again.

On September 8, President Obama is planning something unprecedented for a sitting President. He will directly address the nation's school children.

In a letter from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, he states "The U.S. Department of Education encourages students of all ages, teachers, and administrators to participate in this historic moment by watching the president deliver the address, which will be broadcast live on the White House Web site ( and on C-SPAN at 12:00 p.m., ET. We also encourage educators to use this moment to help students get focused and inspired to begin the new academic year. The Department of Education offers educators a menu of classroom activities—created by its teachers-in-residence, the Teaching Ambassador Fellows—to help engage students in the address and stimulate classroom discussions about the importance of education." [emphasis added]

Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman, told, "This isn't a policy speech. This is a speech designed to encourage kids to stay in school." I actually believe him. I don't think Obama has to actually state any policies or his agenda. In fact, he's very gifted in speaking in generalities while still inspiring unthinking people to blindly follow his lead.

While the stated purpose of the speech seems innocuous enough, the Orwellian"menu of classroom activities" that have been provided for teachers' use before and after the speech contains some rather leading questions. Well, I have some questions for the Department of Education: Will children feel forced to say that they support the President? Will they feel peer pressure to conform to their thoughts to the opinions of those around them? Will some teachers use this as an opportunity to proselytize for the Left? Just who are these "Teachering Ambassador Fellows" who wrote the lesson plans?

Some education experts are troubled by "a suggested lesson plan that calls on school kids to write letters to themselves about what they can do to help President Obama" because it establishes the president as a "superintendent in chief" and "may indoctrinate children to support him politically. " I'm troubled by the fact that my tax dollars may be funding the indoctrination of America's children in a political ideology that I vehemently disagree with.

I don't have a problem with the President using his bully pulpit to encourage kids to study hard and stay in school. Unfortunately, in today's polarized political climate, and knowing what I know of Barak Obama, I suspect he has ulterior motives.

I'm not worried about my own children. We talk frequently about these things and they know what our families' values and beliefs are. I worry about them being ridiculed for their beliefs. (It's happened before--a story for another day.) I worry about the other children whose parents haven't taken the time to discuss these things with them perhaps because they haven't taken the time to educate themselves on the issues. Children are so impressionable and I am extremely uncomfortable with one-sided political discussions in the classroom.

I'm not planning to pull my kids out of school that day as some parents plan to do. I plan to sit down with them before they go and prepare them for what they might hear and the pressures they might face. I will encourage them to stand strong for what they know and believe to be true. I will instruct them to be respectful of others' opinions but I will make sure they understand that it's ok for them to expect to receive that same respect from others.

I also plan to contact my children's schools to find out if they plan to participate. If they do plan to show the speech, I will write letters to the school board members and school administrators to let them know how uncomfortable I am with this situation.

These are just my initial thoughts. I'll keep you posted on my progress. Thanks for listening!


Kendra said...

Lisa, I chuckled so many times while reading this post. Because you put so beautifully in to words what I feel so much. I sincerely hope most schools opt not to turn on the TV. That's a good waste of valuable teaching time, you know. Gotta work hard to leave no child behind, not brain wash them in to believing one view of political ideology.

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

It's disburbing to me too, Lisa. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I'm going to be at my kids' schools tomorrow. I intend to find out if they're going to broadcast this address. And if so, I'll probably want a copy of your letters. Because you're SO much smarter and more articulate than I am.

Maria Sullivan said...

Can we have a family conference call the night before the speech and you talk to my girls too and prepare them???? You always know how to put into words what I am thinking in my heart and mind about all this political craziness. Thank you for sharing.
I have such smart sisters-in-law!

Tiffani said...

wow. that's a lot to take in. and kudos to you for letting the school know your opinion and thoughts. one of many reasons i'm glad i don't have to deal with that b/c girl, i'd be stressin' and probably wouldn't handle it nearly as gracefully as you!!

Someone posted something that Glenn Beck was having on Friday night about school too...wonder if this is it?

Alison said...

Oh goodness! I don't like it...not one bit. Someone was mentioning that they were trying to decide whether or not they would revote for Obama in 2012. My comment, "Not in a million years...that is if we even are still considered a free country by 2012." Oops...did I say that outloud?

Nina Diane said...

I don't like this at all! and Tuesday is the first day of school here in Virginia.....what a way to spend the first day!!! Our school system is allowing kids to "opt out". My kids are grown but who would have thought you would have to teach your kids about "opting out" young ages.

Lemonade Girl said...

HI! I'm visiting from Mer's blog. I have to say that I appreciate the words you shared. I, too, am leary of the motives behind this speech. What make me even more frustrated is that I cannot get a straight answer from the school as to whether or not they intend to show the speech.

Maybe you shold just post your letters, so we all can be smart and articulate. :)

Christen said...

I totally agree with you. Have you seen the "Creepy Pledge" that some schools have already showed? I heard that this was going to be showed on the 8th but I'm not positive.

Jennifer W said...

Hey Lisa,

I'm one of your kinfolk (Jimmy White's daughter) your blog!!

marieDee said...

I'm just shaking my head in disbelief that people who grew up in the same country I have, with many of the same social and religious beliefs, can think that the President of the United States of America should not speak directly to school children to say that education is important!

After having studied the Civil War and lived through the Civil Rights era and VietNam, I felt that so many lessons had been learned that we not judge people and ideas without examining our own prejudices, questioning our own motives, and respecting others enough to really listen to their positions.

Someone please tell me what has Obama done that is so bad that you refuse to give him any respect? What is so bad that you won't consider anything he says or tries with a rational mind?

marieDee said...
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