If you weren't aware, President Obama addressed the nation's school students (K-12) in a live national broadcast today at 12. Baffling to me was the outrage, fear, and paranoia that the prospect of Obama speaking to students for 15 minutes brought out last week, before the actual address. Exhibit A, from CNN.com:
"Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me," suburban Colorado mother Shanneen Barron told CNN Denver affiliate KMGH. "I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now."
People have been very concerned that Obama would use this speech as a means of political propaganda.
If you missed the speech, read the text here.
I watched it, with my class, and I genuinely enjoyed it. ANY parent with a child in school should have wanted their child to hear what the President had to say, because it was a clear, strong, concise message that parents themselves should be saying, want to say, but sometimes can't or won't say.
I had three students who asked to not be present for the speech, one with a note from home, and our entire school had special arrangements ready for all the students whose parents called in or wrote notes that requested their children be pulled from class and not be exposed to the speech.
I released all those students to the library without making them feel inferior or uncomfortable at all...but what kind of message does this send to our kids? First of all, if you as a parent were concerned about "propaganda," the speech was made available ahead of time to read. Taking 5 minutes to read through it, parents would have been able to read with their own eyes not propaganda, but a genuinely positive exhortation for students to take responsibility in their lives and their education. Being a good parent doesn't mean shielding your child from every possible bit of propaganda that disagrees with your value system. Even if Obama's message had been filled with propaganda, this speech would have been a great opportunity to help your child engage with values you disagree with, not hide from exposure to them. Let's face it--it was a ten-minute speech whose audience included kindergartners. It was not a group of jocks who have cornered your child and are trying to get him to smoke a cig. Parents, let's stop taking the easy way out. I'm sorry, let's call this protest what it is--a big parental cop-out.
Secondly, the whole ordeal was around fifteen minutes long, a "back to school" speech on what was the first day of school for most students. I can list about 73 activities that take place on the first day of school at schools everywhere that are way more pointless and/or backwards than an address from the President of the United States. Oh, by the way, he is the President. Yet we don't have parents complaining and protesting when the "Dancing Clown-Gymnasts" have a 45-minute assembly for our students, or an afternoon ice cream social (completely NOT fat-free, either).
(Note: Many parents/politicians were arguing that the speech would be a disruption of class...and I tried to convey the silliness of that argument above, but to add to my point...If you think that a fifteen-minute broadcast from the President on the first day of school, or even the fifth for me, is a legitimate disruption, then you have never been an educator or have been out of school for too long. I cannot describe to you the amount of disruptions that take place during the school year for infinitely more frivolous or ill-conceived reasons than a Presidential address)
We can't be so driven by our fears or our biases that we start escalating fires that needn't live beyond a spark. We can't teach our children to tuck and run at the sniff of a different values system. We are better than that, we are smarter than that, we are stronger than that.
Courtesy of Jake Atkins: