Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Teachable Moments from The White House

Here’s the lead-sentence from a Houston Chronicle story about President Barak Obama’s scheduled speech to school kids next week: “Some Texas parents are asking school principals to excuse their children from listening to a speech that President Obama will make to schools next week on the grounds that it smacks of political indoctrination.”

I am so grateful that we have adults right here in Texas who have the prescience and foreknowledge about the text of the President’s address--a week before the event!

Gadzooks, can I get these people to buy me a few Super Lotto tickets, please??

According to the official White House Press Briefing, Mr. Obama will deliver an address directly to students on the importance of education beginning at 11 a.m. (CST) Tuesday.

Secretaryof Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to school principals last week, giving them all a proper heads-up about the Presidential Challenge to the kiddos to “work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning…”

Boy, am I glad they were warned ahead of time.
No telling how a message like that might be interpretted by these kids with skulls full of mush.

Right on time, the cerebrally-myopic and hyper-politically-sensitive began slithering out from under the rocks and crevasses they inhabit, proclaiming The Obamarator was going to indoctrinate the kids. Lordy, Lordy, wouldn’t want those kids to be overly influenced to study hard and learn to think critically for themselves!

One hayseed was quoted in the paper calling the speech inappropriate, “because it smacks of political indoctrination of the worst kind.”

Has he heard the speech yet?
Is he privvy to the text before the rest of us?
Wow--what connections!!

Would he be having the same vitriolic reaction were say, President John McCain to be lecturing the kiddos about things like hard work, and commitment, and dedication to country—familiar themes during the McCain presidential campaign.

At what point do we begin to teach our kids about the American system of government, the real differences between political philosophies, and how the course of history has been influenced by the sides that people chose to support?

Do our kids learn that from us, their impartial, politically ambient parents?

I have a video clip of my then-5-year old daughter, playing “political armchair quarterback” with her dolls one afternoon on the porch, discussing with her babies the recent election of Bill Clinton to the Presidency following George H. W. Bush. I believe her remarks included several exclamations of “what a crock! WHAT. A. CROCK!!

I can’t imagine where she might have picked up that kind of thinking…

Speaking of head-starts on next week's presentation: the schools have been provided a “menu” of suggested classroom activities for students, "to stimulate discussion on the importance of education now and later in life." Apparently, some superintendants and school boards are a little bent they didn’t get to provide input for developing those activities. Guess they should have been asked, too, since they all know what the President is going to say, already.

Same hayseed parent, same newspaper story: “It just seems to me that the federal government should not have that kind of influence on our school districts and the education of our children…”

And where were you when they were adopting the school books your kids are now being taught from that express varying ideas about the origin of the universe and blurring of gender roles? That’s okay...but you’ve got a problem with the President encouraging your kids to learn and think for themselves??

Some parents are complaining about the speech taking up valuable and precious instruction time. I believe these parents and their nattering naybobs of negativity-spewing cousins need to stand down, and embrace next Tuesday’s Presidential address as a “teachable moment.”

Here is an opportunity to “compare and contrast” the ways in which the President’s remarks might differ from other belief systems: Work hard vs slack-off; set educational goals vs doing just enough in school to straggled across the stage at high school commencement—if you make it that far; take responsibility for learning vs taking someone else’s word for it,and becoming a mindless “ditto head” parrot of the current pop trend.

There are some parents who honestly believe Mr. Obama's speech will not allow for healthy debate, instead obligating younger students “to agree with Obama's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates.”

If your kids are going to be in a classroom televising the Presidential address, and you have those kinds of unfounded fears, I’m pretty sure your child’s teacher wouldn’t mind you visiting the classroom to watch the event with the class. Might be a logistic challenge for some schools…but, hey, if it will put your suspicious mind at ease, more power to you. You might even learn something YOU missed in school.

Here are some other “teachable moment” opportunities that shouldn’t be missed next week:

Grammar and sentence structure: Have the class identify the main topic of each paragraph the President reads from his teleprompter; more advanced students can later be asked to diagram actual sentances uttered, to make sure there are no dangling Democratic participles, or Republican prepositions out of place.

Math Skills: if the President should mention things like spending, or what it costs to educate a child in America through the 12th Grade, have the kiddos do computational excercises to determine what their earning abilities will be, and how those numbers might be altered, should they choose to ditch school in the 9th grade, or continue through a public university’s Masters program.

Logic and Rhetoric: Does it make sense that there is a causal relationship between the President’s comments on education and success in life? If not, why not, and cite examples of other successful Americans who used their education as a springboard to greatness.

Methinks that those who protesteth too much are more concerned about the political implications of a Presidential address to their offspring, and are missing a more important point: This is the Leader of the Free World telling your kids to stay in school.

This may also be a good example of how not to jump to conclusions until you’ve heard the man say his peace, which no one has.


kewlbreeze said...

as a matter of fact, I would not want any President beaming into my kids school. The entire concept is wrong and wrong headed.

why should he get to "say his peace" sic. (piece - perhaps) when there is no counter opinion served? News flash - he is a politician - not a god (might come as a surprise to you).

This is a subtle form of indoctrination and it is completely wrong. For the HC to endorse it shows how terribly out of touch you guys are with your readers.

Joan Bradford said...

Thank you Brent; my sentiments exactly. What kind of a message does it send to children when their parents want them to skip school so they won't hear the President address them? Are these possibly the same people who claim to be patriots and espouse "Country First!" at the top of their lungs? What are they so afraid of?

Anonymous said...

Way to go Bren!!! As a "New "Educator. I try to provide "Balance" in teaching. My personal political /religious thoughts do not influence the facts in teaching. All sides are discussed ,etc. Presidents Reagan and Bush1 made speeches to school kids. Reagan even mentioned his policy on the economy. So why can't Obama be offered the opportunity to speak to the nations school children? Let's be honest here, because he is Black. Critics need to view his speech last July to the NAACP in regards to black children in school. He said words to the effect(paraphrased>" You have a rough life, you may have only one parent you seldom see at home because they are working,and you live in a violent neighborhood, but that is NO excuse to drop out of school and make bad grades". Those who fear this speech,should invest in getting an education themselves instead of still judging books by their cover. --Ray