On September 8, President Obama is set to address the public school children of America via video. The intent, stated by the White House, is to encourage students pre-K through grade 12 to stay in school and work hard as they pursue their education. And, he is to encourage personal responsibility.
Contrary to what Dept of Ed Secretary Arne Duncan said, this is not the first time a President of the U.S. has spoken to a wide audience of school children. As Duncan tried to prop up this President as some sort of trailblazer in this endeavor, he misspoke. His Department also had to amend some of its proposed lesson plans distributed to teachers revolving around this video.
The outrage from conservatives is all over the place. How dare this President come into the public school system and try to convert the tender minds of young children into Obamatrons. I have to say, I don't have a problem with this. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan both spoke to a wide audience of students while in office. Both offering stay in school type of addresses. Reagan also addressed the Challenger shuttle tragedy.
What I do have a problem with - in alliance with other conservatives - is the manner in which this was handled by the White House and the Dept of Education. Local input was missing. No input from school boards, school districts, parents, and so on. If the Dept is going to include lesson plans and assignments for students, local input is essential. It was a staggering show of arrogance that assumed no one would object to the lesson plans, in particular. The lesson plans are split up for pre-K to 6th graders and 7th through 12th graders. "What is the President trying to tell me?" What is the President asking me to do?" Innocent enough.
The catch was in one suggestion that the students write a letter to themselves detailing who they can each "help" the President. This is the part that had to be erased and for which the White House now admits was handled poorly.
News flash - none of us are here to "help" the President. He serves us. We, as citizens, help our country. Now the recommendation is for the letters to state how the students can achieve their long term and short term education goals. That makes more sense and age appropriate.
Conservatives are not breaking ground here, either, in their criticism. When Ronald Reagan spoke to school students about education and saying no to drugs, he was the target of criticism from Democrats. House Majority Leader, Richard Gephardt said, "The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the President." Patricia Schroeder, D-CO, said his speech showed "the arrogance of power" and that the White House was wrong to use "precious dollars for campaigns when we are struggling for every silly dime we can get for education."
Another wrong-headed exercise from the world of celebrity is now in the school system. A school principal in Utah is apologizing for showing a video made by Obama supporting celebrities. The message to the kids is to work for the agenda of Obama, besides being green and various assorted bumper sticker slogans.
Actress Demi Moore pledges to "serve our President" while other celebrities pledge to flush toilets less or drive hybrid cars. Moore is confused on the role of public servants, including the President. No one ever claimed celebrities were confused with rocket scientists.
The point being, parents are responsible for teaching their children about personal responsibility and civic duty. Celebrities and Presidents do not have a place in overriding or substituting for parents and lessons at home. And, the public school system is not the place for political activity, from either side of the aisle.
Here's an idea: this President is particularly obsessed about being in front of the camera. He could have avoided all of this ruckus by speaking to American families together at home. He could have called for network time at the beginning of the school year, as he is over health care reform, and spoken to families about education and the like. If he is so intent on preaching to us, he could have made it a more family and parent friendly gesture.
Some school districts are not running the video. Some in Texas are not. Here in Houston, Houston Independent School District - one of the nation's largest - is allowing parents to "opt out" their children.