Thursday, September 03, 2009

Speaking to our children

There seems to be a lot of hoopla about our country's President speaking to students next September 8th. And, of course, right wing parents have used this to further convince themselves that Obama's motivation is to spread socialist propaganda and turn children against their parents.

At the center of the conspiracy theories are two documents produced by the Department of Education to assist teachers in stimulating student minds. One document is for Pre-K through 6th grade while the other is for 7th to 12th. Each contains similarly worded, but age appropriate, questions and constructive activities in an attempt to make the speech more likely to make an impact on our nation's future generation.

Only I have one small concern. Some blogs I've read are linking to a version of the Pre-K to 6th grade document that is hosted on non-authoritative servers:

The official document provided by the Department of Education for distribution is here:

The reason the other document concerns me is that there are two parts in the content that are different. One is minor and negligible. However, the other deserves attention.

In particular, the unofficial document, second bullet in the "Extension of the Speech" section, contains the following sentence:

"Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president."

Whereas the official document has this sentence in the same location:

"Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short‐term and long‐term education goals."

Worst case scenario holds that someone deliberately modified the text to incite right wing parents.

Best case scenario is that the unofficial document is an earlier draft, reviewers felt that "help the president" in fact would be controversial despite it addressing students helping the president in his goals for education.

Which, therefore, in my view attests to why Barak Obama wants to talk to my daughter, along with the rest of the country's students...

No Child Left Behind was/is about schools owning the education experience in our country and being held accountable through standardized tests and school, district, and state report cards of key indicators for "progress" and "success".

Obama's emerging education policy will turn NCLB on its head and redirect the ultimate responsibility for education in the individual. In the words of the official document linked above... "short‐term and long‐term education goals". Which is really where is should be.

Isn't education ultimately a life-long process? Is our educational system preparing us for that? Hasn't our country incorrectly emphasized certain subjects (math, science) while diminishing others (art, dance, music, physical education)? Shouldn't education be more about self-discovery and equipping our youth with the skills to adapt and succeed in our ever changing world? Instead we glorify students that are narrowly talented and call them the "smart" ones.

I believe the content Obama will deliver on September 8th will focus on helping students shape their own education and be joint partners in it with parents and teachers.


  1. I saw something about this on NBC - you are right, they changed the wording from the "helping the president" to the "achieving goals" phrase.

  2. well this sounds way too reasonable.

  3. i hope your predictions are correct.

  4. Unfortunately I don't trust anything (or anyone) that comes through the media. Fortunately, I can trust that my children's parenting skills will help their children (my grandchildren) have a foundation of core values to interpret what they are taught and exposed to in school settings. Sadly, not all children are blessed with as skilled and committed parents, so are not being taught in their homes. Hooray for family home evenings, family dinner conversations, family devotional/scripture study and loving interactions!

  5. Macy will still not be listening to it and I believe that the worst case scenario is not that it was worded to upset right wing parents, I believe worst case scenario is that it was worded with the intent to liberally indocrinate children--not saying it was but THAT would be worst case scenario. Upsetting parents (not just right wing) is what happened. Mess with my health care, mess with my taxes, do NOT mess with my kids head. That's my job!!!:) :)

  6. Really though, does it really matter if children are asked how they can help the president? Whether the president is Barack Obama or George Bush, shouldn't we ALL be asking ourselves what we can do to help the president? Let's take a little pride in our great nation and, YES... help our president! Less partisan, MORE bipartisanship, please!

    Our nation has a drop out rate of nearly 30%. I applaud President Obama for taking the time to speak to children about not only setting goals, but achieving them too! I can't wait to watch his speech with my Lily and find out what, if anything (she is only 4 after all) she takes away from it.

    Oh, and Brandon... I don't know much (OK, embarrassed to say it, but I know nothing) about President Obama's emerging education policy. BUT! If it's going to turn NCLB on its head, I'm already excited about it!

  7. Right wing parent here -- I heard that Barrack Obama is in league with Al Qaeda and is withholding men and supplies from our military out in the field. And it is his plan to let Al Qaeda take over the world and once Al Qaeda has taken over everything, the King of Al Qaeda has promised Barrack Obama that he will let him rule over the land of Zarahemla, I mean, the world.

  8. Tait wrote that...if you couldn't tell.

  9. Tait you are a goofball.

  10. So... when I read your post I felt that we were on the same page. Nate and I are pretty conservative, and are not happy with the things that Obama wants to do with our country. We don't talk to our kids about it- does a 5 year old really need to worry about health care right now?
    However, we took Maesyn to see Obama speak at ASU graduation. We were not planning to go to graduation at all...too big, too hot,too busy. But she had watched the election and was wondering when she could she the President. I said probably never, as most people don't get to see the President of the United States of America. So when the chance came up for us to see him, for free and without a lot of trouble, we took it. Michael Crow's speech had more of a Political twist then what Obama said.
    Based on his words at ASU Nate and I had individually decided that his speech would probably be pretty tame.
    Then it became a social issue. All of these people were saying that they would not let their kids listen to him because they hated him so much and that he was trying to brain wash our children. bla bla bla... Then Nate and I were worried that if we let her watch it that parents might think we were the crazy Liberal parents and not invite her to parties. (Why did we worry...who cares?).
    Once we realized we could read the speech we were pretty at ease. It was as tame as we expected and I (as a teacher) think it has a pretty good message. Sooo...she is going to school ALL DAY. And I don't care if people think I'm strange to send her.
    I hope that every parent read the speech before making their decision to pull their kids. If they just pulled them based on the fact that they don't like the man and think he is the Anti- Christ... then they are the weird ones!!!