Thursday, September 10, 2009

Did adults learn anything from Obama speech controversy?

This from Tom Eblen in the Herald Leader:
With all of the public attention focused on President Barack Obama's speech to the nation's schoolchildren, I had to wonder: Did the adults learn anything? ...

It was a pep talk about personal responsibility, not politics. But from the way the right-wing fringe and some Republican Party officials reacted to it beforehand, you would have thought Obama was planning to sprout horns and advocate devil worship.

There was a lot of bluster about Obama "overstepping his authority," even though previous presidents have made similar speeches. Timid school officials offered opt-outs for students whose parents objected. Cowardly school officials skipped the speech all together.

Last week, Steve Robertson, chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky, called Obama's plan to speak to children "very concerning and kind of creepy" and an attempt "to circumvent parents" and "gain direct access to our children."

Robertson and some talk radio entertainers focused on an ill-chosen phrase that federal education bureaucrats used in material prepared for teachers. The phrase, suggesting that teachers could have students write letters to themselves about how they can "help the president," was reworded to how they "can achieve their ... education goals."

It seemed like a lame excuse for objecting to a presidential speech, because that's exactly what it was.

This from Politics K-12:

Kids Have Choice Words for Obama-Speech Controversy

The honor of introducing President Barack Obama at Wakefield High School today
went to senior Tim Spicer, who has to be one of the most popular kids in school today.

He told Alyson, who called in just a few minutes ago from the school, that not only did he get a presidential seal as a thank-you gift from Obama, but he also got the president to autograph the introductory remarks he had carefully typed out.
Spicer acknowledged, though, that he was far more nervous meeting Obama before the speech than actually standing in front of a televised audience and introducing the
president. As for the all of the hubbub that preceded the speech, Spicer told Alyson the controversy was "pointless."

And 14-year-old Elizabeth Brantley, who was one of 40 9th graders who participated in a round table before the speech with Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, called the controversy "kind of dumb."

Another 14-year-old, Max Rosenberg, had even stronger words in speaking to Alyson, saying people who didn't want Obama to address students are "racist." ...


Anonymous said...

I absolutely think Max Rosenberg was right on, and he's only 14. If this had been a white president, there would have been no controversy. I'm white, and from the things I've heard my white colleagues say, I know that most people aren't looking at Obama's plans or ideas; they're just looking at the fact that suddenly their race isn't in power. It's disgusting, and it makes me ashamed.

Anonymous said...

I was embarrassed by both the conservatives like Leland Conway, who insinuated we should keep our kids home during the speech, and the "Black man wants to scare your children" meant-to-shame headline of Mr. Richard Day. Both were in poor taste.

The decision to air the speech during school should have been made by the teachers, however, not Mr. Silberman, not Mr. Holliday, not Mr. Duncan.

Anonymous said...

I'm white, and from the things I've heard my white colleagues say, I know that most people aren't looking at Obama's plans or ideas;

So most of your white colleagues are racist? But not, you're carrying around that "white guilt" that all white people should feel, right? Makes you feel good, to feel so guilty, right? Blah, blah, blah...

Richard Day said...

To 7:54:

Fair enough.

Conway went to the gutter and I chose to fight him there.

To 8:08:

I believe most folks are fair-minded people of good will. But racism still exists. Surely you would acknowledge that.

It's not for me to say who's what. That's up to each individual and their conscience or morals to determine.

But it is not OK to bait the racists - even if one is not.

Anonymous said...

Why did the pep talk about personal responsibility need to come from President Obama?

In my twenty plus years as an educator, I've yet to hear one principal, much less a superintendent, say to a child, "Studying is your responsibility."

Today, educators bear the sole responsibility for students who fail and Education Secretary Arne Duncan tells us the schools are broken and need the big fix. Funny, but with each big fix, students are held less responsible.

Anonymous said...

I am finding I agree less and less with what you say, Richard, but I'll defend your right to speak your mind.

Thank you for this wonderful forum. It makes me think; it keeps me informed.

Richard Day said...

The messages about our students' personal responsibility is not only lacking from too many educators, it is absent from far too many parents. You know the ones. In cases where a teacher does try to hold a student accountable, all too frequently they have to fight with the parents to do so.

Just as other presidents have spoken directly to the nation, and directly to various subsets of the nation, it is very appropriate for a president to speak directly to students.

Did it have to be the president? Maybe not. But why not? Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, NASCAR drivers, golfers, authors, dancers, actors...many public figures have sent messages of encouragement to students. This one got heard.

10:23 - I'm truly pleased that you find the blog thought-provoking. As for agreeing with me, perhaps, that's not important. I learn from this exchange too. When an issue comes up that strikes a chord in you, please let us know when and how you disagree, so that the exchange continues.

Anonymous said...

Why is it such a huge deal that THE President of the United States comes in and talks to the children about responsibility? Who better? Other than congress Obama has an emense amount of responsibilty. Much more than anyone on this site. I think it is absolutley ridiculous that people think its "creepy" for our presidnet to come in and speak to a direct youthfull audience. If you take away race all together. No race in this situation at all. The situation is The President goes and speaks with teenagers about self responsibility....Yea Im not seeing the problem either.