President Obama’s Speech in School: Should Your Kids Watch?

Do you want your kids to watch President Obama's speech?

  • Yes (59%, 10 Votes)
  • No (41%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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The White House has stirred up a lot of controversy in the recent days with plans to air a speech from President Obama to all school children. The speech is scheduled for Tuesday of this coming week when most schools will be back in session across the country. On the surface, a speech by the President to school children seems innocuous. The topic is supposed to be about staying in school and studying hard to succeed. After all, the high school dropout rate in the United States is very high for an industrialized nation. In 2007, the rate of high school dropouts was 8.7%, which is a steady decline from the 14.1% it was in 1980. Dropout rates only show part of the problem however. The graduation rate, which is the percentage of students from the time they start high school as a freshmen who graduate within four years, is much more alarming. Nationally, the graduation rate is about 71%, but in some urban markets it is much lower. Detroit has the lowest graduation rate in the nation at a staggering 24.9%. So much for No Child Left Behind.

With our nation’s schools facing many difficulties, what could be wrong with a word of encouragement from the President? Plenty is wrong, according to critics. Word of Obama’s speech has caused a pretty significant backlash from parents and conservative groups across the country. The reasons behind this opposition aren’t entirely clear; however, many people have grown suspicious of President Obama’s tactics to grow grass root support like he did during his Presidential campaign. Many people have suggested Obama’s political priorities in health care and other areas are closely aligned to big government and socialism. So when reports were released earlier this week that detailed the lesson plans that teachers were encouraged to use that instructed students to write letters to themselves about “how they could help the President,” and after the video, “what does the President want me to do?,” many people saw this type of agenda as dangerous propaganda. Education secretary Arne Duncan reinforced concerns with a letter written to school principals that strongly urged them to make the speech available in classrooms nationwide.

The Department of Education has since revised the controversial lesson plans, but some people like Glenn Beck of Fox News have urged parents to keep their kids out of school to protest the speech. Some school districts in Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, and Wisconsin have said that they will not air the speech. School officials have toned down the rhetoric in denying the speech, however. Many of the declining districts have stated that the speech is not appropriate for the first day of school, which is a chaotic experience in the best of times. In response to the opposition, many other districts are allowing students to do an alternate activity if their parents object to the speech.

For me personally, I have a son that recently started seventh grade. I believe that it is important to be well informed and build a world view that is based on all of the information that is available. It is my intention to let him watch the President if his district carries the speech, and I will address with him directly if I think there was content that crossed the line of my political and personal values.

What do you think? Is Obama’s speech a good way to jumpstart the school year, or does Obama’s speech have too many undertones that suggest propaganda and indoctrination? I invite you to chime in with your comments below.

Image credit: Tiffany Szerpicki

4 thoughts on “President Obama’s Speech in School: Should Your Kids Watch?

  1. My district left the decision up to the teachers. Neither of my children’s teachers will be viewing the speech nor participating in the accompanying activities. My pre-k daughter’s class is not watching it because that’s when her school day starts – at noon. My kindergartner’s class will not be watching it because the teacher believes in allowing these decisions to be made at home.

    I did not want my children to watch the speech at school with the accompanying materials. Why? Because I want to watch it first, at home, and then discuss and view it with her at home. Because a 5 year old does not need to be aware that there is a choice to do anything besides going to school. Because a 5 year old is not capable of deciding how she can help the President and should NOT be held accountable for any statements she makes in response to that question down the road.

    But that’s just me.

    I do intend to watch it first as I said and then view it with my daughter on Wednesday if I think it will add to her overall learning experience.

    Forgive me for being involved in my child’s education both at home and at school. Forgive me for exercising one of the most basic rights afforded to us as Americans – Freedom of Choice.

  2. Our town has decided not to air it because they don’t know what will be discussed. There’s no way you can avoid the topics of discussion at this point. So, I fully intend on having my children watch it at home today.

    My opinion is that we have an African American in the White House. There are a lot of little African American kids who it would do a world of good to hear someone like that say, “Hey, step up. Be responsible. Stay in school. Yes, you CAN become the President of the United States. If you work hard you really can do anything you want to do.”

  3. I don’t think either of our two kids – pre-k and kindergarten – will care much about what the president has to say. They’ll be more interested in playing, drawing, or something other than the politics of a presidential speech.

    That said, telecasting a speech the first day of school is just bad planning. Arne Duncan or Ms. Obama should have known better.

  4. I don’t see why we need President Obama talking to schoolkids about having dreams that you work towards, setting and achieving goals, committing to self-improvement and taking responsibility…kids get all the info they need from sports and entertainment stars about important things like “bling” and “kickin’ ass.”

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