Apparently, the U.S. President has committed a mortal sin by wanting to address U.S. school children via the telly to tell them to stay in school and work hard. Let us all pray. (Or, if you’re talk radio hosts, let you all prey.)
Through the spin of radio and the lack of decent reporting about what was really happening, people got the idea that Barack Obama was going to tell children to go home and tell their parents to pressure their legislators to vote for a public option in health care. These fear-mongers (c’mon, raise your hands so everyone knows who you are) got school districts and parents in such a tizzy that they didn’t know which end was up. Entire districts are choosing not to air the speech, some schools are even shutting down or starting late to avoid accidental exposure to the president. In Arizona, it seems the default position is letting each school or teacher decide locally whether to air the speech and then to let parents opt to have their children pulled out of classes that do show it if they – the parents – find it offensive that a president wants to tell kids to stay in school and work hard.
The text of My Education, My Future can be found here, for those who might actually like to be informed before complaining, and as you can see, it is basically a ra-ra, you can do it treatise to (we hope) inspire kids who might otherwise drop out of school. The speech will be live at the White House Web site at 9 a.m. Tucson time if you want to watch to see if the Prez sneaks in something that’s not in the speech, like the importance of healthy eating and getting exercise and respecting your elders.
The U.S. has a horribly high school dropout rate, and Arizona’s is right up there with the worst of the bunch, so we should all be applauding a President who wants to tell kids to sit up straight and fly right. Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush gave similar speeches and while there was a small amount of controversy, it wasn’t anything like this. Why the difference? Could it be that this president is biracial? Nah- we’re a post-racial country, right?I’d love to hear from parents who think it is horrible for the president to address the students AND to find out if those same parents read the speech before making the decision to keep their kids away from Obama. (And did they hear that the former First Teacher – aka Laura Bush – supports Obama talking to the kiddos?)
A note on the reporting about the speech. There’s been an interesting discussion on the Education Writers Association listserv, and Linda Perlstein, the public editor and parent of the cutest baby in the world, had this observation, which I think really hits the nail on the head about what the story actually is:
I wish more stories — on this and other topics like it — would have been more direct in evaluating the rumors, up high:
“Some parents in XX County are threatening to keep their children out of school during President Obama’s speech Tuesday, even though there is no evidence the talk will touch on politics or other areas those parents express concern over.”
Because to me, that is the story — that rumors without truth can have so much power. And yes, I would be saying this no matter which party was in power, just like I (came) down on reporters for saying things like “schools lose money for bad test scores under NCLB,” which is not true in any of the direct senses implied. The power of unsubstantiated rumors makes me crazy.
Amen, Linda. It sure seems the country has fallen off a cliff when it comes to rumors. I think talk radio hosts – and some of the talking heads on TV – have fed into this and they should all be ashamed of themselves and shouldn’t be able to call themselves journalists, which too many do. And for those who complain that this speech is federal “intrusion” into classrooms, please. What the heck do you call President Bush’s No Child Left Behind? Off to watch the speech.