Obama’s speech and poor reporting on same

US Senator Barack Obama campaigning in New Ham...
The President talking to adults; via wikipedia

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.

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13 thoughts on “Obama’s speech and poor reporting on same

  1. except you forget one thing sweetheart, it is a parents right …….. understand, a parent’s right to decide if they want their child or children to hear it.

    and here is the other part that you and yours just don’t seem to get ……. they don’t owe you an explanation. they don’t owe obama an explanation. they don’t owe anyone an explanation.

    simply because the great obama and his flock want to put a speech on the tube for schools does not mean that everyone has to go to their knees and pay homage to for the chance to hear it.
     
    quess what ………. we don’t have to agree with obama.
    quess what ………. we don’t have to lie down for obama.
     
    if he is your god, then bow to him. whatever floats your boat.

    1. He’s not a god, but he is apparently your commander-in-chief, Jarhead.  I talked with him earlier and he orders you to drop and give him forty.

  2. Well said mopckoe. This inexperienced(not even a full one(1) term U.S. senator) radical, sitting in the White House is not equipped to be leading the country, much less going into elementary school classrooms and pretending to be an educator as well(His law school stint as a prof, notwithstanding.).

    1. I understand Adoo-doo stayed out of school during the entire Kennedy and Johnson administrations; on principle of course.

  3. Cross-posted from your other story on this subject…

    Renee, here are some background facts that I think will help explain why we conservatives were so irritated over this whole affair.
    The furor over the speech really got started when people got a load of the preliminary guidance the Obama Administration put out to schoolteachers.  One of the suggestions was to have students:
    “Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the President.  These would get collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.”As Ed Morrissey put it in his blog today,  (http://hotair.com/archives/2009/09/08/e-j-dionne-republicans-pounced-without-evidence/), “help the President do WHAT, exactly?”  What were students going to be expected to pledge to do, in writing, to their teachers?
     
    Parents couldn’t answer that question, because the White House wasn’t making the speech’s text available for public inspection.  It wasn’t until after the furor started, that the WH publicized the speech’s text.
    As Ed Morrisey put it today:
    In the US, students do not help individual politicians, nor do they pledge allegiance to them.  Had the study guide suggested ways to help the school, or the community, as Obama’s speech to them did, it would have been completely uncontroversial.  Instead, the White House left the definite impression that they wanted teachers enforcing service to Obama himself, which understandably gave parents the creeps — as it should everyone.That, Renee, is what irritated a lot of people about Obama’s speech.  Elected officials serve the American people, not the other way around.
     
    Also, as a conservative and Republican, exactly what did would it mean for my kid—hopefully a conservative as well—to be held “accountable” by a teacher who’s most likely a member of the NEA…one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable support blocs?  Frankly, I’d rather not find out.
    There’s also, I’m sure, a little bit of political payback here.  In 1991, President George H.W. Bush gave a speech to America’s schoolchildren.  The Democrats in Congress held hearings and the NEA publicly rebuked President Bush for giving the speech.  Frankly, we Republicans are getting tired of the double standard, and we’re pushing back.  Live by the sword…

  4. Now, some comments on THIS post:

    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?

    (Emphasis added).

    Rene, I know you’ve worked professionally as a reporter.  Therefore, I’m assuming you wouldn’t insinuate racism without some evidence.  What is your evidence?

    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.

    Sigh.  Don’t forget, Rene—the White House didn’t release the text of the speech until people started demanding to see it.  This was AFTER we’d seen the suggestions from the White House that teachers have students write down how they, personally, were going to “help” the President.  Help him do WHAT? 

    These fear-mongers (c’mon, raise your hands so everyone knows who you are)

    My hand is raised.  I’m not comfortable with schoolkids having to write letters telling how they were going to “help” the president—letters that my teacher (an NEA member, most likely?) would keep on file.

    I’m disappointed in the condescending tone of your post.  Many conservatives, for reasons I’ve laid out above, were very irritated with the way the White House handled this whole affair.  You seem to be casually dismissing them as unenlightened kooks; IMO that’s not fair.

    1. I know they didn’t release the speech until Monday. But that still gave parents time to read it before making the decision on keeping kids out or not, since the speech was Tuesday. Parents and others started complaining on Thursday and Friday, based only on media reports and, I might add, not printed media reports. They seemed to have been fed by radio heads.
      I’m sorry my tone seemed condescending. I think race has something to do with this. I make it a point to spend the same amount of time listening to “right” radio and “left” radio and there was a definite pattern last week of fearmongering (and condescending tones) on the right radios. They just kept repeating the same line over and over and it was like they were trying to get people riled up – and they succeeded.
      Conservatives – or liberals, for that matter – aren’t unenlightened kooks – but people who jump off a cliff screaming about something before they have all the facts are not acting intelligent. They are acting fearful. Last night, AGAIN, I heard Obama compared to HITLER, on “The Truth” radio station because he wants a public option to compete with private healthcare. That’s a ridiculous comparison, but people were calling in buying it hook, line and sinker. Is that enlightened?

      1. I know they didn’t release the speech until Monday. But that still gave parents time to read it before making the decision on keeping kids out or not, since the speech was Tuesday.

        IIRC, the WH didn’t announce it was going to release the speech, until after the public outcry started.  (Plus, perhaps parents would want more than just one evening—Monday night—to peruse the speech?)  I suspect the president’s team wasn’t going to release the speech until the last minute, and the public outcry forced them to do otherwise.

        I’m sorry my tone seemed condescending. I think race has something to do with this…there was a definite pattern last week of fearmongering (and condescending tones) on the right radios. They just kept repeating the same line over and over and it was like they were trying to get people riled up – and they succeeded.

        Was there a definate pattern of racism?  That’s what you alleged.  Where’s your evidence of racism?  People were “fearmongering”  because they felt the quality of US healthcare was in jeopardy.  If my health care got trashed, that would scare me!

        I freely acknowledge there are racists in this country, and that some people oppose President Obama because he’s black.  The national debate over healthcare, however, is not being driven by racial animus. 

        However, if someone is bound and determined to find racism, if they look hard enough I suppose they can see it in anything.  Rene, respectfully, I think that’s what you’re doing here.

        Again, if you have evidence of any major Republican politician or conservative writer/speaker injecting overt racial tones into the healthcare debate, please show it.  I’ll gladly condemn it.

        Last night, AGAIN, I heard Obama compared to HITLER, on “The Truth” radio station because he wants a public option to compete with private healthcare. That’s a ridiculous comparison, but people were calling in buying it hook, line and sinker. Is that enlightened?

        If you want to point to talk show hosts as examples of conservative racism—I can point to plenty of kooky left-wing hosts.   Left-wing writers wrote novels and published plays wishing for the assassination of George W. Bush.    Cindy Sheehan said she’d dreamed that she went back in time and killed him. 

        As for people “buying things hook, line and sinker”—a fair number of Democrats think George W. Bush had a hand in 9/11.   And, how many times was George W. Bush compared to Hitler?

        If you want to associate conservatives in general with what you hear on kooky talk radio, may I then lump you and all liberals together with Sheehan, Hamsher and the Loose Change crowd?

  5. Don, if the right wing didn’t have such a long history of really ugly racism, maybe this charge wouldn’t come up all the time. 

    I think it is really unnecessary to provide support for my contention of right-wing racism, but I will refer you to my previous post in which I listed all the civil rights legislation the malevolent miser opposed and the ugly comments the perverted old demon made.

  6. It isn’t a “casual” dismissal – it is hard not to see a clinical level of paranoia in the typical conservative mindset.
    You child’s teacher might be an “NEA member” ? – how unpatriotic.
    And as such they will keep “on file” children’s letters of “loyalty” to the president – no doubt in some underground bunker.
     

    1. Speaking of a “clinical level of paranoia”–a not-insignificant percentage of Democrats are 9/11 Truthers.

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