September 7 2009
Posted September 8 2009
Ok, I brought it up in the sermon, I'll bring it up here. On September 8, the President of the United States will have a speech simulcast to schoolchildren around America. All I've seen says that this available to government schools, nothing shows any availability for private schools or for homeschool parents to get involved.
Now, there's been an uproar about this. Why? Well, first of all, there are a lot of Americans that are wondering exactly what the President is going to say. You see, they trust local school teachers with their kids because, after all, if they say something really wrong, you can go confront the teacher about it. Who will confront the President about it? We already saw during the campaign that his geography skills are a little lacking. Who will correct him if he tells the schoolchildren of America that there are 57 states? Or that his relatives liberated concentration camps that were liberated by the Soviets? The truth is, all parents ought to be cautious whenever their schools are bringing in outside speakers that have no accountability to the local people. And this comes from a guy who wants a side job doing motivational speaking at schools!
Now, the other thing that raised concerns was the lesson plans, written by White House political appointees, distributed to go with the speech. The phrasing used for sample questions sounded much more like these students should be exceedingly impressed that the President wants to talk to them, and that they must do whatever he says. Now, I don't know for sure, but I suspect the NEA would have had two cows and a dying duck fit had President Bush done anything of the sort, but it's apparently ok with President Obama doing it.
So, what's the solution? Well, for one, the White House has posted the written text of the intended speech. It reads like “Stay in school, even though it's hard sometimes.” Not a bad message. In fact, a pretty important one. One that each student should be hearing from teachers, parents, friends, and businesses. What I don't think President Obama realizes is that his personal appeal won't override an American culture that devalues the educated, that teaches kids their life doesn't matter. But it's a good effort. Also, the questionable lesson plans have been adjusted to remove the references that sounded like a call to obey President Obama rather than to consider his ideas. Had I been handed the speech text and the new lesson plans, I wouldn't have any issues at all.
So why even write about this? Here's the reasons: 1.) This underlines the myth of local control in government schools. Lesson plans written by political appointees in the White House? Are you serious? Again, how would many people have reacted to this 2 years ago? Even in the wake of 9-11, did we see this done? If this Administration starts by sending out “voluntary” lesson plans to go with a Presidential speech, what will the next do? The point being: your local school board, your local school teachers have only a limited amount of control over what they teach. The federal government influences, and in this case makes, a great deal of those decisions. 2.) This underlines the influential nature of government schooling. The President isn't trying to get this message across on TV commercials or in books. He's using the captive audience method. It's not a bad method on its own, we use it in church things frequently, and is great if the audience will listen. But don't kid yourself that he's doing it this way for convenience. It's because President Obama, and many people on the left side of American politics, understand that all education involves viewpoint, and has a level of indoctrination inherent in it. There is no morally-neutral education system.
The final point from this?
We've got way too much hysteria going on in America right now. Really, we do. Cut it out. Folks on my side, on the right, let's wait and see if it really is a socialism indoctrination lecture before we assume it is. Folks on the left, let's not assume that everyone on the right is a wacko racist. Many of us would have had the same fits about President Clinton doing the same thing. It's not race, it's viewpoint. Now, does the government need to realize this, to take some definite actions to address these concerns? I think they do. I think that, in this politically charged environment, the better thing would have been to start with releasing the speech text, and to use open-ended questions for the lesson plans. Questions that probe understanding, not that reinforce a point. I know both types of questions. I sometimes hand out questions to go along with Sunday sermons. I use both types. Understanding questions to help people confirm their listening skills, and then leading questions to build towards the response I want. It's good for preaching, but do we allow preaching in government schools? I didn't think so...
America needs solutions right now. We don't need the partisan bickering or grandstanding. The health care system needs fixing, so that doctors can doctor and sick people get well, not bankrupt. Our system should be based on the value of life and its preservation. How we get there needs to be based on what will work, not on what each party claims to “value.” I don't want the government in control of it, but for-profit doesn't seem to be working either. We need solutions. Our government education system doesn't work. Our military needs updated gear and modern and forward-looking systems. Infrastructure needs help. Taxes need to come down on individuals and businesses to let people keep their money. Trade needs to be fair, the environment needs a little looking after. If we entrench on buzz-words and don't really fix issues, we will get nowhere. Is that where we need to be?