On September 8, 2010 the people of the United States are going to be presented with something entirely new. On that day the President of the United States proposes to address all school children and youth in the United States. Part of their school day is to be devoted to listening to President Obama address children who are in public schools. One probably should assume that some private schools will take time to at least listen to what the President has to say at that time. Accompanying the Presidents remarks will be materials prepared by the Department of Education. The Presidential lesson plan was prepared by the USDE Teaching Ambassador Fellows.
The Teaching Ambassador Fellowship program is sponsored by the USDE. Teaching Ambassador Fellows who wish to enter the program submitted essays to serve as a Fellow in the program. The program has four broad goals.
Creating data systems that follow the progress of students from pre-K through college and which link student results back to teachers and in turn colleges of education; Adopting internationally-benchmarked standards and higher quality assessments that measure whether students are mastering complex materials and can apply their knowledge in ways that are ready for college and careers; Committing the required attention, resources and ingenuity to turning around our lowest performing schools; and Investing in the quality of the education workforce – teachers, principals and education support professionals – and rethinking how these educators are prepared, assigned and rewarded.
These four goals in themselves beg many questions. But today I just wish to linger on the idea of a POTUS addressing the entire population of school children during their school day. My purpose here is to present a number of thoughts on this new event.
This begs the question should any President of the United States take time away from the school day to address the entire population of public school students as well as involving them in work intended to discuss or analyze his comments.
I just do not believe that any President should take time in the public or private school day to address the entire population of students in the nation. I believe that this is extremely unwise from a number of standpoints.
Students who are enrolled in schools are a captive audience. In fact, they are required by law to be in attendance unless there are mitigating factors that keep them away from school on any given day. They do not truly have any choice about whether or not they wish to attend school on September 8th. Indeed, they have to attend school on that date. Adults have a choice with what to do with their day. They are free agents with the full power of choice. Children however are not. They are bound by several factors. First, they are bound by the laws of the state and any other local bodies which have chosen to claim them as a group to govern. They are subject to actual legal action if they choose to ditch school on any given day. Second, they suffer many consequences when they miss school. There are teachers who they must answer to for assignments missed, practices lost and lectures not heard. Third, they are responsible to their parents who will dictate, rightly, whether they are to attend school on the day of the Presidents address. Adults have full freedom of choice about whether to go to work on any given day. Their consequences are clear to them. Adults can choose to risk dismissal from a job. Students have no such choice. They are a truly captive audience. That fact is what made most of us choose to home school in the first place.
Just as there is an unwritten doctrine of separation of church and state in our country, there is also an unwritten doctrine of separation of school and state. We cherish the independence of schools from political entities of any kind. Certainly, schools are supported by government money. But, any whiff of political indoctrination is an anathema to the American people. We all want teachers to teach their content and subject. But, at the same time, we all want teachers to leave their political views at home. No parent would want a teacher promoting the teachers beliefs to a captive audience of impressionable children. Nor would many parents put up with a speaker brought in to place ideas in the minds of our kids about how to vote, how to think politically or how to develop their own politcal opinions. The POTUS is overiding every one of these cherished convictions that most parents have about what their children should experience during their school day.
The President cannot separate himself from his political nature. After all, his office is purely political. He represents the people of the United States as a whole but he also owes an allegiance to the political party to which he belongs. Anything the President utters carries the weight of the Office of the President of the United States. While adults realize that the President is, in the end, only a man like any other, young people have a hard time separating the person from the celebrity. Young people are very likely to be unduly influenced by a President who speaks to them during the school day in an official capacity. The weight of the Presidents influence should be of concern to any parent with a child who remains in the state run school system.
Teachers are bound ethically and often contractually from commenting for a side on a political issue. At the minimum teachers are expected to maintain their neutrality due to the high regard students have for them both in the positive and in the negative. Many teachers find it almost impossible to leave their political leanings at the school door in the morning. Teachers certainly fall into all the multitude of political persuasions that exist in this country. Some are republican, others liberal, as well as communist, independent, and any other category one can think of that exists in our country. Some are rabidly devoted to their political convictions. They find it hard not to be evangelistic in regard to their views. Many will take the stance that it is “for the child’s good” that a student see things their way. The President is also a mere human. So one must place him under deep suspision regarding his motives for addressing his captured audience of impressionble minds. I will add here the I couldn’t care less who the President might be at any given time. I have to take the position that any President should refrain from this kind of activity which could sink to the level of indoctrination. I am personally convinced that a politician is a particularly devious breed of creature that seeks to sneak in his or her actual views with just a little bit too much sugar. That is clearly an opinion. So be it.
Students are disciplined by the state as a member of the category “school student”. They are legally held to the regulations of the state in which they attend, any local lawsand traditions as well as the local school board regulations. Even though I rabidly support home schooling and independent learning, I also know as an experienced teacher that huge populations of young people must be subject to forms of control and discipline which are intended to keep the group under control for the protection of the students in the group. So, I offer that a trap is being set for students. Imagine the child of parents who are liberals (substitute any persuasion) hearing the Presidents address from the classroom of a teacher who is an ardent Republican of the most conservative order. Let me qualify this point with a caveat. The vast majority of teachers I have known to keep their political views out of the classroom as well as out of their lesson plans. But, there are those teachers who speak one way to the administrators but an entirely different way when the classroom door swings shut. All across America on September 8 there will be kids who will make remarks for or against the President that will land them in the school no mans land, the school jail, the lockup… or the paddles enduring sting for the cheekiness of their remarks. Yes dear readers many, many school districts still allow the average joe hired off the street to paddle your childs rear end often without your knowledge. In the days when school districts who were wise enough to employ me still had the practice I found that teachers ran the normal gamut of sane and insane tendencies found in the general population. Allowing the average teacher to pound your kid would be akin to simply pulling a man off the street to say “would you please beat the snot out of my child”. Normally not something a parent who does not have parasites in their brain would allow to happen. It is the school version of capital punishment with its own homey little rituals sadistic though they may be. I always worried about those teachers who prided themselves just a bit too much in the art of paddling a troublesome child. But I digress. Forgive me, I seem to be writing a book but the material provided by President Obama is so ripe for the picking.
Another claim I make is that this just can’t avoid being indoctrination. The President is after all is said and done human. He puts on his pants one leg at a time one must assume. He goes to the bathroom like you and I. Although I haven’t wanted to imagine that. And, he is just as adamant about his beliefs as you or I. This is at least indoctrination through image. The poor man can’t help it. Can you imagine the ego of anyone who runs for President and the self-affirming state they must be in after having been elected. Every President in my lifetime has made some utterly spectacularly, goofy statement because the poor man knew he was the president. One recalls President Clinton chasing a poor aide down the street prattling on “You can’t do that to me I am the President of the United States.” For goodness sake I would do it. Were I elected President the first official act would to to issue the royal command “spin those engines up on Air Force One. I won it and it’s mine”. I would spend the nations money flying down to Texas where I would trap my unfortunate friends in a ride back to Washington on Air Force One where I would parade around with my President jacket, and my President cap, and my President chair, and my President dog listening to all my friends and relatives bowing and scaping to me as they say that phrase that would be music to my ears “Mr. President. Ah, peel me another grape. No human can become President of the United States still thinking they are still a plain human rather than a God. At least until their poll numbers drop into the 15’s. Then most of them tend to blame the democrats, the republicans, the british, the french, the algerians, Saddam Hussein, or David Letterman. But it isnt their fault that America doesnt like them. Americans traditionally like nothing better than the taste of roast presidency even if they voted for the unfortunate dope. So, the President is going to make this a political event. It is a trait of the beast. They just can’t help it.
It is never a good idea to trust politicians too much. As the Secstate said in Hunt for the Red October; “I’m a politician. That means when I’m not kissin babies, I’m stealing their candy”. Since I get a lot of my working philosophy from movies that statement about sums up my rock bottom trust level of politicians. So, please allow me to sum up a bit.
Because students are a captive rather than a free audience, and as I believe that Americans really do hold politics and religions as separate from public schools and thats the way I like it. There fore I don’t have to worry about the “Incandescent Followers of the Glowing Granite Cauldron, chapter XIV” holding a child sacrifice before the announce ments are made for the day. Not do they have to worry about me cornering some poor athiest child in the cafeteria whose parents do not want their child converted to the “New Ultra Pasteurized and filtered Southern Buddist Convention Evangelical Church of the Eternal Burning Thing in the Cemetary”. Nor would I have to worry about my child being forced to join “the Conservative Wing of the Trans Pacific Union of Concerned Athiests and dog walkers”. you get my drift.
The President is making a tremendous mistake in making this address to the children of the country. He has essentially captured them right down to the smallest little bugger… Seems that every time he makes a decision his popularity has sort of fallen lower into the sewer. He has been wise enough to keep his mouth shut because he seems to have realized that there is something about his speech patterns or maybe it’s his logic that drives about 57 % of the American people nuts.
This would be one of those times when we need to call our congressperson, the local superintendent, the board members and everyone else you can rally to defeat this abuse of Presidential power.