Schools Shouldn't Have Blacked Out Obama's Speech | Edutopia
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Schools Shouldn't Have Blacked Out Obama's Speech

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With all the hubbub of September, many of us found ourselves dealing with an unexpected issue -- the decisions of our local school districts not to air President Obama's back-to-school speech. Regardless of your political leaning, we hope you'll agree with us at Edutopia that it's a sad day when society limits the ability of our president to talk to young children, future citizens, about the importance of working hard in school and pursuing dreams.

Will Richardson, a leading education blogger and a member of The George Lucas Education Foundation's National Advisory Council, published a must-read post about the controversy and what it implies about the role of schools. If you haven't read Richardson's post, we encourage you to do so and forward it to others who care about protecting schools as a place where ideas can be presented, debated, and critically assessed -- and where the highest elected official in our country has an opportunity to encourage our next generation to embrace opportunities available to them if they work hard in school.

Many of Edutopia's success stories about public education showcase the very personal stories of students who have turned their lives around through hard work and discipline. Two such examples:

  • Terrie Gabe, who worked the night shift, from 11 p.m. to 5:45 a.m., before going to West Philadelphia High School's Academy of Applied Automotive and Mechanical Science for her 7 a.m. class. Gabe went from being a dropout to graduate with straight As and no absences. You can read her inspirational story in "Auto Motive: Teens Build Award-Winning Electric Cars".
  • Luis, an 18-year-old son of immigrants who has propelled his learning through new media and community engagement in Oregon. Luis is featured in a video profile as part of Edutopia's Digital Generation Project.

We welcome your continued thoughts, reactions, and stories on Obama's message and how schools can be best positioned for the future. Please share them here.

-- Cindy Johanson, COO

Comments (36)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Tom Lee's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Like so many other educators whose comments I've read, I despair for our country and a future where critical thinking skills are in short supply. When I was a kid a speech by our president directed to students would have meant a special TV day at school in the manner of the early launches into space. It seems to me that these parents who prohibited their children from viewing the speech are forgetting two important things. First, the public schools are public and meant to provide an education for all, irrespective of students' backgrounds or beliefs. Second, parents' responsibilities include talking with their children about how and why their own (the parents') beliefs may differ from what children hear in school, or anywhere else, for that matter. If, for instance, parents don't approve of children learning at school how the theory of evolution works, they ought to say to their kids at the supper table, "Well, I know that's what many people accept as an explanation but I don't think they're right and here's why." A primary duty of parenting is helping your kids know how and why to think the same or differently as what the rest of the world will be telling them. Parents who shirk this responsibility are doing their children a huge disservice. In this case, the conversation might start with, "Well, I know that the President told you to work hard and set educational goals and stuff, but here's why I think those are bad ideas."

Golf Blog's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Personally, I monitor everything my daughter watches on tv for CONTENT. I did not know what was going to come out of Obama's mouth, therefore my daughter did not watch his address. I understand that was he said was very G rated, however things were leaked to the media that he was thought to be saying to the kids about writing a letter to your president supporting healthcare and things like that. It was scary to me to think that the president was addressing our kindergarteners for what reason? So they know and remember his face?

Mary Spata's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

How can schools teach respect when they decide that the President of the United States is not allowed to communicate with their students. It did not matter what he said, he simply should have been given the time he requested.

Dawn Weise's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have to agree and will add that though I may not agree with all our President has to say, I always remember as a child, hearing the President speak on whatever topic was at present. I'm not sure if there is a hidden agenda, but I listened to the speech and also viewed it as an encouragement to stay in school. There was a boost for teachers and parents as well as he instructed students to listen to the parents and teachers.

Ms. Johnson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Opinion: I cannot remember when there was so much discussion and prejudice against a president's speech before it was even spoken. In the past we have willingly listened to whatever has protruded from the mouths of our leaders. What's wrong with encouraging our youth to reach higher goals? What's wrong with praising our youth for the accomplishments they have made and are working to make? Teens and children today are doing much more than some adults have done in a lifetime. We should at least give the man an opportunity to speak before we shut him off. How would you feel to have your thoughts shut down before you can share them with others?

Ms. Johnson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was very impressed with the resume of the young man who had the privilege of introducing President Obama. He symbolizes all the good that our children are capable of when given the proper support and encouragement.

That said, I applaud President Obama for the words of encouragement he gave our youth. He made a good point when he stated that failure leads to success. We should encourage our students to take chances, and not give up because they did not succeed the first time they set a goal. I will continue to encourage my students to never give up, but to continue until they succeed.

Ms. Johnson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Some people are just content with not being content. Whenever things seems to be going along smoothly, someone has to come along and find something wrong. Let's just sit back and see are things are going before we get all bent out of shape over things we know nothing about. I bet those who were against the speech are embarrassed about trying to keep him silent. Imagine what we all could have missed if none of us heard the speech.

Geoff Brown's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Prejudice would seem to be a bit too loaded a term to offer in this case. While I fully support the notion of the President having access to address our nation's youngest citizens and the notion that it happen within the schools for context, I believe it should also be a parents perogative to determine whether or not their child should participate. Within our school, we traditionally offer the Presidential address but at a time that does not directly impact instructional time and affords parents the chance to inform their children and choose regarding participation.

Tiffay's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a graduate student attending Walden. I thought President Obama speech was AWESOME! After his speech a lot of students was impressed and thought that he was talking directly to them and no one else. Obama speech was very motivational. His speech let us know that not only teachers and parents are concern about the student's education but the President is also. He encouraged me also that failure leads to success. So many times we give up if we fail or think that we are going to fail. There is nothing wrong with failure if you learn from it. I think more people need to give encouraging speeches to our kids to let them know they really care.

Cheryl Stock's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

In the past, we have not had a president who has not been able to prove his citizenship to the USA, who has been a muslim, who believes in socialism and who by his actions, wants to destroy this wonderful country that we live in by "changing" it----that's just to name a few things about the man who is the president of our nation that is repulsive to me. Why would I want my children to listen to what he has to say when I can't even stand to listen to the man myself. In regards to schools airing his message, I am sure there were many liberal areas that allowed/encouraged and perhaps required their schools to air his message. And on the other hand, their were schools that did not require the viewing of his speech. Personally, I would not have been horribly upset if my kids came home sharing with me what they heard in the president's speech, but I definitely did not think it was necessary for them to hear it and I sure didn't think it was disrespectful that it wasn't aired in our schools. Also, to comment on your comment "We should at least give the man an opportunity to speak before we shut him off. How would you feel to have your thoughts shut down before you can share them with others?" The man DID speak. We as a nation have the right to choose whether or not we listen to him.

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