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

Carolyn Foote's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

After struggling with this issue, I started pondering what can we do "next" to maximize this opportunity.

I've made some suggestions on my blog here:

What I was trying to get at--is that for those frustrated that their school missed the opportunity by not showing the video, there are things we can do to maximize the educational opportunities here!

Will's post was wonderful, I agree!

Cindy's picture

Staff comment:

Carolyn, these are excellent suggestions and a great way, as Obama would say, to "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again." Thank you for sharing.


Cathy Joyner's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As a teacher of Gifted children on an army base, I find it unacceptable that my children, and all of the other kids, were not given the opportunity to watch the President's speech. I watched it in the teachers' lounge during my lunch time. If I'd known that it was not being shown in the cafeteria, I'd have suggested that teachers allow their kids to eat in the classroom where they could see and hear their parents' Commander and Chief. In a county next to ours, the local school system allowed parents to keep their kids at home 'for religious reasons' with no punitive damages to their records--it wasn't even counted! In Georgia, and in MY book, this was clearly racially motivated by a stupid, selfish school board trying to pass yet another SPLOST in less than a week. I think keeping the kids from a message to THEM from the President of the United States was simply deplorable.

Denver E.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

That was it, misunderstanding. The Obama school speech stirred up a lot of controversy among conservatives, especially the type that love to scream at the top of their lungs over nothing. That's more or less what is controversial about the Obama school speech - nothing. It's largely supposed to be inspirational, and encourage children to stick with education and not to give up or drop out if the going gets tough. Shocking, we know - children getting educations - we might start having more people acting all smart and stuff. The speech had no socialist or fascist overtones, and people that were protesting the Obama school speech might want to find a money lender to go do something, or maybe a hobby.

Dr. G.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

How is encouraging children to; stay in school, work hard, take responsibility and have a dream such a controversial topic. This is beyond absurd when Districts and parents do not allow exposure to the President of the United States to say this. President Bush said the same thing to children and I did not hear any outrage.

Jodi Heilbrunn's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The National Center for School Engagement endorsed President Obama's address to schoolchildren. You may read our endorsement on our webpage at In fact, why not institutionalize the address? I trust any elected president, Democrat, Republican or otherwise, to say something valuable to my children, and I trust my children's teachers to discuss it responsibly. Given our dismal voter turnout, why not make an annual Presidential Address to Children a vehicle both for communicating a valuable message and for making our democratic process more accessible to our children.

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