Why Parents Oppose Obama School Speech

UPDATE: Now that the President has given his speech, what did you think of it? What did you think of the reaction of parents? Share your comments below after reading this article.

President Barack Obama plans to address students of America via a live webcast tomorrow, Tuesday, September 8. The President giving an educational pep talk to children should be a good thing, right? In this case, parents are in an uproar.

Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform (CER), released the following statement:

"Having the President of the United States use the bully pulpit to speak to our schoolchildren isn't new, but it's only a good use of the office if executed with a clear vision. That vision was blurred by overzealous staffers who counseled teachers to use the speech to focus on President Obama himself and not on the nation's education crisis."

The afore mentioned focus is referring to administration-created lesson plans which precede the speech and originally recommended having students "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president." The White House revised the plans to say students could "write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."

White House deputy policy director Heather Higginbottom said the original writing assignment was "inartfully worded" and that "we corrected it."

The address will appear live on the White House website and C-SPAN at noon on Tuesday in classrooms across America except for districts in states including Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin which have decided not to show the speech to students.

Other examples of banning the speech:
  • The district in Houston is leaving the decision up to individual school principals.

  • In suburban Houston, the Cypress-Fairbanks district planned to show the address and has had its social studies teachers assemble a curriculum and activities for students.

  • In the Dallas suburb of Plano, Texas, the 54,000-student school district is not showing the 15- to 20-minute address but will make the video available later.

  • In Texas, calls and e-mail messages flooded into the offices of many local school officials. “I didn’t get a positive call all day,” said Susan Dacus, a spokeswoman for the Wylie Independent School District outside Dallas.

  • School officials in Wylie decided to record the speech, review it and then let individual teachers show it, offering students the opportunity to avoid listening if they wished.

  • In Houston, teachers have been asked to tell parents if they intend to show the speech and the schools will provide an alternative class for those whose parents object, a spokesman for the district, Lee Vela, said.

  • In Wisconsin, the Green Bay school district decided not to show the speech live and to let teachers decide individually whether to show it later.

  • The Minnesota Association of School Administrators is recommending against disrupting the first day of school to show the speech, but Minnesota's biggest teachers' union is urging schools to show it.

  • Quincy, Ill., schools decided Thursday not to show the speech. Superintendent Lonny Lemon said phone calls "hit like a load of bricks" on Wednesday.

  • Many more districts are considering not showing or allowing parents a method of opting out their child.
So, what's the big deal? After all, it's the President talking to students. Why does that scare some parents? What's to fear?

Many conservative voices say Obama is using the opportunity to promote a political agenda and is overstepping the boundaries of federal involvement in schools.

"As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality," said Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Steve Russell. "This is something you'd expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

Arizona state schools superintendent Tom Horne, a Republican, said lesson plans for teachers created by Obama's Education Department "call for a worshipful rather than critical approach."

Perhaps you feel that's a bit too extreme.

"I think it's really unfortunate that politics has been brought into this," says Higginbottom. "It's simply a plea to students to really take their learning seriously. Find out what they're good at. Set goals. And take the school year seriously."

Higginbottom noted that the first President George Bush, a Republican, made a similar nationally broadcast speech from a Washington high school in 1991. He urged students to study hard, avoid drugs and to ignore peers "who think it’s not cool to be smart." Democrats in Congress claimed $27,000 in taxpayer money was used to produce "paid political advertising."

In November 1988, President Ronald Reagan delivered more politically charged remarks that were made available to students nationwide. Among other things, Reagan called taxes "such a penalty on people that there's no incentive for them to prosper ... because they have to give so much to the government."

The differences between any previous Presidential effort are two-fold. For one, there were no blogs and social networking. Information was spread via broadcast & cable TV along with newspapers and magazines. Secondly, regardless of their political party, previous Presidents were not viewed so radical so quickly as the Obama Administration.

The Concerns
Some reasons parents are concerned:
  • Political content? The speech not been screened for political content.

  • Not reviewed. The speech not reviewed by State Boards of Education and local school boards, which, under state law, must approve the curriculum.

  • Unknown content. "Nobody seems to know what he's going to be talking about," Perry said. "Why didn't he spend more time talking to the local districts and superintendents, at least give them a heads-up about it?"

  • Indoctrination. "It's a form of indoctrination, and I think, really, it's indicative of the culture that the Obama administration is trying to create," Regine Gordon of Tampa, Fla., told FOXNews.com on Thursday. "It's very socialistic."

  • Direct access to children. The speech "...seemed like a direct channel from the president of the United States into the classroom, to my child," said Brett Curtis, an engineer from Pearland, Tex.

  • Bypassing parents. PTA council president Cara Mendelsohn said Obama is "cutting out the parent" by speaking to kids during school hours. "Why can't a parent be watching this with their kid in the evening?" Mendelsohn said. "Because that's what makes a powerful statement, when a parent is sitting there saying, 'This is what I dream for you. This is what I want you to achieve.'"

    Michelle Moore of St. Louis says, "I have to sign permission slips for my kids to watch R-rated movies in school." She felt parents were being blindsided by the president's address. "It was simply presented, 'Hey, we're going to do this, this is when it's going to air and you're going to show it to your kids.'" Moore suggested that the speech be issued as a DVD to students so they can view it with their parents at home, adding that the first day of classes for many students will be a harried affair.

    Beth Milledge of Winterset, Iowa plans to go to school with her 8-year-old son to watch the address with him. Obama speaking directly to children without so much as a permission slip being sent home made her "feel a little funny."

    "I want to know how it's being presented," she said. "I'm all for my child having respect for the president, but why wouldn't he show us the speech first and then go from there?"

  • Other media options available. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible contender for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination, said Friday the classroom is no place to show a video address from Obama. "At a minimum it's disruptive. Number two, it's uninvited. And number three, if people would like to hear his message they can, on a voluntary basis, go to YouTube or some other source and get it. I don't think he needs to force it upon the nation's school children," he told reporters at the Minnesota State fair.

  • President is a stranger. "I wouldn’t let my next-door neighbor talk to my kid alone; I’m sure as hell not letting Barack Obama talk to him alone," said Kansas City talk show host Chris Stigall.

  • President isn't trusted. "Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me," suburban Colorado mother Shanneen Barron told CNN Denver affiliate KMGH. "I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now."

  • President creating "a cult of personality" according to Mark Steyn, a Canadian author and political commentator.

  • Taxpayer dollars footing bill to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology, according to Republican Party chairman in Florida, Jim Greer.

  • Send a message. By boycotting this speech, it's likely many are using this as a means to protest the President.
Charles Saylors, president of the national Parent Teacher Association, said the uproar over Obama's speech is "sad."

"The president of the United States, regardless of political affiliation, should be able to have a presentation and have a pep talk, if you will, to America's students," he told CNN.

As expected, the White House is dismissive of these concerns. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs showed his disconnect with the American people.

"I think we've reached a little bit of the silly season when the president of the United States can't tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school," presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "I think both political parties agree that the dropout rate is something that threatens our long-term economic success."

A White House spokesman said that there was nothing subversive about the upcoming Obama speech.

"The goal of the speech and the lesson plans is to challenge students to work hard in school, to not drop out and to meet short-term goals like behaving in class, doing their homework and goals that parents and teachers alike can agree are noble," spokesman Tommy Vietor told FOXNews.com yesterday. "This isn’t a policy speech. This is a speech designed to encourage kids to stay in school."

The White House released the speech around noon on Monday so parents can read it. Obama will deliver the speech at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va.

UPDATE: For a very well written article that articulates concerns superbly, click here.

The Dangers
One harmful attribute of banning a Presidential speech is that such action could send the wrong message to children. Not being allowed to hear out the President of the United States, even if parents dislike his policies, may say that one should not listen to someone with whom they disagree.

However, involved parents make such decisions all the time. How much TV are they watching? What sorts of TV programs are they watching? What movies are they watching? What video games are they playing and for how long? With whom are they speaking and what words/tone/attitude are they using? What and how much food are they consuming? This is called parenting. While some are less or more strict than others, monitoring and controlling a child's input is wise.

Yet, there are those that might say such parenting is ignorant or even racist. True arrogance, ignorance, and racism is spewed from likes of MSNBC's David Schuster who alleges that opposition to this speech may stem from racism.

Then, there's MSNBC's Chris "Thrill-Going-Up-My-Leg" Matthews who cannot help but show his arrogance and bitterness.

This isn't the first time the race card has been played. The immature poster child for of the race-card is Janeane Garofalo who labels anyone disagreeing with the President as "racist rednecks who hate black people." Well, specifically she refers to "teabaggers" (the term is a sexual act) as racist rednecks even though they are peacefully protesting high taxes, massive spending, and endless bailouts. While hundreds of thousands of Americans are protesting, the media mocks them with teabagging jokes on prime time TV because these professionals forgot they were supposed to be journalists.

Whether it's T.E.A. Parties, Town Hall meetings, or "birthers" (who are labeled racist because they want to see the President's long-form birth certificate), one can disagree with another or have a differing opinion without being racist.

How You Can Help
What should you do regarding this speech? Read the text of the speech and use sound discernment. Don't allow the masses to dictate what you should or should not do as a parent. God has blessed you with children, so use careful consideration in how to handle their development. It's your call. It's your business.

Also, pray that the speech is encouraging and inspirational to students but also pray that parents will be more involved with their children. It's not up to schools to shape children and an encouraging speech from the President won't help take bad behavior, guns, and sex out of schools. Involved parents, grandparents, or other guardians can do this.

We should not follow leaders blindly, but “Test everything; hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus offers some critical advice in discerning who is a false prophet: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruits you will recognize them.”

It is of utmost importance that Christians are well-grounded in the Scriptures so that they are able to discern which teachers speak from God and which are false in their proclamation. Only then can we reject what is false and “hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Pray is the answer...and God answers prayers of His children with yes, no, and wait.




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