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“Education is not indoctrination” – Obama’s Address to Students

September 1, 2009

Those were the words spoken by Michael Medved at the end of Hour 3 of his show yesterday.  By some strange coincidence, I happened to catch the intro to his broadcast as I was driving to pick up my kids from school. What I heard left me chilled.

Before you assume that this is a “liberal vs. conservative” discussion or is a rant about political positions, it’s not.  I can tell you that I would have problems with what’s happening regardless of who was behind it, what their political leanings are…or agenda.

Mr. Medved was interviewing a teacher who was resisting her district’s “encouragement” (pressure) to suspend her normal class activity and lessons so all her students could participate in President Obama’s planned Address to Students scheduled for September 8, 2009.  This planned address coincides with many schools’ first day back on campus.  While I don’t have the details of the exact content of the address, per the White House press release (you can find a public copy of it at http://service-learning.blogspot.com/2009/08/president-obama-to-deliver-nationally.html) indicates that Pres. Obama plans to talk to students about the importance of staying in and succeeding at school.

Sounds like a good, positive message.  Problem 1) The release is dated August 21st, and yet no one really seems to know much about it.  I’ve talked to several parents whose kids are already in school for the year, and they don’t know anything about it.  Schools generally have trouble getting any extra-ordinary programs sanctioned by their administration or districts that take away from learning time; suddenly we have time for ALL kids to cease what they are normally doing to get a message from the White House? What will be covered? Is it appropriate for students in grades Pre-K through Grade 6(target audience for this message)?  But, there even appears to be a lesson plan developed for teachers to work with their students before/during and after to “explore” the topic of the President’s message (http://www.docstoc.com/docs/10582301/President-Obama%E2%80%99s-Address-to-Students-Across-America-September-8-2009). There are several teachers across the country who are choosing not to include their classes in this planned televised event, and apparently those teachers are being called un-American and “non-conformists.”

Further issue:  as a parent, I like to know what my kids are being taught when they’re in school. I’m led to believe that schools want this, too, because we are always hearing how “parents need to be more involved in their kids’ education.”  Yet, last year, my middle daughter was shown Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” in school under the premise that this was a documentary proving the fact of Global Warming.  We had no idea it was going to be shown until after our daughter came home and told us about the horrific scenes of drowning polar bears. Parents need to and SHOULD be told what’s being shown/taught in schools.

But, that’s off point — somewhat.  Let me get back to it.

While this issue of the Address alone is worrisome, this is only the latest in what seems to be a push to indoctrinate our young people at earlier and earlier ages.

Some of my comments were featured last week in the US News and World Report article on the DLC’s plan for “A Kindle in Every Backpack” — the second time I’ve been asked to share my views on this topic in the media. Along with other issues I raised, part of my concern is the ability and potential, with such a device, to manipulate or tailor the content students will be consuming electronically. I’m not saying this will happen, but what does it say when we are looking to obsolete the printed word in favor of dynamic-content devices — and claim this is for “budget” reasons.

This comes on the heels of the recent push for a national set of curriculum standards, and the linking of Obama/Duncan’s “Race to the Top” funds to schools that agree to embrace specific federally-encouraged initiatives such as charter schools and merit pay for teachers. Now, today, you hear that California is suspected of changing their education objectives just to make themselves a more attractive candidate for education funds through “Race to the Top.”

None of these incidents, in isolation, are of significant concern, but when you examine them as a whole — and consider these are all sprouting up in the last three months — you have to wonder what’s REALLY going on. At the same time, why do schools/districts continue to pump money into initiatives that don’t work, won’t work this time (like Capital Gains) — rather than actually doing something to make things better?

Again, I don’t KNOW what’s behind this — is it a drive to infuse a certain political agenda or position on our young people? But I worry whenever it appears that the Federal government is overstepping its bounds.  Education is supposed to be the responsibility of the States, with support from the Federal Government, sure. But not to issue edicts from “on high” that say, “We will be addressing the young people of America at such and so time and we expect everyone to drop everything and watch.”

If this is about improving education, as the release says it is, then don’t TALK about it…DO it.  These kids are really too young to understand the speeches that are being made, but they aren’t too young to see the results of bullying, harassment, and schools that don’t have regular textbooks, never mind the fancy Kindle that is out of reach for most of the students in this country.  Actions speak louder than words — they always have. And, the action I DO see is making me uncomfortable.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. eva neumann permalink
    September 1, 2009 6:53 pm

    I share your concerns. It will be most interesting what the public/media will have to say about it once it becomes known.

  2. December 5, 2009 12:21 am

    Good post mate!! Keep ’em flowing!

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