Obama school speech furor: You can tell it was a slow news day


President Barack Obama addressed the nation’s elementary and high school students Tuesday. I didn’t watch or listen, but I read the speech, and it’s a good message. One we all should heed.

More about that later.

The U.S. Department of Education’s advance promotion of the speech, however, and one section of its proposed lesson plans made the news and ignited the talk show phone lines the week before the speech. Critics assailed the lesson plan and the president’s speech as being “socialist” and an effort to indoctrinate students with Democrats’ philosophy.

Is the president’s address more about the marketing of the president than education, asked one pundit. And the suggested lesson plan question that triggered the most furor, “how can I serve my president?” (it was later revised) smacks of communism, not democracy, others cried.

“Someone tell me, where does ‘stay in school’ fit into a first grade curriculum?” asked a speech opponent in one parenting blog.

“By showing it in the schools, and the schools not sending out permission slips or even notifications, the administration is simply circumnavigating our [parents’] authority,” added another.

We demand to see the speech text before we sanction its viewing, declared parents.


Here’s the main message of the president’s speech: Stay in school. Set goals. Work hard and take responsibility for your own future.

Radical thoughts, I know.

“Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up,” the president told the students.

“… the circumstances of your life — what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home — that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to you teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.”

Let’s face it: No matter what your political persuasion or background, the most recent presidential campaign and election sparked more interest in the U.S. democratic process than any other event in recent history. And, regardless of whom you voted for, I would hope you’d agree that maintaining that interest among young people — tomorrow’s leaders — is a good thing. Apathy will not move this country forward, involvement will. And if having a visible Commander in Chief speak to students keeps that interest alive, so be it.

We need more public figures, be they famous athletes, actors, musicians or elected officials, emphasizing the importance of education in today’s society. There’s no hidden agenda in that message.

Young people are pretty straightforward. They see through the fluff and most of them probably thought the speech was boring. I don’t think they were marred for life.

Here’s one public school teacher’s response to the whole hullabaloo:

“Seriously parents, if you want to worry about what’s going on in our public schools, you’ve got a lot more to be concerned about than our president attempting to encourage your child to get an education.”

I give her an A+.

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