President Obama is set to deliver his third annual back to school speech today, and some school districts around the country are still too terrified to show the speech because, “it has been controversial in the past.”
In 2009 right wing parents flipped out because President Obama was going to be addressing their children without their supervision at school. Glenn Beck screamed indoctrination and the administration got their first taste of the sort of empty outrage and furor that the far right excels at creating.
Today in 2011, many school districts are so terrified of the right wing troublemakers and the headaches they bring that they are either not showing the President’s speech, or they are providing parents with an opt out form.
From the AJC’s Get Schooled Blog here is an example of an opt out form,
Dear Parent(s) or Guardian(s):
We will air President Obama’s third annual national address directly to students on Monday, October 3, 2011, at 9:30 a.m. President Obama’s speech coincides with the beginning of school for many districts across the nation. His actual speech will be delivered on Wednesday, September 28, 2011, at 1:30 p.m.
If you do not want your child to view the address, please complete the bottom portion of this letter and return it to your child’s homeroom teacher no later than Friday, September 30, 2011. Those students who will not view the broadcast at their parents’ request will report to the gymnasium with an appropriate book, magazine, or newspaper after reporting to homeroom. Please feel free to contact me if you have additional questions or concerns.
What is this dangerous message that some parents are not about to let their child to hear?
Here are some excerpts from the speech,
It starts with being the best student you can be. Now, that doesn’t always mean you have to get a perfect score on every assignment. It doesn’t have to mean straight A’s all the time—although that’s a good goal to strive for. It means you have to keep at it. It means you have to work as hard as you know how. And it means that you take some risks once in a while. You wonder. You question. You explore. You color outside the lines every now and then.
If you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I wasn’t always the very best student. I didn’t love every class I took. I remember when I was in eighth grade, I had to take a class called “ethics”. Ethics is about right and wrong, but if you’d have asked me what my favorite subject was in eighth grade, I’d have said “basketball.” I don’t think ethics would have made the list.
But you know what? I still remember that ethics class. I remember the way it made me think. I remember being asked questions like “What matters in life?” “What does it mean to treat people with respect and dignity?” “What does it mean to live in a diverse nation?” Each question led to a new one, and I didn’t always know the answer right away. But those discussions and that process of discovery are still with me today. Every day, I’m thinking about what those issues mean for us as a nation. I’m asking all sorts of questions just like those. And I’ll let you in on another secret: I still don’t always know the answers. But if I’d have just tuned out because the class sounded boring, I might have missed out on something that I enjoyed and something that’s still useful to me today.
You’ve got your parents. They love you to death and want you to have even more opportunities than they had. So don’t give them a hard time when they ask you to turn off the video games and the television, and sit down to help you with your homework.
So I want all of you to set a goal to continue your education after high school. And if that means college for you, just getting in isn’t enough. You’ve got to finish. Our country used to have the world’s highest proportion of young people with a college degree. Now we’re 16th. That’s not good enough. And so we need your generation to bring us back to the top.
Obama’s message to students is study hard, try your best, be ethical, your parents love you, and set a goal of going to college. This is the message that has some school districts refusing to show the speech and parents demanding an opt out form.
In Collier County, FL schools won’t show the speech because, “In the past, this event was somewhat controversial,” said Beth Thompson, chief instructional officer with the district. “Parents called-in and said they did not want children to watch the speech.” Teachers have the option of showing the speech at a later date if it fits in with the curriculum, but parents will be provided with an opt out form if the a teacher plans on showing the speech.
Even though there was no positive or negative feedback about the president’s speech in the past a school district in The Woodlands, TX are passing the buck to teachers, “The speech will count as a regular part of the course curriculum, so teachers can decide whether or not to show it to their students. ‘Teachers will use the information as part of the curriculum, so there is no need to opt out,’ said Kathy Clark, spokesperson for Conroe ISD. ‘Everything is a classroom decision.’”
In Redding, CA more of the same curriculum and opt out forms lingo, but one principal said that he was wasn’t aware of the speech, and even if he wanted to show it he couldn’t, “I’m going to be quite honest — I didn’t even know he was giving a speech,” said Jim Harrell, the principal of Central Valley High School. Even if he wanted to broadcast the speech schoolwide, the school doesn’t have the technology to do so.”
I know that schools are cash strapped, but I find it hard to believe that Central Valley High School doesn’t have cable and a television that they can set up in the gym.
School administrators don’t want to deal with any potential tea partier fall out, so they have come up with the opt out form/blame the teacher strategy. It is a shame that some parents have managed to take a harmless optimistic speech to students and turn it into a toxic vat of partisan hatred for the President of the United States.
If these administrators were asked privately, it is a pretty safe bet that they would tell you that the problem is not the content of the president’s speech. They simply don’t want to deal with a tea party tantrum. Even a few RWNJ parents can make life miserable for educators, so some administrators have passed the buck and made the teachers deal with it.
Opting their children out a positive message about studying hard and loving your parents typifies the right wing mindset. To the conservatives who populate today’s Republican Party knowledge and education are bad things, and anyone who urges their children to think and learn must be socialist.
The same people who refuse to let their children view the president’s speech even have their own presidential candidate for 2012.
Land of the free, home of the frightened functionally illiterate.
Welcome to Tea Party America.