President Obama’s Speech

We’re now just hours away from the President’s speech “My Future, My Education”  which seems to have elicited more outcry than many expected.

 On Friday we focused our coverage on New Hanover County’s response. We had heard from some parents that they were considering keeping their child out of school on Tuesday (today) because they were concerned over the content of the message. Many of the parents I spoke to (either for or against the speech) were adamant that the other side was wrong about what would be said in the address…..(“He’s not going to talk about education! He’s going to talk about health care!” versus “This is only about motivating our kids, there is nothing political about it!”). To be fair…until last night…no one had any clue what was going to be said because the transcript had not been released. Still… convictions prevailed…

 The state told the school districts that the program should be optional for students…I didn’t get the impression that the districts anticipated some parents taking their kids out for the entire day. One of the parents we spoke to on Friday declared that she was “not political” and that her only worry was that the speech was interrupting her child’s class time. The natural follow-up question for her was, “Does taking them out of school for an entire day also interrupt class time?” (Note: the speech and lessons will take less than an hour and then regular work is set to resume). She told me they have reading they could do at home and it would just turn into a “four day weekend.”

 School officials on Friday reminded parents that Tuesday is STILL a school day and one Principal said it would be an unexcused absence. I’m not sure if that will be the case in every school.

 This is not the first time that a national, state or local politician has come into our schools to address our children…and its not the first time its riled up a feisty reaction. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush made a very similar address on “the future” and graduation rates. Some of President Obama’s supporters say the backlash is because of GOP resentment towards the President. Flash back to 1991…when President Bush spoke to school children…House Majority leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) said “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students.” So you see…you can never make everyone happy!

 The Brunswick County school board is the only district in our area that will not be showing the speech today. Catherine Cooke was the only Board member to respond to my calls about their decision. She was at work at her real estate firm and due to time constraints it didn’t look like we would be able to meet up with her for an on-camera interview. I was hoping to talk to Superintendent Katie McGee but she did not return the message I left on her cell phone.

 Catherine Cooke said that the decision was made after receiving “numerous” phone calls from parent’s who were concerned about the speech. At the NAACP rally a speaker said that what actually happened was that Board members did a telephone survey. I hope to explore this more and see just what the quantitative results were and how they were obtained.

 In the days that I’ve been following this I’ve heard a wealth of feedback on both sides…some of it seems based on sound judgment…some of it seems to come from rumor mills. No matter WHAT side your on…today’s speech may actually be a very valuable experience for everyone…

 People will challenge your child’s ideas and beliefs for the rest of their life. We all know it doesn’t get any easier the older you get! This will not be the last time that someone who may or may not agree with your political, religious or social ideology makes a public address to your children (who will later become voting adults). It might be valuable to look at this as an opportunity to teach your children how to listen carefully and ask their own questions. When the kids talk about this throughout the day today, they will likely get into their own discussions or arguments over the President or, over his message. These types of challenges will be life-long. For this reason, today may be your opportunity to get them involved and start teaching them how engage in discussion about their political world, rather then subtracting them from the types of confrontations that ultimately help us grow into politically savvy adults.

 Republican, Democrat or Independent…I think we’d all agree that analytical thinking, question-asking and intelligent debate are skills that EVERYONE wants their children to have…

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