Obama School Speech | Dream Big, Kids

Are hard work and respect socialist agenda?

President Obama's school speech is meant to encourage, not indoctrinate. (Photo: flickr.com)

President Obama's school speech is meant to encourage, not indoctrinate. (Photo: flickr.com)

It’s a ridiculous question, of course. Can’t we all appreciate that the president wants our youth to work hard and achieve a bright future for themselves and America as a whole? Because the more well-prepared, motivated young people who enter the adult world, the better this country will be as a whole. From money lenders to structural engineers, a world of jobs will need to be filled. There’s nothing complicated or – dare I say – nefarious about that. Yet that’s exactly what critics are complaining about with the Obama school speech. They need something to gripe about to give themselves purpose, so they claim it’s all part of “the agenda.”

And the Obama administration has bent over backward to please these people. They even released Obama’s school speech text. Is that conclusive enough evidence to dispel the notion that some unspeakable evil is about to be wrought upon our impressionable youth?

The uproar is “silly”

That’s what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan calls the unsupported furor over Obama’s planned address to the schoolchildren of America. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has stated that “It’s a sad state of affairs that many in this country politically would rather start an ‘Animal House’ food fight rather than inspire kids to stay in school, to work hard, to engage parents to stay involved.”

According to the New York Times, the Obama school speech is intended to encourage kids to “dream big dreams, respect their teachers, study hard and learn from failure.” We all fall down at times; we do so in order to learn to pick ourselves up again. Nothing could be more serious. This is what we owe ourselves.

President Obama will deliver the school speech at noon Eastern Time from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, but it will be broadcast live to schools across the nation. Most of America’s 15,000 school districts plan to show the Obama school speech, and accommodations will be made for the few whose parents object to their children viewing the speech. Why a parent would object to what has been revealed to be an inspirational message is beyond me. If there are other reasons, then I would ask why the child is in a public school system to begin with. It is self-defeating to leave the child in public school if the parents have no intention of allowing that child to assimilate into the general public sphere. I would say that it damage’s the child’s psyche, but I’m a writer and concerned citizen… what’s that worth?

It’s about taking personal responsibility

Guilford County Schools of North Carolina Chief of Staff Nora Carr finds that the Obama school speech planned for the children of America is nothing controversial. On the contrary, it’s something “refreshing,” particularly from a politician. Taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and decisions has been a foreign concept for politicians in America of late, particularly with those who cheat on their wives and spend taxpayer money illegally. Don’t worry, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, I’m not naming any names.

Before the text of the Obama school speech was released by the White House, certain parents in Guilford County School District were angry like a number of those in red state pockets around the Bible belt. There were also those who were upset that school districts were allowing parents the option to opt out. While I do think parents should have such an option, it seems odd to me that they wouldn’t want their children to be involved in building up their country. Narrow-mindedness leads to a lack of intellectual diversity. Choking out ideas with the weeds of narrow fundamentalism teaches children to submit to authority and stifle creativity in deference to the party line. If all of the Republican complainers think that the Obama “agenda” is enslaving children, they ought to look in the mirror first.

This isn’t mandatory, folks

Nor should it be. As I’ve said, parents should indeed have a say in what their children are taught in schools. Not control, but a say. If they want their children out, they should have that right. Some schools are even opting out, which I suppose is also their right, although again, I don’t see why they would unless it’s true that they’re actually too busy. School has just begun around the country, so this is understandable.

Speech is OK; now let’s attach the Obama school speech lesson plan!

Work hard at your education, students. (Photo: flickr.com)

Work hard at your education, students. (Photo: flickr.com)

The Obama school speech lesson plan has also been controversial. The same people who initially opposed any sort of speech from Obama to America’s schoolchildren had gripes over the lesson plan the White House provided as supplementary material in case teachers wanted it. In particular, discussion points like “Write letters about what they (students) can do to help the president” were interpreted as some sort of mandatory service call, which is ludicrous. What’s wrong with helping the president if children choose to do so? Such a question does not exist in a vacuum; it is part of much larger discussion, one that includes not only teachers, but parents and caregivers as well. Talking about what kids can do is not a call for mandatory service, but a chance for them to use their imaginations and decide how they might go on to interact with their world in a positive way. Hiding from the world – whether it be due to political or religious fundamentalist views – does not provide a real growth environment. Children must have guidance, but they must also be allowed to interact with the world around them.

But the squeaky wheel got the grease and the question on the optional supplemental lesson plan was changed. Yes, it’s an OPTIONAL supplemental plan. Please find something productive to do with your lives, objectors. Now it reads: “Write (a letter to yourself) about how (you) can achieve short‐term and long‐term education goals.” Sure, it does make the meaning more clear for those who can only see in black and white… I suppose catering to the lowest common denominator in America isn’t a completely foreign concept.

The president struggled to get to where he is now

And it’s that kind of message Mr. Obama wants to get across to children: the road will be hard. There will be bumps. But if you commit to hard work, it will eventually pay off. Whether junior becomes a lion tamer or a money lender, hard work and a commitment to being the best they can be in their chosen field is what will lead to their own success. A society made up of such motivated individuals will not be predisposed to fail. Education is the key toward a better America.

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