Live Video Sparks Controversy
President Obama is streaming live from Virginia to talk to our kids about education next week. This is the first time a U.S. President has directly addressed children in the schools. The Charlotte Observer reports CMS Superintendant Dr. Peter Gorman has asked all schools to watch the short presentation and have teachers follow up with a prepared guide written by the White House in conjunction with the Department of Education. Two separate guides have been created geared toward grades preK-6 and another for grades 7-12.
Pundits and parents on both side of the aisle have reacted, with some worried about the message being sent, and others applauding the President for bringing education to the forefront and inspiring our children.
Schools and politics
Religion and politics are topics that most would agree can be highly controversial. Public schools across the nation have effectively eliminated any discussion about religion from our schools, so why not politics? One might argue that each election year children across the country learn about the election and the candidates, but the bottom line is that this is an instruction in the process, and does not allow any one candidate to get their message across. Perhaps the best forum to educate our children on topics that are religious or political in nature is in religion or civics class.
Many applaud President Obama’s initiative, and point out that the speech is expected to encourage our children to work hard and value education. While these are values shared by most and are easy to rally around, the fact that these ideas are coming from a U.S. President, rather than from a school superintendant, the Secretary of Education, or perhaps a highly esteemed professor, makes them indisputably political.
An underlying issue that concerns many is that this speech offers no chance for parents or teachers for that matter to view advanced copies of the text, as is usually the case when other controversial topics are brought into our school system such as sex ed. In this unique case, school systems have been given explicit directions on what to discuss with our kids before and after the video, but is much less specific when it comes to the actual content.
Perhaps a public service announcement, or a pre-taped video, would’ve been more a more agreeable format. This would’ve given schools and teachers the chance to incorporate the viewing into their own schedules, and offered parents a chance to view it together with their children in order to incorporate their own family values into the mix.