On Education and Country

Yesterday, I learned that President Obama intends to speak directly to school students on September 8th about education, personal responsibility, and civic duty. The Department of Education came up with a lesson plan to guide the teachers in discussion surrounding the speech.

And then the world imploded.

Conservatives stood up, crying foul.  Several started a tea party movement to keep their children home on September 8th, calling it an indoctrination of  youth into the socialist agenda.  They are likening this to the recruiting of Nazi youth. They are complaining that Obama is subverting their authority as parents to sell his health care and big government plans, that he is recruiting them to be his army.

Some of the comments I have read have been sickening.  Racist and conspiracy theory comments that cut  just shy of calling for a lynching. These comments suggest that his brand of civic duty is not American.  Some of these comments suggest that he will push community organizing, which, in their interpretation, is clearly a socialist ideal.   In the very next line of the comment, sign their name to the tea party agenda of pulling their children from school on September 8th.  Isn’t that a form of community organizing?  In going back to one of the organizing websites tonight, some of these comments have been removed by the moderator.

The main quibble is with a (I admit) rather stupid line in the lesson plan saying “How can I help President Obama?”  Granted, stupid and suggestive.  But really, he is the President of the United States.  He wants to speak to citizens which include your children.  His speech is going to focus on education, demanding that students work hard, demanding better from our teachers, asking us to be good citizens and help others around us.  He is talking to children.  Do you honestly think that he is going to be pushing an agenda, talking above their head with health care reform on the first day of school? How is what is laid out to be essentially pep talk speech as laid out in the materials I have read offensive to you?  He is trying to reach out and act as a role model as president.  He worked damn hard to get there and he wants to inspire others to reach for the same.  You can ask me how I know that this is what he is going to talk about.  I can argue how do you know that he isn’t.  You can argue that the materials don’t ask for critical thinking to be applied. I can argue it is written by bureaucrats in the department of education who have been out of classroom so long they forget how to write a proper lesson plan.

We can dance back and forth, back and forth.

But I can argue, so what?  So what if he talks about health care? So what if he talks about community organizing? So what?  Are you so insecure  in your influence over your own child that you are threatened?  Do you not want your children to learn about what the issues are, what life is about?  Do you disagree with a simple pep talk?  Because, in all honesty, I would use it.  Regardless of what I saw, regardless of who was giving the speech, a republican or democrat,  I would us it as a learning opportunity.

It is your child’s country as much as it is ours.  Your child should understand how things work, how decisions are made.  They should know what you think and why you think that way. They should know what others think, and why they think that way.  Furthermore, they should be given OPPORTUNITIES (which is exactly what this is) to develop their own thoughts, to develop their own ideals, and know why and where they are rooted.

Obama is the President of the United States, both for conservatives and for liberals.   His policies and decisions affect you and your children.  He has earned the right to talk to his citizens. The office deserves respect. I would feel this way if it was Bush, Reagan, Obama, or Clinton asking to speak to my children.  I might not agree with their policies, but I would not prevent my children from watching said president.

It is no secret to those around me that I am a liberal.  I was also a teacher for 7 years.  As a science teacher, I would often bring up “controversial” topics in class.  These topics would include local referendums dealing with water or open space, funding the space program, tax breaks for fuel efficient vehicles, environmental policies, and medical research.  We would hold seminars on these issues.  I never once asked for a parent’s permission to discuss these topics.  Did that ever bother me?  Not in the least.  As a matter of fact, I saw it as my personal responsibility as a teacher to discuss these topics.  It was my responsibility to teach them how science effects every day life.  It was my responsibility to teach them how science affects policies and how that affects them.  It was my responsibility as their teacher to develop their critical thinking skills, to make them thinking and working members of society.

NEVER did my students know my political leanings or my own thoughts (except maybe if they knew what car I drove). In seminar, I would ask them their thoughts, have them back it up with facts and science.  I forced them to think.  I would often argue the role of a conservative or a skeptic.  It was not my responsibility to change their minds.  It was my responsibility to force them to research, know their scientific facts, and to challenge them to defend what they believed.  It was my responsibility to help them determine what their beliefs were and know that they came by them through facts.

I know that not all teachers are like that.  In fact, most teachers wouldn’t touch controversial topics with a 10 foot pole for fear of backlash.  I trained quite a few on how to  approach these topics in the classroom who were initially quite reluctant.  I also know that others (although after teaching in 3 states, I have come across VERY FEW) come right out and said what their beliefs are, in perhaps an inappropriate way.  This is bound to happen when dealing with the public.

You are your children’s teacher as much as the school system.  It is your responsibility to do the same as I had done in the classroom.  To expose them to other points of view and ask them to develop their own. To ask them what they have learned, what their teachers have been teaching them, and promote dialogue. Taking your child out of school just shows ignorance on more than one level.  First of all, it shows your child that Obama’s request for students to work hard, to stay in school, to learn and apply ourselves is unimportant.  Furthermore, if other topics are discussed (which I doubt will not)  taking them out of school censors them from the very things that will affect their lives in the future.  If it is just because you don’t like his policies (which is not the intended focus of the speech anyway), then you need to question your own commitment to your child’s education and using the world as a learning experience.

I welcome all comments and discussions.  Please try to keep things civil in the discussion.

Share and Enjoy:

14 Responses to “On Education and Country”

  1. cynematic 3 September 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    What a fabulous teacher you must’ve been! And still are to your own kids.

    I’m holding fast to the idea that most people are sensible and we’re just too busy to make as much noise as those who object to anything our president does.
    cynematic´s last blog ..More Legoland, this time with more Bob! My ComLuv Profile


  2. mom101 3 September 2009 at 9:52 pm #

    Just beautifully said. Every student to be so lucky to have a teacher (let alone parents) who promote listening, dialogue, education, courtesy and respect.
    mom101´s last blog ..I see London, I see abject humiliation… My ComLuv Profile


    Corina Reply:

    Thank you. I must say, as a former teacher, I am actually harder on teachers than most.


  3. CatTappert 3 September 2009 at 10:45 pm #

    Currently, I have three teachers that are not afraid to inject their political views into class discussion or correct the opinions of students on societal issues. I’ve received ‘purely informational’ literature on abortion in my high school, which strikes me as totally inappropriate. The worst is when an extremely liberal teacher plays ‘devil’s advocate’ in an insultingly simplistic and misrepresentative manner.

    It’s frustrating to be dealing with these biases even in the classroom– especially when conservative views would be quickly dealt with by administration. The best classes I’ve had, whether it be government or chemistry, the teacher has been able to stimulate discussion, while maintaining neutrality and accurately represent aspects of either side of an issue. I’m really glad that you were one of those kinds of teachers~

    Objecting to the President speaking to children and pulling kids out of school is obnoxious and disrespectful, and sends a terrible message that a surprising number of people seem to support– regardless of political ideology, we should not be teaching our children that it is acceptable to hate and malign our leaders.

    The booing on the Mall at Obama’s inauguration when a cut away to Bush was aired was appalling to me, just as inappropriate and upsetting as anything the far right blogosphere can come up with. Personally, I think a serious attitude adjustment is in order~


    Corina Reply:

    Thanks Cat! I am sure that we will be having this discussion at dinner sometime in the future!

    It is extremely unfortunate that you have teachers that are abusing their influence to dumb things down. We should expect and demand more from our teachers. In fact, I honestly hope that if you see something like this, you call them on it in the most respectful way possible. In the schools where I have taught, I would disagree with your statement that a conservative viewpoint would be dealt with more swiftly, but my experience may be different than yours.

    Respect. You are completely correct in saying that an attitude adjustment is in order. I reject pundits on either side that are disrespectful. I reject the notion that it is impossible to disagree without civil discussion. In no way does that mean we should let ANY leader off the hook to discuss their policies, to back up their decisions. It is necessary to do question (remember…. scientist), but to do so with facts not wild assumptions. To do so with honor and respect.


  4. [...] Read more:  Down to Earth Mama » On Education and Country [...]

  5. Brenda-SeriouslyMama 4 September 2009 at 7:09 am #

    Bravo Corina. Well said. I don’t know what it is going to take to get people to stop being sheep and start using their ability to think and reason. It’s time for everyone to start taking responsibility for their own lives and stop the blame game.
    Brenda-SeriouslyMama´s last blog ..“Men… Can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em.” My ComLuv Profile


  6. Caroline 4 September 2009 at 7:38 am #

    Rock on. So well said. I honestly feel that there is a large portion of our post 9/11 country that has been fueled by fear for so long that its impossible to function or absorb any message unless there is some sort of threat behind it. This whole “the prez is spreading his socialist agenda to our children” thing seems to smack of fear-mongering – and desperation. If that’s where you have to go to get your conservative agenda across, well, its plain old pathetic. Awesome job.
    Caroline´s last blog .. My ComLuv Profile


  7. sidr 4 September 2009 at 8:17 am #

    Re: On Education and Country. It is Necessary will write itself in diary book


  8. PunditMom/Joanne Bamberger 4 September 2009 at 8:31 am #

    I love this post. You are so right. It’s quite scary to me to hear the race baiting and scare tactics being used to demonize the President’s speech.

    I want my daughter to hear all points of view, even ones I disagree with. I want her to grow up to be able to form her own thoughts and opinions, but I guess there are some, like those who want our kids to skip school on 9/8 who fear that their children might be exposed to differing viewpoints and *gasp* might make up their own minds and come to different conclusions in politics.
    PunditMom/Joanne Bamberger´s last blog ..What’s Wrong with This Country? My ComLuv Profile


  9. jen 4 September 2009 at 11:18 am #

    I can only hope most parents will have such a logical thought process when it comes to dealing with topics such as this. Very well said!
    jen´s last blog ..still searching My ComLuv Profile


  10. SilentBen 4 September 2009 at 12:44 pm #

    Why were the fireside chats family-friendly and yet this broadcast is so objectionable?

    Also, I recall similar partisan ranting and raving back with Clinton, but at that point it mostly came from Congress rather than directly from the public.
    SilentBen´s last blog ..Faded Colors My ComLuv Profile


  11. The Mother 4 September 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    Yes, you are your child’s teacher. I take that commitment seriously.

    But with the State board of education tinkering with the curriculum down here in Texas, I’ve gotta tell you, I’m starting to get peeved about what they want to spoon feed my kids.

    I don’t care if you are a liberal or a conservative, politics and religion are NOT appropriate school conversation material.

    And it’s pretty fascinating to those of us fighting the good fight down here in Tx that the CONSERVATIVES are now up in arms about the idea that someone might be taught something they don’t approve of.

    Oh, like that the fossil record for evolution is inadequate. Or that new Bible study class that’s required. Or the new emphasis on religion in history that’s being foisted on us.

    The Mother´s last blog .. My ComLuv Profile


    Corina Reply:

    The politically bent textbook and the bible as literature course plans that TX is facing are indeed crazy. While I am very pro-public schools, there is NO DOUBT in my mind that I would be taking my kids out of school to home school or send to private school. It is unacceptable.

    I do think that politics has a place in schools, but only AS A WAY OF LOOKING ON HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS. Nothing more. Personal ideologies or political leanings should not be discussed. History is history. The Gingrich text that they are proposing in TX is absolutely insane. History should be looked at objectively. We don’t need to essentially justify McCarthy and his witch hunt. And we certainly don’t need to leave out certain aspects of history because they may be damning for either party. Then the whole Bible aspect of the curriculum, don’t even get me started…..

    I feel for you Mother. I am OUTRAGED and ready to write TX legislators, and I don’t even live there. It simply has no place in our schools.


Leave a Reply