Obama’s Speech to Kids: Controversy or Common Sense?

obama speechSept. 8, 2009 As a nonpartisan, nonprofit, non-religious based entity, I’m having a hard time seeing the logic of pulling kids out of school to avoid a Presidential speech about kids staying in school in protest to the potential for “liberal propaganda and socialist thinking.”

Wouldn’t a media literacy lesson using a living lab of live chat be a better EducationWeek-forum style where students with ALL points of view can uncork user-generated dialog and hear from other students and socioeconomic brackets around the nation…AND enhance their critical thinking skills early on? Just sayin’…

Seems like some schools missed the opportunity to engage kids in civic conversation, leadership, and moreover, responsibility/accountability for their own role in the education process. Frankly, this was the main focal point of the speech from what I can tell by the full text provided from the White House and the CNN video coverage here.

Instead, the nation is atwitter (both literally and figuratively) about whether or not the speech should be shown in schools? Sheesh. This seems silly to me. Are we worried the President is going to need bleeped or say something live that needs edited out? If not, then it’s just a media analysis and edu-literacy opportunity that should be up to the teachers’ as to whether it fits in with their day, as far as I’m concerned.

sheep-teacherSeems we’re becoming drama junkies in a nation of sheeple eager to worship at the cult of controversy; where even the most benign message gets the ‘reality show’ hypefest treatment of backstory, agendas, and conspiracy theories to fan the flames for ratings.

Not to mention how archaic and heavy-handed ‘banning from schools’ and ‘censoring’ a broadcast that can be a click or two within access of a smartphone or live FB chat streamed freely.

C’mon digizens…what’s all the fuss?

This is 2009, do we really think tamping down is the way to go when transparency is the word of the day?

Roarrrrrrrrrrrr…dinosaurs from the Pleistocene era, this is absurd.

Now, as far as the speech itself…I think Obama’s ‘personal responsibility’ message is one I’d like to see applied FAR beyond education and parenting (hear that Marketers? Corporations? Politicians?) Ethics and accountability in THOSE spheres could use a good dose of his comments on follow through, ya know?

My favorite snippets from Obama’s speech?

For giveupitis pupils and an insta-gratification culture that sells kids on ‘everybody wins’ praise and vault to stardom via hopscotch thinking, I liked:

“You can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you.”

“No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work.”

“Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new.”

“Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.”

I’m also a die-hard existentialist, so his reinforcement of personal responsibility really resonated with me…’own it’ came through loud and clear to me.

I’ve also been following the Twitter comments this morning with my favorite review being this one from a 10-year old girl, Michaela, on “ireport” a user-generated content site. She writes,

ireport“My name is Michaela and I am 10 years old from Columbus, Ohio.

I think Obama’s speech felt like he was talking right to me about my education and future.

I think my education is important because I want to be a teacher when I grow up.  I want to help other kids learn and make them smarter and it all starts with making sure I do good in school.  My favorite part in the speech was when he said that people who don’t succeed at first never give up.

It would be nice for the kids that have dropped out of school to learn from Obama’s speech  and go back to school because without school they are missing out on learning new things.  The speech should be shown to other students because maybe it would help them to stay in school.”

Then there were of course Twitter comments ranging from humorous to snarky, bold to thoughtful…


“Please make sure all your children watch the President’s speech by 3:30pm. The first young Socialist meeting starts at 4pm-SHARP!” (via @siobhansullivan)

“The GOP response to the President’s school speech.” http://post.ly/4NL1 (via @StevenNathan)

This seasoned 20-year  school teacher wrote a powerful op-ed for her local paper about the risk of becoming ‘suffocated in the penetrating trend of standardization and indoctrination’ …by disabling viewing and opting for a ‘taped replay’ as a compromise.

I tend to agree that it seems contrary to the First Amendment/free choice to have this taken out of educator’s hands as a teaching tool.

Ahem, btw, how does screening/discussing the speech differ from all of those ‘voting simulations’ in K-12 election years which are summarily skewed in point of view often reflecting a teacher’s personal bias despite all attempts to refrain from same? Curious.

This blog, The Political Carnival (by @GottaLaff on Twitter) posted the link to the CAP News spoof site which ran the article,

“Survey: Parents Don’t Want Their Kids to Know the President is Black”

Er…twitchy thing for me? Watching the tweets for awhile, it looks like many folks took the parody site as real. (what does THIS say about our cultural underpinnings?)

arpbanner.jpgYowza. Get thee to the Anti-Racist Parent blog, stat for more demographic deconstruction…

Or to Racialicious for the intersection of race and pop culture…

Disclosure: Both are founded by Shaping Youth adviser Carmen VanKerckhove of New Demographic who I’ve written about in a three-parter here, here, and here.

As for all the brouhaha about Obama’s speech…Was it earth-shattering political punditry? Hardly.

Sounds more like ‘Father of the Nation’ stuff…toss in a finger wag and a scolding and we’ve got a ‘timeout’ for disruptive slackers who get sent out of the room for ruining everyone else’s potential learning experience. Seems more like a casting call for a media moment, ‘Cosby Show meets Charisma’ only it’s real life and not a rerun. (gawd how I miss the Cosby show!)

What do you think? Was it yet another media-fueled ‘pseudo-controversy?’ Is there an important precedent here that I’m missing?

I mean, really, people…left, right, or centrist, what’s so outlandish about Obama’s statements to kids on responsibility, below? (I’ve been called all three by readers of this blog, so I guess I’m doing my job of dodging the typecasting bullet, heh)

Help me out here. Obama said:

“…Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility. I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn. I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with the Xbox.…I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

…But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. —President Obama”

Here…See for yourself. Weigh in. Sound off. Have at it. But most of all…teach your children well.

Visual Credits: Sheep/tomato teacher: Ev.erything.com, photos of sculpted food (fabulously fun  site)



  1. It’s a good speech and we can see Mr. President is trying to encourage the kids to staying in school and getting up with more education. What’s wrong of that?

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