Thursday, September 3, 2009

President Obama's Speech to School Children

What is all the hoopla about the president speaking to children in schools across America? Isn't it a good thing for the president to encourage children around the country to do their best in school?

Yes, and no. If it were a matter only of the president speaking to children in a televised speech, and if it were only that the president wants to encourage children in their educational efforts, I would have no problem with it. However, when you look at the lesson plan put out by the Department of Education, and you can find that plan here, you discover a few interesting things about it. A good lesson plan has a before, during and after, which this does. Let's see what's included.

Before the Speech

Teachers can build background knowledge about the President of the United States and his speech by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama. Teachers could motivate students by asking the following questions:

  • Who is the President of the United States?
  • What do you think it takes to be president?
  • To whom do you think the president is going to be speaking?
  • Why do you think he wants to speak to you?
  • What do you think he will say to you?

Teachers can ask students to imagine that they are delivering a speech to all of the students in the United States.

  • If you were the president, what would you tell students?
  • What can students do to help in our schools?

Teachers can chart ideas about what students would say.

Why is it important that we listen to the president and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?

Let's take this part of the plan apart. The motivation part - no problem. That's part of background building. Notice the last two questions. No problem with them in a classroom where students are taught to be critical thinkers. (Are there any such classrooms left in America? I hope so!) But, for the sake of argument, suppose that the teacher uses that question and answer time as a springboard to guide students' thinking in a direction she wants it to go?

Most teachers are liberals. Not all. I was a teacher. Many times I've guided my students' thinking, not on political issues, but on comparing one piece of literature to another, for instance. It's an ingrained thing to do. The question that really bothers me is the second one in the middle section of this before part of the lesson plan. This is where it really starts ringing a warning bell for me. Combine the president's progressive socialist agenda with the liberal educators and then throw in this question.

Now ask yourself this. What if little Johnny Jones has conservative parents who are well aware of this lesson plan, have downloaded it, and have dissected with little Johnny? And then, what if Johnny answers the question from that conservative point of view? What if Johnny brings up the idea that the president is trying to get the youth of the nation on his side and brainwash them to believe in political policies which are against the Constitution? How do you think the liberal teacher is going to deal with that situation?

Then move on to the last question. I don't think the answer is that we need to know what our government officials are thinking so that we can let them know whether we agree with them or not. I don't think the answer is that an informed citizenry is necessary to keep the Constitution in place. No, I surely don't think that at all. I think it's far more likely that the answer goes along with the idea of the nanny state government taking care of its population, and the need to listen and follow directions of the government authorities.

Stay tuned for the other two sections of this lesson plan.

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