Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Speech Lesson Plan, Part 3

I had no objection to the president speaking to school children. Truthfully, not even to his doing it during school hours. I did object to some districts making the watching of it mandatory, and accompanying noncompliance with additional punitive work to be done. I did object to some districts telling parents they could not be there for the speech and discussions. I did object to the issuance from the Department of Education of a lesson plan to enhance the experience of listening to the president. I most strongly object to the lesson plan itself. Here is part 3 in my series about that plan.

After the Speech

1. Teachers could ask students to share the ideas they recorded, exchange sticky notes, or place notes on a butcher‐paper poster in the classroom to discuss main ideas from the speech, such as citizenship, personal responsibility, and civic duty.

2. Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:
  • What do you think the president wants us to do?
  • Does the speech make you want to do anything?
  • Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
  • What would you like to tell the president?
I've probably said it all in the last two posts, but here we go again. There is nothing wrong with the first suggestion. As long as the teacher doesn't tell children what to think or how to think about the speech, as long as the ideas and discussions come from the students, this could be a great discussion. If children have not already been discussing these topics, it could be lame. If all their knowledge is drawn from this speech and teacher guidance, it will be one sided.

Let's look at these terms, which overlap considerably in the new political spectrum. Citizenship, civic duty, personal responsibility. Does that mean the same thing to the Obama White House as it does to an Independent or a Constitutionalist, or a Reagan Republican? I doubt it. If you read Charles M. Firestone's article on the Huffington Post website from last October, you will have a good idea of the current liberal meaning of citizenship. It starts by sounding fairly traditional and reasonable. By the end, it turns out we need financial, environmental, and cultural "literacies" in order to be a good citizen.

Even Wikipedia, with an unknown author, doesn't go that far: "'Active citizenship' is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public service, volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens."

A more general definition: "Citizenship is membership in a political community. The term derives from membership of a city (as was the term citizen), but now normally refers to a nation. Citizenship carries with it rights of political participation; many also consider it brings duties to exercise those rights responsibly."

Founding Father quotes:
  • Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state. ~ Thomas Jefferson
  • It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a Free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it. ~ George Washington
  • Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual—or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.~ John Adams
  • I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts. ~ Abraham Lincoln (not a founding father)
Now let's look at the questions of part 2. The second and third ones are bad questions. They can be answered simply yes or no, therefore requiring little or no thought. The first one is a basic knowledge comprehension question. The last one would be okay, if the discussion were not guided toward telling the president that you are going to take his advice and do just what he tells you to do. Chances of that? Pretty slim.

Part 4 tomorrow. The extended activities, probably the most objectionable part.

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