Monday, September 7, 2009

The President's address to school children

The decision to defer showing Longmeadow school children the President's back to school address, pending a review of the speech by "Longmeadow school principals and teachers" who will "decide the educational appropriateness of the message for different schools, subjects, and classrooms" is not a good one. It sets a dangerous precedent. By giving in to overtly partisan complaints, the school department has inadvertently done exactly what it was trying to avoid; it has allowed political partisanship to impact their decision making about the education of our kids.

Despite the release of the text of the speech, which puts to rest any fear that it would be inappropriate, the school department has chosen to try to avoid controversy by appeasing those who have complained. This dangerous precedent will provide cover and encouragement for partisan attacks on educational decisions in the future. Today, they object to the exposure of the President of the United States to their kids. Tomorrow, who knows.

There is a bright side here, however. By making the speech an issue, critics have given it increased importance and created some additional interest in the speech, in it's contents, and more importantly, in it's context. School children, especially middle and high school students will learn more by taking an interest in the context of the speech than they ever would have by simply listening to the feel good message of the president.

As a civics educator, the controversy over the airing of the speech provides a much richer and more substantive opportunity to teach kids about politics and government and citizenship. As for the poor kids whose parents are afraid to expose them to the President, I'm afraid they will have much more serious problems getting a decent education.

Jerold Duquette

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