Friday, September 4, 2009

They Have Principals But Not Principles

I've taken a couple of days to think about this post because I didn't want to say anything that I might someday want to take back. After a good 48 hours, however, I pretty much feel the same way.

I am ashamed of my hometown.

I love the place where I grew up. I always have, and I probably always will. I can't imagine a better place to have been raised. But I am afraid it is becoming a different place. There have been signs of this change for the last several years. But an event took place this week that has me feeling completely despondent.

Next week President Obama will address American students in a speech on "the importance of taking responsibility for their success in school." This has, of course, been interpreted by the growing mass of people who have gone completely insane as an attempt to indoctrinate their children.

Across the nation, parents have been calling their school districts to voice their displeasure that the President of the United States of America is being allowed to speak to their children and encourage the values of personal responsibility and education. At the risk of understatement, I find this discouraging.

We have now reached a place in our country where parents are less concerned about the ability of their children to think critically than they are about ensuring those children are exposed only to a self-reinforcing set of ideas that they find comfortable. Perhaps they believe children who learn to assimilate and evaluate different points of view will choose to believe ideas they themselves fear. Or perhaps they simply fear their children having a skill they clearly lack.

But I've already given them too much credit because the above assumes the president was going to speak on a controversial topic. I can't imagine a large set of parents who are uncomfortable with the idea of their children being encouraged to work had and take responsibility for their education. It seems, however, that if that is the message presented by Barack Obama, then it must be a socialist message. Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer explains:

"The Democrats have clearly lost the battle to maintain control of the message this summer,'' the state GOP chairman maintains, "so now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves."
If the right would like to completely cede the values of hard work and personable responsibility to liberals, I say we take it.

It isn't just about the speech either. Supposedly what is getting people all agitated is the lesson plan that was sent to schools to go along with the speech. It includes such suspicious questions as:

What is the President trying to tell me?
What is the President asking me to do?
What new ideas and actions is the President challenging me to think about?
If those sound like questions designed to inspire critical thinking then you maybe don't understand what liberal indoctrination looks like. Actually, one of the questions that seems to be raising some ire is this:

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?
How you interpret this question, I think, says a lot about your worldview. If you read the word "listen" as "obey" (as in "listen to your parents") then you could argue that this is dangerous speech. If you interpret the word "listen" as "hear and consider" then you realize that a lesson to be drawn is that those opposed to a particular leader have perhaps an even greater stake in "listening." But I think some people are predisposed to believing the first interpretation of the word. That is how they use the word, and so it is how they hear the word.

A quick aside, Fox News helped me understand that it isn't just parents who are concerned about these lesson plans. "Education experts" are also concerned. Reading the story you find out that the concerned education experts are exclusively from the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute. Color me surprised.

But, this post is supposed to be about my shame. My shame is not directed at the parents who complained. Those parents are disappointing to me, but as I've mentioned they are present nationwide. My shame stems from the response of the school system.

The school system that taught me and helped instill in me the value of critical thinking, education and awareness has decided to abandon all of those principles for the purpose of avoiding the ire of a group of lunatics. The school superintendent sent out an email to all of his staff indicating that he "refused to get caught up in all the political wrangling associated with this video presentation."

The school district will not show the broadcast live. Instead:
It will be reviewed within 48 hours and a decision will be made to allow or not allow the speech to be presented to students. Administration will also determine if it is appropriate for all grade levels or should only be viewed by older students. Once again our decision will in no way be based upon political motivations but based upon what is best for XXXXXXX students.

So that's it. My school is now an institution that:

  • Values public relations over principles.
  • Places no value on critical thinking.
  • Holds no interest in helping students become alert members of society.
  • Believes that school administrators need to evaluate a speech intended for school children by the President of the United States to see if it is suitable for children.
  • Believes that not hearing what the elected leader of our country has to say could be of benefit to students.
  • Is prepared to sacrifice a learning opportunity for students for a thoughtless political gambit by a few parents.
  • Has no spine.
This is beyond depressing for me. I don't understand how we've gotten to this point as a society. I don't know how professional educators can let the forces of know-nothingism win battles that they should never even be able to start. I don't have the ability to envision where this ends, or how it possibly ends well. And I definitely don't know what happened to my school.


bigsmithdude said...

this is quite discouraging to say the least, but what happens next will be the true test of discouragement: will the obama video be deemed inappropriate for kids and therefore unsuitable for viewing?

what will probably happen is that the video, naturally, will be nothing more than good advice for which all students should adhere: work hard, stay in school, and be responsible for your actions. the horror!

in turn, the side arguing against the video will continue looking like nut jobs, yet somehow it will reinforce their ideals and virtues.

what i find ironic is that most of these people are the ones arguing for more freedom of speech and less censorship. of course, they also hold fast to the belief that our muslim leader was born on mars.

what a sad state of affairs...

Royal said...

The reality is that politicians will play politics anytime they can...

Just a reminder controversy surrounded Bush in 1991 when he spoke and I am sure it will continue with future presidents.

As a parent, I think anytime children are being taught or spoken too in a captive setting (specifically those 5th grade and below that are too young to process/understand), I want to know what is being said. Granted, I will not be with my kids at all times and cannot filter or explain everything, but this is the most powerful man in the free world speaking and what he says will carry weight. I am happy that he did release the speech early to put parents minds at ease, but also to allow for teachers to plan lessons to re-enforce what was said.

FYI- I would want to know what any president was saying to my children, no matter their ideology.


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