The Donkey in the Room

September 5, 2009 at 1:18 am 12 comments

While I may not have a dog in this fight (my toddler is in “pre-preschool”), after reading all the hullabaloo, I can’t help but have an opinion. Not on whether the President should or should not speak to school children in the classroom about education, but about why people should find it so surprising that it has caused such controversy. When has education and the government’s role ever not been a hot topic?

It wasn’t so long ago (1991) that George H. W. Bush was receiving the same exact criticism for wanting to talk to students about studying hard, avoiding drugs and turning in troublemakers. Then House Majority Leader, Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said, “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students.” Sound familiar?

The government’s only role in the educational system should be to make sure that every child has access to the best education possible. Just as we accept that there is separation of church and state, it is also accepted that there should be separation of classroom and state. So when parents were able to see some of the lesson plans that the Department of Education had prepared for school children that included asking the children “what they can do to help the president,” and “how might he inspire them?” as well as a brief history about President Obama, there became cause for concern that a line was being crossed.

These questions may seem rather innocuous, designed merely to get the students involved and excited about being addressed by the president and what he has to say to them, but, for parents who don’t support the president (read agenda) and openly discuss these issues at home with their children, might their kids be confused by the conflicting messages? The school seems to support the president and be saying that I should too, but my parents don’t. Please don’t confuse respect for the office with supporting the president. All Americans should respect the office, but support is a matter of free will, and should never be compelled.

The donkey in the room here is President Obama’s rapidly dropping poll numbers (approval ratings now below 50%) and what they represent. As distrust for President G. W. Bush and the war on terror grew, his poll numbers dropped. As distrust for President H. W. Bush grew after his reversal on his pledge for no new taxes, his poll numbers dropped. Reagan: Iran-Contra. Carter: Iran hostage crisis. Nixon: Watergate. Could a growing distrust of this president, in the midst of an extremely polarized political climate over health care reform, explain some parents’ skepticism?

After receiving numerous complaints, the White House has changed or removed all discussion about President Obama or a child’s implied support thereof from the lesson plans, and focused the discussion completely on the student and how he/she can make the most of their education. I for one, applaud them for listening and reacting so quickly. And, if she were of school age, I would have no problem sending Reagan to school that day to hear the President’s speech and take part in the discussion since it’s revision. But, is it now too late to regain other parents’ possibly diminished trust in the plan?

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Entry filed under: Politics. Tags: , , , , , , .

Suffering from Second-hand Rejection Shooting the Messenger: Was Obama’s Speech Dead Upon Arrival?

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amber's Crazy Bloggin' Canuck  |  September 5, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Great post, my dear!!! Am emailing you back.

  • 2. lifenut  |  September 5, 2009 at 10:53 am

    I agree with your thoughts on this.

    My kids’ school is not participating, but they sent out an email with links to the video and encouraged families to watch it together. I think we will.

    Like I said on Amber’s FB post, I have no issue with the president speaking to kids about doing well in school and having goals. It was the AFTER speech stuff that made me think he was overreaching. Especially the 7 -12th grade stuff, which is where I am with my oldest kiddo.

    • 3. Mama Bird  |  September 5, 2009 at 1:53 pm

      Which school is that? The only schools I’ve heard of not participating are in Texas. There are more?

  • 4. Lori in Denver  |  September 5, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    What a well-researched post.

    I bet you’re right that declining popularity(and the reality that Hope won’t cure all ills) has something to do with the uproar.

    But also that people like shortcuts. We like to take shades of gray and recast them in black and white. It’s easier to say “President good; cheer his every word” or “President bad; ridicule every move he makes” than to look at each issue independently.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. In politics, if you’re focused on person or party rather than non principle, you will eventually be at risk for hypocrisy.

  • 5. The Casual Perfectionist  |  September 5, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    As an Independent, it’s frustrating when both sides bicker and then a few years later toss their complaints to the other side of the fence and then start bickering again. It’s frustrating, but also a reminder (to me anyway) that a 3rd option would be nice.

    The whole, “Well, the liberals did it then!” or “The conservatives would have the same issue if the tables were turned!” arguments make me tired, regardless of which side is “right.” There will always be those people who find something to criticize.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 😉

    Personally, I understand that from here on out, my child will be exposed to views that differ from our own. People she loves and trusts will have views that are different than the other people she loves and trusts. This will be confusing, but it will be a great opportunity to discuss all sides of an issue and realize that even with differing views, it’s possible to get along.

    • 6. Mama Bird  |  September 5, 2009 at 1:38 pm

      I have no problem either with my child being exposed to differing points of view, and feel uniquely qualified to explain both sides, since I grew up in a Democrat household and considered myself a liberal for over half my life. But, when a viewpoint comes from a position of authority and is the exclusive view being presented paid for by tax dollars, that is where I think it’s our duty to cry foul. No matter who is throwing the flag.

      • 7. The Casual Perfectionist  |  September 5, 2009 at 1:55 pm

        I agree…however, I consider teachers to be in positions of authority. Our tax dollars are paying the teachers’ salaries, and I know they won’t always teach my child using views I approve of…

        It will just mean the conversations at home will be that much more interesting. 🙂

        Anyway, I’m not arguing with you, so I hope others don’t get that impression.

  • 8. Shawn Bellamak  |  September 5, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I am not a fan of Barack Obama, however, I think the elected leader of our Nation should be able to address school children with positive advice. He is the President of the United States. My problem with all the debate is that history has proven that every administration is corrupt in many ways. There is more than enough evidence out there to show that it doesn’t really matter who is president, bad, corrupt stuff will happen. Having said that, we all need to focus on what we can control, which in my opinion, is the raising of incredible kids because we are outstanding parents. After Barack is gone, and the next guy comes in, and the debate continues, and blah blah blah, I just want to know that the children who I have raised with 100% of the best I had, are sitting by my bedside while I die. All the rest is just a waste of time to me.

  • 9. Pagebyrner  |  September 7, 2009 at 12:06 am

    First, thank you for the conversational tone of your post; most people launch into flaming tirades when dealing with hot topics.

    You are spot-on about approval ratings being the thrust here. We’ve already reached the plot-point in this movie where Toto runs behind the curtain. Several “movements” need Obama to be seen as a successful president at any cost. And if he isn’t, they need enough focus groups, Gallup polls and other statistical data to show it wasn’t his fault, the American people wouldn’t cooperate. As Rhett Nielson reminded us, the president works for us, not vice-versa.

    Sorry, I answered a different question than the one you asked of me. Hey! Maybe I should get into politics.

  • […] of MaMa Bird’s Blog said: The government’s only role in the educational system should be to make sure that every […]

  • 11. bluecottonmemory  |  September 8, 2009 at 8:05 am

    High Five! I’m with you! Way to be brave, too. You can view my reasons at the following post:

  • […] him. I scratched my head for a bit and then… it suddenly made sense. This reaction just confirms what I supposed in my previous post, that the level of distrust for this president has become an overriding factor in the people’s […]


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