Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's Speech To America's Schoolchildren

Obama's speech will be beamed into most classrooms/schools on September 8th.

The Department of Education along with the Teaching Ambassadors Fellows provided lesson plans and activities for all grade levels. Questions have been raised regarding the constitutionality of such an action (and yeah, I know presidents have done it before).

According to the former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Education, Christina Erland Culver, the classroom activities/curriculum provided by Obama's education department as an accompaniment to his speech may violate federal statute.
Christina Erland Culver, former deputy assistant secretary for education, said presidents have traditionally addressed classrooms on the first day of school, but the problem with the event was the accompanying materials from the Department of Education.

“That’s where they kind of got into a slippery spot. Federal statute denies any authority to the Department of Education to provide any kind of curriculum or anything that can be passed down to the state, and that’s part of the statute forming the Department of Education. So they kinda got themselves into this mess because they didn’t really understand some of the key legal roles or the dos and don’ts at the federal Department of Ed,” she said.

US Code (TITLE 20 > CHAPTER 48 > SUBCHAPTER I > § 3401)

§ 3401. Congressional findings says this:
The Congress finds that—
(1) education is fundamental to the development of individual citizens and the progress of the Nation;

(2) there is a continuing need to ensure equal access for all Americans to educational opportunities of a high quality, and such educational opportunities should not be denied because of race, creed, color, national origin, or sex;

(3) parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, and States, localities, and private institutions have the primary responsibility for supporting that parental role;

(4) in our Federal system, the primary public responsibility for education is reserved respectively to the States and the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States;

(5) the American people benefit from a diversity of educational settings, including public and private schools, libraries, museums and other institutions, the workplace, the community, and the home;

(6) the importance of education is increasing as new technologies and alternative approaches to traditional education are considered, as society becomes more complex, and as equal opportunities in education and employment are promoted;

(7) there is a need for improvement in the management and coordination of Federal education programs to support more effectively State, local, and private institutions, students, and parents in carrying out their educational responsibilities;

(8) the dispersion of education programs across a large number of Federal agencies has led to fragmented, duplicative, and often inconsistent Federal policies relating to education;

(9) Presidential and public consideration of issues relating to Federal education programs is hindered by the present organizational position of education programs in the executive branch of the Government; and

(10) there is no single, full-time, Federal education official directly accountable to the President, the Congress, and the people.


§ 3403. Relationship with States
(a) Rights of local governments and educational institutions
It is the intention of the Congress in the establishment of the Department to protect the rights of State and local governments and public and private educational institutions in the areas of educational policies and administration of programs and to strengthen and improve the control of such governments and institutions over their own educational programs and policies. The establishment of the Department of Education shall not increase the authority of the Federal Government over education or diminish the responsibility for education which is reserved to the States and the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States.

(b) Curriculum, administration, and personnel; library resources
No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law.

(c) Funding under pre-existing programs
The Secretary shall not, during the period within eight months after May 4, 1980, take any action to withhold, suspend, or terminate funds under any program transferred by this chapter by reason of the failure of any State to comply with any applicable law requiring the administration of such a program through a single organizational unit.

Bottomline - Obama's speech is supposed to inspire kids to set goals, go to school, stay in school and become something. Blah blah blah...

He also says:
"We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country...

So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us downdon’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it..

Wow - Guilt trip from the president!

I wonder how this will make the really little kids (K-3) feel.
Worried? Anxious? Pressured?
Will all kids feel they have let their country down when they get a "D" or an "F" on their next homework assignment? Will they be making or striving for accomplishments in the name of the State instead of for themselves? Who knows.

Also, despite the fact that his mother supplemented his schooling with her version of "homeschooling", it sounds like his speech is suggesting that dropping out of school and getting an alternate education would be "letting our country down". It sounds like only government schooling will make a child successful. You know, there have been many successful dropouts. Government schooling is not for everyone.

He also uses the word "I" 36 times (plus 7 more is you count "I'm") which is interesting.

His message is not much different then any principal's first day assembly address, but I suppose the White House wants to make sure Obama gets seen and heard by America's kids.

So how many more times will he be speaking to the kids?
Is this just the warm up act?

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one - and hope that his speech does inspire kids ... (and let's see if test scores improve as a result), but I hope this president doesn't make targeted addresses like this a recurring and usual habit.