The Federal Classroom 101: To Sir Obama With Love…

Parents are being encouraged by many conservative media and blog outlets to keep children home and not participate in President Obama’s public school classroom address, Tuesday, September 8, 2009.  Parents are also being told by liberal media and blog outlets that this is a traditional concept of a Presidential address to children, and the message is ‘apolitical’. As a social studies teacher who has actively participated in direct addresses from Presidents before, I can attest to this fact- this pending speech is different.  The Department of Education’s distribution of detailed lesson plans is unique.  The Obama Administration sponsoring a contest for children is unusual based on the lesson plan provided. It concerns me more as an infringement of state’s rights and local school district say about curricula.

School districts across the country are debating how to use the material, the address, and ways to inform the public regarding the information.  No one can tell parents what to do or how state school districts can use the materials.  I am awaiting my school district’s decision and I am attending the classroom to hear the process and see the interaction.  I am also going to ask for all materials distributed. I am not keeping my son out of school.

The language of the lesson has already been altered and the speech has been changed ( There will be no request of students to write or discuss how each child can help President Obama.  BUT,there is still the anticipatory sets and thought provoking, Socratic questioning of “What is President Obama asking of me?” 

Fox News and the Washington Times have each raised questions as to the legality of federally distributed lesson plans to state and local schools; is this truly appropriate?  Having read all of the material provided by the White House on this, I see that the lesson encourages and offers options.  It does not mandate what to do. 

But there is the reality and actual legal stance of authority.  Any teacher or coach must be conscious of being an expert authority.  If any of us TELLS a student to do something, including implied direction, it is an act with an objective.  We are perceived as authoritative figures: student must defer to us or face reprimand.  There in no greater authority in the country of respecting American children than the President of the United States.  What he says or encourages is guidance and will be perceived as a directive.

I submit, this is a very slippery slope.  Curricula that does NOT go through a school board review, with community viewing is odd.  What if Superintendent of Public Instruction for Arizona, Tom Horne, set forth a mandated lesson on capitalism and its benefits (something already in most economic curricula). Or what if Sarah Palin, when Governor,  had offered a mandated curriculum to Alaskan children about how drilling off shore oil could be a good thing?

I am also deeply concerned that the aspect of a contest for children, a video presentation of personal success, will have a great deal of political undertone. One cannot enter a contest of this ilk without feeling a need to pander to the partisan views of this President. If anything, I encourage all conservative families to submit a video of how capitalism is a core value, how we serve the United States Constitution not a person in this country, and how small business is a foundational building block of capitalism. Do not duck and hide, but participate fully and within the parameters.  Just as many “turned themselves in” to the fishy website, I feel we can help clarify how families feel by helping our kids by defining our individual family values. 

Finally, there is the reality of the teaching itself.  It is not appropriate for any teacher to bring in a slanted political view. This was hammered in our heads during my college education classes for social studies training. Yet I do not hear it all today.  Whether a conservative grumbling about Ted Kennedy, or a President of the United States’ subtle encouragement to join state and federally run volunteer forces: It is ALL slanted and bordering on propaganda

So I will go watch and learn. I will also be asking friends to to attend and listen for ANY infringement of local authority, or inappropriate use of the public education system.  If I get any sense that the public classroom and tax dollar is being used for a political hijack of my son’s values and beliefs, there will be a BIG inconvenient truth called a law suit! I have a few thousand friends who will help me file it too.


  1. As you know, my remarks are being broadcast live over radio and television to high school students throughout the country. While I was in Tokyo at the economic summit, I found myself thinking about all of you, and I decided that when I got back it’d be good to report to you — share some thoughts that I’ve been having about the future.

    In general, conditions in our country are about as bright as this very bright afternoon. I was worrying when I put that line in there that it might start to rain, and I’d have to say something else. [Laughter] We’ve been working to take an economy that was in bad shape and get it moving and growing again; take our national defense and make it first-rate again after a long period of decline; and to restore reason, respect, and reality to our foreign policy. And I think it’s fair to say that we’ve made a good deal of progress.

    Only 5 years ago our economy suffered from high inflation, high interest rates, mushrooming government spending, and steadily increasing unemployment. A lot of people couldn’t find jobs, and people on fixed incomes were finding it harder to buy the basics, such as food and shelter. Well, we got inflation down, interest rates down, and our economy created over 1\1/2\ million new jobs just last year alone. The poor are now increasingly able to dig themselves out of poverty, and that’s been good economic news.

    The good news in defense is that our Armed Forces, which were suffering from neglect and low funding, have now made a comeback. Morale is up in the services, and the quality of our men and women in uniform has never been better — and I mean never. As a matter of fact, we have the highest percentage of high school graduates in uniform today than we’ve ever had in the history of our nation, even back when we had the compulsory draft. In addition, our nation has encouraged a more realistic sense of defense needs.

    In foreign affairs we’ve kept our friends close and the lines of communication with our adversaries open. We’ve tried to give the world the sense that the United States has a coherent and logical foreign policy that reflects our respect for freedom and our opposition to tyranny.

    The point is that all we’ve done has had, and will continue to have, a direct impact on your lives. And the fact is, it’s your future, not ours. And all that we’ve done, we’ve done with an eye toward how it would impact you. We want to make your future better, because tomorrow belongs to you. And since you’re the leaders of tomorrow, I wanted to talk to all of you as a friend about the things you’ll have to do to ensure a prosperous nation and a peaceful world. And I’m sure that peace and prosperity must be at the top of your agenda for the future.

    You have some special responsibilities ahead of you — very important responsibilities. America is back, yes, but we still face major challenges in the world. And it’s your generation that will have to accept the primary responsibility for tackling these challenges. It’s important that you’re fit for the future and that you be all that you can be. So, go for it! In the area of education you have a responsibility to try to learn and care about scientific and intellectual inquiry. The world is an increasingly competitive place. And if we’re to compete, we’ll have to do it with brainpower — your brainpower. So, keep learning and hit those books.

    We have to remain economically competitive, and that means being aware of two things: first, what makes economies tick, and second, what works in other societies. We’ve been trying very hard in Washington to make America even more economically fit by really overhauling our entire tax structure. When we came into office, the top personal tax rate that the Federal Government could put on your income was 70 percent. Now, you can understand, I think, that if you were getting up in those brackets — there were 14 different tax brackets, depending on the amount of money in each bracket you earned. And when you could look and say, “If I earn another dollar, I only get to keep 30 cents out of it,” you can imagine the lack of incentive there. Well, we lowered it to 50 percent, and the economy really took off. Now we’re trying to lower it yet again so that families can keep more of their money and so the national economy will be lean and trim and fit for the future.

    And it’s your generation that will defend freedom from its adversaries. The biggest contribution you can make to that quest is to become a good citizen. Good citizenship is vitally important if democracies are to continue. Good citizenship means trying to understand the issues and great questions of your day. It also means voting. To vote is to take part in this grand experiment called democracy in America. It’s your right and your responsibility to take part. Good citizenship also might mean considering going into teaching as a profession. There’s a teacher shortage, as you may know. You could help ease the situation and give to others the advantages you’ve been given if you become a teacher yourself. And it’s also important that you stay in school. That diploma counts. And I just want to personally congratulate those who have overcome some disadvantage and who stuck it out and will graduate this year.

    And part of being a good citizen, part of being fit for the future so that you can meet America’s agenda for the future, is seeing to it that you live your life with a clear mind and a steady intellect. And that means saying no to drugs. Nancy has traveled across the country talking to young people like you. And many of them have talked to her about the allure of drugs, about the drug culture, and the kind of peer pressure that you come under to experiment and try out drugs. But when you come right down to it, drugs are just a dead-end street. They have nothing to offer you. I think you also ought to remember we only get one set of machinery. If you wear this set out, you can’t take it and trade it in someplace for a used one or a new one. So, what you do now and early in your life decides how able you’re going to be to enjoy yourself when you get to be my age.

    And I want to tell you, I’m enjoying myself. I’ve talked to young people from China to Europe to the islands in the Caribbean. And let me tell you, they’re incredibly bright and talented, and they’re going to create quite a future for themselves. And you can’t keep up or catch up if you allow your mind to be clouded by drugs.

    Well, that’s more or less what I wanted to say to you today. I’ll be talking to many young people over the next few months, and I’ll be expanding on certain points and amplifying certain themes. But for today, before your questions, I just want to let you know that I have been thinking about you very much. You are a special generation, and you’re facing special challenges. And the biggest is to be ready for a future that will prove to be demanding and exciting. Soon, we’ll enter the 21st century, a time that’ll have more than its share of great wonders. The next 10 or 15 years may well be the most exciting and challenging in the history of man. There’s the continuing revolution in technology, the possibility of curing diseases that have stalked us from the caveman era. There’s the marvelous conquest of space, a rich frontier whose riches we’ve barely glimpsed. And there’s the struggle between the democracies and those countries which are not democratic.

    All of these possibilities bring with them questions. And it’s your generation that will have to answer them. That makes you all very important, indeed. You have much before you. And all I can say is that you’ve begun brilliantly. Continue to pursue excellence. Be proud of your country and its heritage, and be proud of yourselves, as we are proud of all of you.

Speak Your Mind


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