03 September 2009
There seems to be a lot of hoopla about our country's President speaking to students next September 8th. And, of course, right wing parents have used this to further convince themselves that Obama's motivation is to spread socialist propaganda and turn children against their parents. At the center of the conspiracy theories are two documents produced by the Department of Education to assist teachers in stimulating student minds. One document is for Pre-K through 6th grade while the other is for 7th to 12th. Each contains similarly worded, but age appropriate, questions and constructive activities in an attempt to make the speech more likely to make an impact on our nation's future generation. Only I have one small concern. Some blogs I've read are linking to a version of the Pre-K to 6th grade document that is hosted on non-authoritative servers. However, the official document is provided by the Department of Education. The reason the other document concerns me is that there are two parts in the content that are different. One is minor and negligible. However, the other deserves attention. In particular, the unofficial document, second bullet in the "Extension of the Speech" section, contains the following sentence:
"Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president."
Whereas the official document has this sentence in the same location:
"Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."
Worst case scenario holds that someone deliberately modified the text to incite right wing parents. Best case scenario is that the unofficial document is an earlier draft, reviewers felt that "help the president" in fact would be controversial despite it addressing students helping the president in his goals for education. In other words, "help the president" in the context of the speech's subject matter, not the president's general policies. Which, therefore, in my view attests to why Barak Obama wants to talk to my daughter, along with the rest of the country's students... No Child Left Behind was/is about schools owning the education experience in our country and being held accountable through standardized tests and school, district, and state report cards of key indicators for "progress" and "success". Obama's emerging education policy will turn NCLB on its head and redirect the ultimate responsibility for education in the individual. In the words of the official document linked above... "short-term and long-term education goals". Which is really where is should be. Isn't education ultimately a life-long process? Is our educational system preparing us for that? Hasn't our country incorrectly emphasized certain subjects (math, science) while diminishing others (art, dance, music, physical education)? Shouldn't education be more about self-discovery and equipping our youth with the skills to adapt and succeed in our ever changing world? Instead we glorify students that are narrowly talented and call them the "smart" ones. I believe the content Obama will deliver on September 8th will focus on helping students shape their own education and be joint partners in it with parents and teachers.