My wife Diane seldom gets upset about politics. But President Barack Obama’s recent demonstration of megalomania in insisting on beginning the school year by simultaneously addressing all public school kids in the United States elicited a concise response: “it’s sick.”
In addition to her Ph.D. in psychology, Diane holds an M.A. in Education, and both primary and secondary teaching credentials in California. She has raised and educated our three kids, each of whom received some combination of home schooling, parochial education, and public schools. What bothers her (and many courageous teachers across the country) is the crude attempt by the Department of Education and the White House to blur all distinctions between education and cult-of-personality propaganda.
On September 8th (the first day of classes for many school kids) the President will address them live about the importance of education. The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning, declares an announcement from Washington. The Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, sent a directive to teachers and administrators declaring: “This is the first time an American president has spoken directly to the nation’s school children about persisting and succeeding in school. We encourage you to use this historic moment to help your students get focused and begin the school year strong. I encourage you, your teachers, and students to join me in watching the President deliver this address on Tuesday, September 8, 2009.”
To prepare for this great event, the Department of Education orders teachers in Grades 7 to 12 to ask their students: Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? How will he inspire us? How will he challenge us? After the great event, the department suggests that teachers of younger students (Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 6) should instruct their students to write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These should be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.
For those who consider this an appropriate use of classroom time at the very beginning of the school year, ask yourself the question: how would you respond had President Bush ordered teachers to get students to write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president?