September 4th, 2009
03:16 PM ET

Educators take heat over Obama school speech

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/04/obama.schools/art.obama.gi.jpg caption="The White House says President Obama's address next week to schoolchildren isn't a policy speech."]
Alan Silverleib

Call it a lesson in contemporary political discourse.

Educators across America found themselves at the center of a political storm this week as conservatives exploded in anger over President Obama's plans to give a speech to the country's schoolchildren.

A stunned White House insisted the address, planned for Tuesday, and accompanying suggested lesson plans are meant simply to encourage students to study hard and stay in school.

But some parents said they aren't buying it. They said they're convinced the president is going to use the opportunity to press a partisan political agenda on impressionable young minds.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Barack Obama • Education
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Givonna

    Do these angry parents read all their children's lesson plans in advance?
    Do they get a script of the teachers words she will say each day?
    Now that would be radical! Please people, have some respect for the Presidency!

    September 4, 2009 at 9:32 pm |
  2. Jan

    I'm a bit confused. I had heard that it was the original lesson plan that got people up in arms. The basis of the original plan was to have school children write the president about how they could help him in getting his message of health care reform and other things across to their parents and the rest of the people.

    As soon as the uproar began, the WH quickly revised the lesson plan to put emphasis on the importance of a good education.

    Why isn't anyone talking about why the WH switched lesson plans? Maybe they saw the error of their ways? Or maybe they just got caught trying to sneak something through?

    September 4, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  3. Andy

    We are Americans first and foremost. We all must learn to respect our President – voted into office by the majority of Americans. The betterment of our country does not depend on Democrat or Republican. I give huge credit to the young people of America who are better educated and take interest on the real issues. How can anyone not want their kids to watch Our President speak directly to them? I find it appalling that the same school districts that played President Bush in front of our kids put their political beliefs as most important and not show Our President speak to them.

    September 4, 2009 at 8:20 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    Silly season? Does it really ever end? I guess when we were children and watched the inauguration of JFK, the space ship launches for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the Bi-Centennial programming, the landing on the Moon, etc. etc. that we were being indoctrinated too? With all the temptations to drop out of school these days I'm thankful that someone will stand up and tell our young people to stay in school and work hard.

    September 4, 2009 at 8:15 pm |
  5. Dave C - NJ

    Ahh so you want to read it first.

    Just like you have pre-read all of your kid's lesson plans.

    You all reviewed everything that they are being told in advance have you? Wow.

    September 4, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  6. Caral

    A speech by the president encouraging students to return to school ready to learn would be fine. It is the idea of the lesson plans the White House is drafting that bothers the folks I know. If it were a policy speech, that would be cause for concern, but it isn't – it's a "Welcome back to school" speech. But, the White House should not be sending along teaching materials. Thanks, but no thanks on that.

    September 4, 2009 at 7:52 pm |

    If this was a white president,there would be no concerns.It's not his content,it's his color and I have been an educator more than half of my life and from what I can see,this generation needs all the help it can get,especially when a white parent can go to the principal's office and refuse to accept a black teacher for her child and I am certainly over qualified to do my job. It never ends when you are always judged by the color of your skin.

    September 4, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  8. Trish

    I am floored at how ridiculous this topic has become. President Obama is certainly not out to do 'harm' to children and is sending a positive message to all students about their education and future, regardless of your political views. My guess is some of the same kids who will not see a posiitve message from a potential role model, probably have already seen more violent, negative messages portrayed in video games, tv programming and maybe even negativity within their own home. I wish those same parents would be outraged about that instead. However, they are probably allowed to view those things, but not a message from the President of the United States. How 'Un-American , 'Un- Patriotic and shameful.'

    T. Bishop
    E.C. Wisconsin

    September 4, 2009 at 7:15 pm |
  9. BeckiPR

    First I think that a speech from the President to schoolkids highlights the importance of education. Furthermore, as a teacher, it gives a unique opportunity for a lesson in government. Also, I feel it is not only wondeful that he addresses the students but also that he has a unique story to share with the kids and how education can change everything. Finally, as a government employee, he is my boss since his initiatives creates mandates statewide. A speech from the boss, especially a motivational one, is always best for improving performance.

    September 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  10. Steve

    I think that the line of questioning that you gave to the republican chairman about this particular situation is right on point. We need more reporters to challenge these people who try to discredit and belittle the president with statements that have no factual evidence. I am tired of watching my country continue to fuss about untrue statements when we have people without health care and jobs. This is the United States key word being UNITED so lets act like it.

    September 4, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  11. Susan Allred

    No matter what one thinks of the performance of President Obama, the story of his life and the role of education is inspirational for students in classrooms today if we still as a nation believe in the American dream. I would like to believe that the American dream is still alive and attainable for those who focus not on themselves but on what they can contribute to the nation. If not, what do we as a nation agree on? That this welcome back to school is controversial should be of great concern to us.

    September 4, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  12. Kim

    Link us the lesson plans and a copy of the speech. Let parents decide if they want their children to see/hear the speech, and be prepared to discuss it with the children with an in-depth lesson plan.

    September 4, 2009 at 5:41 pm |
  13. Odessa Hooker

    Mr. President,
    Some people are embarrassed that the president has to shed light on their parental omissions. Your ACTIONS speak much louder than their words. The truth that the president has to show us that care for our children requires more than 'money' and 'things' puts some parents on the spot. Keep up your good work. Continue to speak the truth – even to voting adults! Thank you. Don't worry that some will demand that children not listen, the truth 'will out.'

    Odessa Hooker

    September 4, 2009 at 5:11 pm |
  14. Patty

    I can't believe I saw an "Opt Out" slip sent home from my kids' school today for a speech to our youth next Tueday by the PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!! What the heck is going on in this country!? Unbelieveable, ...unexcusable, shameful, disgraceful, and tasteless! (Regardless of your party favor!)

    September 4, 2009 at 4:56 pm |
  15. Kim

    It's wonderful to have a president involved in education! Not only is he our president but a great dad with two great young girls. Personally,think it's cool and way to go Obama ! Not to mention the vegetable garden Mrs. Obama planted with the school kids and that was fun ! Since when have we had a president that will allow an 11 year old to interview him ? Obama is not some lock nest, stick in the mud ,o'l dull president not involved ! That's a refreshing change !

    September 4, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  16. nancy

    This is beyond ridiculous! Encouraging students to focus on ways they can achieve their educational goals is NOT a political issue! In McAllen, TX we had a parent request equal time for an opposing view!!! Guess he wants someone to talk to our kids about the virtues of dropping out of school??????? This is a perfect example of how far some people will go to oppose ANYTHING that this president does. I recall a similar live TV address from BUSH in '91. Where were these people then?????? Someone please stop the craziness.

    September 4, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  17. Francoise Dubois

    So telling kids to stay in school and work hard is indoctrination if President Obama says it?! What kind of message does this send to the kids: don't work hard and don't stay in school if someone you don't like tells you so? Or worse: don't respect the Office of the President if you didn't vote for him? They should be ashamed of themselves and I hope it backfires on them.
    Francoise, CA

    September 4, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  18. gina

    I find it very sad that people are so radical in their thinking that they really believe that the President is going to to try to use a speech about education to sway their children to his so-called "socialist" ways. Are people really this crazy? Sad to say – I think they are.

    In the military you salute the rank not the person. What happened to having respect for the President just because he is the President? I couldn't stand our former President but I would not have stopped my children from watching a speech of his, in fact if I was so strong in my beliefs then I would encourage my children to watch it so that they can have an informed view of the situation (from both sides).

    September 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  19. Alison

    My school was bombarded with concerned parents. We are choosing not to show the broadcast in school because of this. What a shame, because politics often offer wonderful teachable moments.

    September 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  20. Dr. Stan B

    This scares me. Smacks of "Big Brother". Do as I say and what your parent or guardian tells you. Families should be able to review script before deciding if their child should be viewing this.

    September 4, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  21. Mary

    My 3 children will be in school and listening to their President speak to them about the importance of staying in school and getting a good education. Something I try to instill in them as often as possible. I myself would like to hear what the President has to say, but I do not feel the need to know what he has to say in advance.
    It seems that there is a certain group of people who will jump up and down and scream about anything our President says or does. I'm sure they are the same ones who are screaming at the town hall meetings. If President Obama went on TV and asked that all Americans please wash your hands more often to avoid spreading the flu, they would scream that their rights are being violated. Calm down people. Enough already!

    September 4, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  22. Melinda Jones

    President Obama should be allowed to talk to the children in school and even though I am an Obama supporter and a democrat, I wouldnt have objected to other Republican presidents talking to my kids when they were in school. I think we worry too much about people brain washing our children. Let them have a mind of their own. Anyway there was nothing partisan in anything I've heard might be discussed. He's a good influence on our children.

    September 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  23. Bee

    If I had kids in school,I would tell them not only to listen but also to take notes and to learn from what Pres.O.is saying plus to apply what they have heard.
    If I were a teacher I would make sure everybody in school had access to the knowledge,wisdom,spirit,experience and encouragement of Obama.
    People who are upset about his planned address to school kids are afraid they might learn to think.
    Best wishes and kind regards,

    September 4, 2009 at 3:48 pm |
  24. Cliff Bonga

    The President of the United States cannot talk to the school children of the United States to inspire them? Get a life the “NONO Republican Party”. …. Go ahead and keep your children at home! My children and me will be listening to President OBAMA’s speech. Republicans are out of constructive ideas... They need to put up or shut up! We need positive ideas that will contribute in solving problems and making this Country better?

    September 4, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  25. Pledge

    Really, so you don't like the president but have you watched the video. Its about being a better person, american, nation, etc.. Its getting the students to think about the greater good and not be a me society.
    Seriously people, pull your head out of your a#$!
    People didn't cause and uproar when Regan did a speach to children, or Bush, or Clinton.
    I hope our children aren't learning this person is different and their beliefs are different and I'm not going to do research to back up my opinions. My children will watch the video either at school or at home and I guess as a parent I will make them write short term and long term education goals.

    September 4, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  26. Mike

    It's a sad day in America when our President can't speak to students about staying in school, working hard, and personal responsibility. I beleive that it is important to our democracy that we have a robust party leading a loyal opposition, but "loyal" is the key word.

    Less than a year ago, we had a major national election. The stability and health of our country depends, in large part, on the respect the citizens give to the outcome of the elections. When partisians continually attack the legitimacy of the President and his ability to fulfill his roll as our national leader, it makes it impossible to have a civil discussion about any subject. It is difficult for free speech to flourish when people are always shouting.

    What lesson are parents teaching their children when they call their schools to object to the children hearing the President or when they keep them at home so they can't hear him speak.? It is not a lesson in citizenship.

    September 4, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  27. Barbara Tolbert

    After reading some of the commentary on this overblown "created" controversary I was at first saddened and then angered by the disrespect for the president of the United States. To address our nations children and give them encouragement to study hard and stay in school is not a "new phenomenon", past presidents have addressed the schools on far more controversial topics, so why the out cry? Is it the message or the messenger they object to, is it too difficult for them to allow their children to receive the positive affirmation from an intelligent African American leader of the free world. And so we are suppose to try and view our times as "post-racial" now, I think the conservatives have made it pretty clear that we still have a long way to go.

    September 4, 2009 at 3:38 pm |