Obama to address kids in schools about education – and everyone flips their lid?

I was checking out Twitter yesterday afternoon and noticed my friend and Assignments Editor for Denver’s CBS4 Misty Montano’s stream was going nuts with comments regarding President Obama broadcasting a speech to schools on September 8th.

I immediately tweeted back: What’s the big deal?

She told me, in her must-stay-objective-way, that her phone was ringing off the hook with complaints. That parents didn’t like the idea of the president addressing the kids directly. That this was propaganda of the first order. (My translation: Sieg Heil!)

I wrote back: The focus of the speech is just education, right?

She wrote back: That press release is all we know right now.

Um. OK, parent callers? Let me ask you this? How would you feel is it was Bush giving the speech? Would you think it was propaganda or just wonderful he was actually taking an interest in education?

Then some folks made comments on my Facebook status of the tweet.

My friend Tom likened it to the 1984 Apple commercial.

Tom, I love ya, but isn’t that a leetle bit extreme?

Remember the Presidential Fitness Challenge? I totally remember the president du jour encouraging me to get fit and healthy and strong when I was a kid. Is this not just another version of that? President Obama reminding kids that education is important and to GO FOR IT? Spread their wings and fly. And all those other pithy catch phrases that really just mean GET YOUR ASS IN GEAR?

I highly doubt that Obama plans to get 2nd graders across the land to come home and stump for health care with their parents.

And if he does, just close your eyes, imagine FDR and settle in for a nice, soothing fireside chat, m’k?

This article has 43 comments

  1. Lauren

    So with you! It’s ridiculous.

  2. Missy

    I saw a lady on the news in tears over this!
    Seriously? How about wait for the speech, THEN get upset. I don’t know about you, but my kids are raised by Shan and me, not the people spouting off their opinions or beliefs. ugh

    I wanted to call and tell these people if they are so concerned that Obama will say something to push your children to question your own beliefs, then you need to look at your own parenting skills. And please, don’t kids question us daily anyway? “why can’t I have another cookie? Why can’t I stay up another hour?”

  3. Edmund

    The idea to get children to study is honorable. However I can tell you haven’t read the accompanying study material. It raise a forest of red flag of indoctrination.
    We as parent want children to be educated by the people we select locally not from DC.
    If the WH wish to support education, let Michell Obama do it!

  4. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    I actually have read the materials – and for the record, I build health curriculum on the web for a living. There was ONE LINE I felt was maybe a little objectionable – where they asked “How will Obama be inspiring?” That probably could have been rephrased to be a little less leading. But otherwise, I thought it was all good.

  5. Edmund

    What about
    Why is it important that we listen to the President
    What will President want me to do
    Just to mention a few

  6. Cobwebs

    I sort of like the Rude Pundit’s comments on the subject (beware, naughty language):


  7. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Cobwebs – GREAT link. Love it. Just tweeted it.

  8. Anonymous

    I love how this has turned into such a hot topic. Seriously – CHILLLLLLL!!!!! Aren’t people still getting killed in Iraq?

  9. Ambassador

    Oh, my effing flying spaghetti monster! I heard about this earlier today and immediatly thought of Bush’s “Childrens do learn”. Really? Is this your biggest worry?

    Take a step back, parents…and look at this from a reasonably objective viewpoint, without the clutter of all the cable “news” shows. Who is the President’s audience at these schools? What can he possibly say that is going make the freaking world come to an end?

    Geez, I remember the worst thing in HS was kids having their parents not let them read certain books – and ooh, can’t have them watch that scary post-apocolyptic “The Day After”…holy crap.

    Childrens do learn…especially how to hate and fear. (sorry for the rant, A.)

  10. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    And hmmm. Tom, I see your points, but first, I disagree about not teaching kids politics in elementary school – of course I don;t want a teacher choosing sides. But I also don’t get where this is loosing transparency when they are making a public statement about what they are doing and giving materials, etc… how else could they logistically do it? And then I still come back around to WHAT IS THE BIG DEAL? I *like* the idea of our president taking the time to enforce the idea of education to our kids, and not just because I *like* this president. Bush visited schools. If he came to our school, I don’t think I would have pulled my kid out for the day. As little as I thought/think of the man, I would NEVER have thought he would come to my kid’s school and do anything but give a lovely little speech geared at kids that was a good PR op. Period, end of story.

  11. Bethany

    This was our dinner topic today – and now here you are, and here I am enjoying all the comments. My first, (yes, objective!) response was that I would be happy to have any President address my children. I said the same as you, whether it would have been Bush or now Obama – fine. An exciting thing for the kids to experience. I truly went so far as to say I would have welcomed Pres. Bush speaking to the kids. 🙂 Because the fact is this: putting aside the negative bipartisanship (possible?), we must respect the current leader of our country. He is an objective, educated leader. Bring it!

  12. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    Yes, Bethany – I am really enjoying the comments. Good conversation.

  13. MB

    Parents BLINDLY sign permission slips for their children to attend presentations, field trips and convocations that could potentially include way more objectionable material than the President will. Sorry – I’ve seen plenty in schools that I know parents would cringe at if they’d taken the to do a little research.

    If this were Bush (or any other Republican), we’d be hearing battle cries and all kinds of wonderful words about patriotism. Any objection would be met with “But he’s our PRESIDENT! We should honor the office!”

    If you’re that nervous about ,it, go to school and watch it with your kid.

  14. Nat

    Well, last time Bush read to a school group, it was 9/11. No? See how that turned out? (completely kidding.)

    Honestly, given the scrutiny Obama is under and the circus that follows him, it’s going hard for him to turn all the kids into flaming liberals.

    Ridiculous indeed. I’d be skipping work to “volunteer”. I think it’s great he’s reaching out to the kids… then again I’m Canadian and really don’t see why they all think he’s such a socialist, he’d be running as a Conservative up here. (Just saying.)

  15. cargotom

    Like I said Aim, first thing that came to mind was the 1984 spot. Without any information, the mind goes to a place all its own.

    The issue at hand for parents is this: they are not the ones being contacted by the schools or the govt. Parents like myself who are actually involved in our kids’ studies don’t like it when things happen at schools that we don’t know about. We are the ones having to make the calls and we aren’t being given clear information.

    Without the info, the mind then wonders what the point is? “Stay in school Johnny.” *arm swings with glee-ful smile* (digression here: if you missed Glee last night on TV, check it out, funny stuff.) Well, no big deal you say. And fine, Johnny stay in school. After all, an education is beyond important. But wait, education IS important and our schools need money and they need good teachers. Why not direct all this energy into that? I sure don’t know as I haven’t been told about this thing.

    The mind goes: “What’s the timing about?” “Why not tie this into Constitution Day on Sept 17 so the kids would learn some history?” “What the frig?”

    Who knows? The parents sure don’t.

    So what’s the real issue? “It’s just the president giving a message to kids about education. Right?” Schools apparently already have materials for post-speech discussion. Why don’t the parents have that material? Mind races. From what I’ve been able to dig up it puts it in the hands of the teachers to philosophize. And frankly the last thing I want is my child to be taught politics in elementary school. Teach ’em how to write. Teach ’em the bill of rights. Teach ’em their multiplication tables. Teach the facts not your beliefs.

    But so much with transparency and that is what bothers parents who are involved.

    Thanks Aim though for the discussion, maybe we’ll get some information.

  16. Dave

    honest to god. what the heck. i wonder if the republicans are worried he could GET TO THEM and go behind their backs. I guess we should wait and see what the intentions are. i would worry more about what your kids are being fed, then what they could possibly be “fed” by Obama.

  17. Julie @ The Mom Slant

    I’m genuinely baffled by the objections and conclusion-jumping.

    Stuff happens ALL THE TIME at school that we don’t know about. We’re not always going to like or agree with everything that goes on. Can’t accept that? Homeschool.

    Furthermore, it’s a great opportunity to open the lines of communication between us as parents and our kids. Plenty of topics arise in school that are ripe for a family discussion. Talk about it!

    Of course, from my cynical Independent stance, I have to wonder if there would have been similar outcries from liberals if GWB had addressed students.

  18. Ashlie- Mommycosm

    First of all, I would be honored for any president to talk to my kids about education. Any. That includes Bush…and I really, really disagreed with his politics.

    If something was said that I didn’t agree with, well, that creates an opportunity for me to converse with my kids and PARENT them.

    I just don’t understand closed-minded people. Whether you are a believer in his policies, he’s the President of the United States.

  19. Heather

    We only have orientation on the 8th or I would love for my kid to watch it. While I was in high school before the ’92 election we had a panel including then Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander. My claim to fame then was getting him to stammer over his answer to my question about school choice and social issues. I also have deep emotional scars over never being able to meet the standard for the flexed arm hang–whatever president was responsible for it! 😉

  20. monstergirlee

    Havn’t read all the comments, but I totally agree Aimee. I’ll go back and read them tomorrow AM.
    Good post.

  21. lynn @ human, being

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think parents have gotten WAY TOO PROTECTIVE of their children. This is just one example. It’s ridiculous. I would be delighted for my daughter to listen to a message from POTUS.

  22. Anonymous

    I think you would have a big problem with it, like I do, if you really knew what Obama was trying to do.

  23. Ambassador

    No one ever questioned why it was important to listen to President Bush.

    And if you did, you were summarily rounded up by the Secret Service…ya know, terrorist threat and all.

  24. Megan

    Oh Aimee, this whole this is so ridiculous. I am SOOO with you!

  25. Mamma

    If we have any hope of reestablishing honor to the office of President, shouldn’t we serve as role models to our kids and suggest they listen to the President BECAUSE he is the President?

    If we don’t like the message, then we can discuss our own opinions of the speech with our children at home and why we believe what we believe.

    Then again, if it had been Bush doing it…I probably would have bitched if only in my head. I don’t claim to without hypocrisy.

  26. The Casual Perfectionist

    Aimee, I agree with you! I’m a little bewildered that people are making this into a big negative deal. This is a positive thing!

    THANK YOU for bringing up the Presidential Fitness thing! I totally remember that from school!

    The President wants to address school children…and this is bad, how? Even if it was coming from the “other party,” the President speaking to “the future of our country” isn’t a bad thing, especially when the focus is education.

    Education should be important regardless of your party. Right?

    I just don’t get it.

  27. cargotom

    Aim, I’m glad you’ve got the discussion going. However, I think it’s kind of funny for people to be making all the Bush senior comments. I didn’t bring it up before because my whole point is referring to parents of students. I didn’t have kids in school when GHWBush was in office. Weren’t we at Flagler then? My wife and I ARE heavily involved in our school and our childrens’ studies and lives.

    As far as politics in elementary school, I have seen time and time again teachers making one-sided political judgements and denegrating students for not agreeing (or having parents with beliefs that don’t match the teachers). I have seen it personally.

    The transparency comment was in reference to not notifying the parents. Twitter is not the way to learn of things happening at your child’s school. As I said before, we are heavily involved (homeroom mom, school store, PTA, office help, etc, etc) and we didnt hear from the school system.

    The problem with the whole thing can land solely on poor marketing and poor PR from the White House and the D.O.E. When the country is in a furor over legislation being ram-rodded through leading all the way back the Bush adminstration, the tension has been boiling and the current team failed to (in simple terms) brand the project. And guess what? They know they screwed up. After all they wouldn’t be changing the language otherwise.

    Maybe they should have done the marketing previous presidential programs have – it could have gone a long way towards actually helping its intended purpose.

    Great topic.

  28. IzzyMom

    And Dubya was probably slipping subliminal messages to those little kids when he was reading them “My Pet Goat” on 9/11. People need to get a fucking life.

  29. Mitzi Green

    i don’t have time to read all comments (i have a job, after all) but this one struck me:

    “Schools apparently already have materials for post-speech discussion. Why don’t the parents have that material?”

    answer: probably for the same reason parents don’t have copies of the kids’ math textbooks, reading textbooks, social studies textbooks, and copies of every teacher’s lesson plan for every day of the school year. seriously? you send your kids to PUBLIC SCHOOL. which is FEDERALLY FUNDED. if you want your fingers in every aspect of your child’s education, and don’t want them to learn one single fraction without you having reviewed it first, perhaps you should HOME SCHOOL.

  30. jessica

    Any person who is a leader, a role model, an upstanding citizen telling my kids that education and school is important is great by me. Obama, Bush, McCain, sports celebrity, WHOEVER. A-okay with me. And seriously – is my first grader going to come home spouting socialism? Um, not so much. But if he comes home knowing who the leader of our country is (and what he looks like) and that the President told him that school is fun and important – well I’ll call that a successful day at school.

    And also? You can get the copies of the teaching materials if you want.

    Come on people – what kind of evil socialist agenda will our president be spouting to our first graders in a 15 minute speech about education?


  31. Anonymous

    I agree with Tom, people DID complain before and they should STILL keep complaining. Isn’t that what this country is about? To be able to use our 1st amendment rights????

  32. Aimee Greeblemonkey

    A friend emailed me this, which I love:


    Good quote on this topic (from the NYTimes, that bastion of socialist rhetoric):

    Some Houston parents, however, said telling children they should not hear out the president of the United States, even if their parents dislike his policies, sends the wrong message — that one should not listen to someone with whom you disagree.

    “It’s difficult for me to understand how listening to the president, the commander in chief, the chief citizen of this country, is damaging to the youth of today,” said Phyllis Griffin Epps, an analyst for the city who has two children in public school.

  33. cargotom

    Since there are so many of you that can’t seem to get past “Bush did it too – wah wah” and turn a legitimate question into a “you people are ridiculous, relax you’re waaaay too protective”, I’d thought I’d continue to do my research (like any good parent should).

    See I didn’t have kids back in 1991. I was just an art student at Flagler College with Aim. So I didn’t remember the Bush deal. They only thing on the dorm lobby TV back then was Guiding Light and Bold & The Beautiful.

    But apparently the same thing was said of Bush back then. Yes that’s right. People actually questioned the president. *GASP* In fact they even questioned the president’s wife *GASP GASP*

    Back in ’91 there was this little known congressman named Dick Gephardt. You may know him. Well he (along with others in the dem. party) said the same thing I was referencing as to why we would be spending federal dollars for political advertising to kids.



    Wow. Who wudda thunk? I guess Gephardt was just another lunatic and he should have “just chill”ed too. Y’all go back to your alters and I’ll keep questioning the government & our officials (no matter what party they represent) as well as being completely involved in my kids’ development.

  34. Danielle

    I respect the office – we should let our children see the president, know who he is and what he’s doing. If we don’t agree, then we have a discussion. I’m tired of people not respecting eachother and having intelligent discussions.
    I like that our president is paying attention to what’s going on in our country and not just looking for a fight.

  35. Meghann

    Aimee knows this about me, but anyone else reading through these comments might not, so I’ll be straight up and say we’re homeschooling republican southern baptists. For reals, yo.

    And when I first heard about this, I thought. “ok.” And I have to say I’m a bit flabbergasted at all of my politically like minded friends’ frenzy over this. I mean, it’s just the president making a speech. I know a lot of the problems people had were with the wording of the materials that go along with the speech, but I think it wasn’t meant as sinister as everyone seems to believe.

    I, for one, will probably read over the transcript of the speech they’re releasing on Monday, and then probably let my kids watch it. (and hope that my friends aren’t right about Obama being the antichrist and indoctrinating our children with his laserbeam vision through the tv screen.)

  36. Patois

    I am very involved with my kids’ public school educations. I’m one of THOSE mothers. You know, the ones who go to PTA meetings, volunteer for yard duty, and make the mistake (most years) of being a room parent. It has never occurred to me to ask for study guides for every topic my children discuss each and every day in school. I keep on track of their schoolwork, but I don’t get up in arms about getting information in advance. Clearly, I’m a bad mother.

  37. J at www.jellyjules.com

    Constitution Day was mandated by Bush, btw, with a curriculum that went along with it. I am a commie pinko liberal, and I had no trouble with it. They didn’t send any materials home for us to look at, either.

    That being said, I agree with those above who say that we have the right to worry and complain if we so choose. Though I think it’s wasted time. The video will be available to all of us, so if there’s anything in there that you don’t like, just talk to your kids about it.

  38. Laurie

    Yeah, Obama’s so crafty, I’m sure he’ll save his really crazy shit for an address to millions of school children who will then all become their vampire selves and fly into the trees outside their buildings and…oh, wait. Wrong series.

    GAH. I canNOT believe the hysteria over this. It is NOT “wah wah Bush did it,” it’s that generally speaking every president did it while I was growing up, the platforms just varied (the space shuttle program, the war on drugs, etc. etc.) I hope for calm days in the schools and no disruption in the buildings because if there’s one thing no teacher needs this time of year it’s that kind of craziness.

    If I wasn’t so addicted to being hyper-informed I would so love to stop watching the news. This summer has just about done me in.

  39. Laurie

    Yeah, Obama’s so crafty, I’m sure he’ll save his really crazy shit for an address to millions of school children who will then all become their vampire selves and fly into the trees outside their buildings and…oh, wait. Wrong series.

    GAH. I canNOT believe the hysteria over this. It is NOT “wah wah Bush did it,” it’s that generally speaking every president did it while I was growing up, the platforms just varied (the space shuttle program, the war on drugs, etc. etc.) I hope for calm days in the schools and no disruption in the buildings because if there’s one thing no teacher needs this time of year it’s that kind of craziness.

    If I wasn’t so addicted to being hyper-informed I would so love to stop watching the news. This summer has just about done me in.

  40. Jack

    Our children are indoctrinated daily with political perspectives and a million different POVs.

    Our job as parents is to help teach them how to determine what is real, what is significant and what is meaningful.

    This the perfect opportunity to use as a teaching moment.

  41. Shel

    Here you go folks…for anyone who has been living under a rock and wasn’t “notified” that the President is addressing our nation’s students…other than being broadcast all over the media, it has been available to the public on the White House’s website for a couple of weeks: http://www.whitehouse.gov/mediaresources/

    I am a teacher in the public school system, and we sent a letter home last week letting parents know that our school will watch the President’s address, but we have alternate activities for students whose parents would rather have their child not watch. But something tells me that this STILL isn’t enough “notification” for some people…those are the folks who have already decided to be upset no matter what, and we just won’t be able to please them because what they really want is for us to not show the live feed at all, while they secretly watch it themselves.

  42. Well Read Hostess

    Bush the 1st DID give a speech in the same manner…and it dealt with the same SUBVERSIVE message: school is important.

    Douchebags. They’re douchebags.


    Holy cow what an uproar about this? I am a republican. I listen to conservative talk radio and I can’t believe people were so frigging worried about this speach. Doesn’t anyone know that Michael Jackson died.

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