Friday, September 04, 2009

Too cool for school? President Obama's plan to address students

Yahoo! News reported today that President Obama's national address to the students of America is under fire by conservatives who believe that the president is promoting a leftist agenda. The article goes as far to say that some conservatives are "calling the speech an excuse to brainwash American children."

At noon on September 8, the address will be broadcast live on the White House website and C-SPAN. According to the press release, President Obama intends to speak directly to students about succeeding in school. He will challenge them to "work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning."

Image courtesy of AP Photo/Charles Dharapak.

Oh no! The President of the United States of America (elected by a solid 53% of the population) is encouraging children to embrace education? What's next? Socialism? The brainwashing, good-for-nothing monster shouldn't be allowed near our children!

Seriously though, sparking a national conversation about education is exactly what this country needs, and America's young people could use a little encouragement to take their education seriously. Our nation's children are far from mindless. It is highly unlikely that President Obama (or any U.S. President, for that matter) would be able to "brainwash" any students or even sway them to unwillingly support a "leftist" agenda.

Just moments ago, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters, "I think we've reached a little bit of the silly season when the president of the United States can't tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school. I think both political parties agree that the dropout rate is something that threatens our long-term economic success."

My point exactly. Our children need encouragement to pursue an education, and they need to hear about the importance of education from a variety of sources, including parents, friends, teachers, and people in positions of authority. In addition, since many of our nation's failing students are from low-income or minority communities, hearing from successful men of color does nothing but good, in my opinion.

I even think that this speech is an opportunity to teach children critical thinking skills. If a teacher or parent doesn't agree with what President Obama says in the address, why not ask the students questions that require critical thinking skills? Why do you agree or disagree with the President? What improvements would you make to the education system as it is now? What is the most important factor contributing to your success in school? What is the hardest obstacle getting in the way of your education? Failing to allow our children to develop critical thinking skills is failing as parents and teachers.

We need to expose our kids to healthy, appropriate situations in which they will have the opportunity to think for themselves. We need to stop being a country full of helicopter parents and politicians who enjoy nothing more than standing on soapboxes. What we need, is to stop and listen to the President on Tuesday at noontime. Give the man a chance to say what he has to say; then, form your opinions and find a young person with whom to talk about your reactions.