Today, President Obama can't even encourage students to stay in school and understand the importance of their education without it becoming a political issue.
The White House announced this week that the President will address the nation's students next Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 11 a.m. with a back-to-school welcome message -- and already that's become controversial. News outlets around the country are reporting that parents are calling schools saying they do not want their children to participate. Others in the blogosphere are calling it political indoctrination. In Denver, a TV station reported that "conservatives are outraged." The New York Times reports a "revolt" among conservative parents, especially in Texas. Glenn Beck -- he who called the President a "racist" -- has promised a one-hour television special at the same time, "on the indoctrination of your children."
What's a local school district to do?
Racine Unified is walking a tightrope (leaving aside the technological issues) -- leaving it up to individual principals and teachers to determine "if the presidential address is an appropriate learning activity for their individual students." At the same time, "Parents may request that their children not view the speech at any time with a written note to the teacher."
Here is Unified's statement on the matter:
According to a Department of Education memorandum, the president wishes to address students regarding the importance of education and beginning the school year in a positive manner. The Department of Education has encouraged students, teachers and principals to participate by watching the president's address. While this is not required curriculum, we encourage principals and staff to cooperate with the president's request to the extent possible.
President Obama's speech will be broadcast via the Internet at www.whitehouse.gov and on Educational Access Channel 20 or C-SPAN. A video of the president's speech will be posted on the district's Web site www.racine.k12.wi.us. The district does not have the technology to allow all students to view the speech simultaneously. Due to the vastly different technology resources of each building, there is no one plan that can accommodate all situations. In order to allow our students the opportunity to view the president's speech, we are asking that following guidelines are followed:
· This is a request by the President of the United States. We will make an effort to comply with his request while making certain that the essential functions and schedules of the school are not comprised.
· If school schedules conflict with President Obama's speech, schools may elect not to show the speech. Schools may elect to show a recording of the speech during some other appropriate time. Social studies classes at the secondary level are recommended.
· Some schools will be unable to show the president's video live without disrupting the school schedule, previously planned learning activities, lunch periods or other essential functions. The video is not required curriculum.
· Principals and teachers should use their judgment in determining if the presidential address is an appropriate learning activity for their individual students.
· Parents may request that their children not view the speech at any time with a written note to the teacher.
· Parents may elect to view the video with their children at home. The video will be accessible via the district's Web site www.racine.k12.wi.us as soon as possible.