Friday, September 4, 2009

The scarlet letter~

I feel like Hester Prynne, except, instead of a scarlet A on my bosom, I have a big red X on Facebook… next to a picture of Obama.

There was a "quiz," and though I seldom take quizzes I saw that other people had big green check marks showing that they had taken the quiz, so I clicked the link.

Here's the question:

Should President Obama be allowed to do a nationwide address to school children without parental consent?

-I don't care

Well, in a blink of an eye "without parental consent" trumped the president in my mind, and I clicked the box beside No.

Then I thought, I really should find out what this is all about. I looked for the cancel button, but there wasn't one, so I returned to the Facebook page.


There was a big, fat, red X next to a picture of Obama at the chalkboard on my page, like I was Xing him personally. Everybody else has pretty green check marks next to the picture on their pages.

Some of us are just doomed to fail multiple-choice tests, aren't we?And we know what a red X means beside an answer.

If my kids were little, would I complain about an encouraging message from the president to children? Not at all.

If they came home and said, "Guess what, Mom? In school today, we all watched a speech from President Obama."

I'd say, "Oh? And what did he tell you?"

"That school really matters. That we should try hard, blah, blah, blah…"


But still, there is something about "without parental consent" that bothers me. Not that I think there is something sinister or political about this speech. I don't. Some parents raised issues, as is their right, and those in charge made changes to some of activities that were suggested teachers do with their classes afterward. Good move.

But the bottom line for me, after years of teaching and interacting with parents of my students, is my I belief that each parent should have the final say over what his child is exposed to. Yes, even the "kookie" parents. The one whose views differ from mine. The ones I really don't see eye-to-eye with. The ones who sound… uptight, overly concerned, paranoid, or … fill-in-the-blank with an adjective of your own. Because if we don't grant parents their different opinions and approaches… then whose opinions do we replace them with?
The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls. ~Elizabeth Cady Stanton


Mona :) said...

Amazingly thought provoking commentary, Ruth. Thanks!!

Mona :)

Ross Eldridge said...

Hi there, Ruth,

I've just watched the (Friday night) CBS Evening News with some bloke sitting in for Katie Couric, and this story was mentioned.

It's a tough one. I have a feeling that every school in America has the opportunity to display a portrait of the (current) President of the United States. When I was a boy we had a picture of Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Should the contact a schoolchild has with the leader of his country, the man (or woman) in the official portrait be nothing more than ... well ... a silent stare?

How many schoolchildren will sit down to the TV News in an evening, or while a special Presidential Broadcast is on, to hear the Commander in Chief?

It may be that the "grown-ups" in the USA are afraid that the President might just score points with something they are not happy with. To deny children the chance to hear their leader and to take part in the democratic process (make a choice based on first-hand, or close to it, experience, study) is not just censorship, but to make a mockery of the process.

You can look at his portrait, but the only thing you can hear him "say" is what I permit ...

No way to have a well-rounded education.

In American History classes, are (past) presidential lives cleaned up for the students, or do they get to see as much as possible of their former leaders? As Oliver Cromwell said: Warts and all.

I'd hope a class might watch the Leader and then discuss what he said, while his words are fresh. Before they've been santitized, or desantized, by their parents.

How many American Presidents would get a word in?

If Lincoln was giving the Gettysburg Address live, it seems to me that a great many parents would NOT have allowed their children to hear it.

So it goes.


Ruth D~ said...

I don't disagree with you, Ross. It seems a nice thing for a president to do--encourage students at the beginning of a new school year.

I still haven't followed the arguments closely, but I think it's the after-lesson suggestions that some parents objected to. I'm sure there are all sorts of reasons. I'm NOT saying their objections should stop the speech from being given, just that they have a right to their opinions, and a right to remove their child... although I can't imagine what not allowing a child to watch the president speak will do to him! But if you start to disregard someone's opinion as wacky, then where do you draw the line. I know people who dismiss anyone who doesn't agree with them as wacky. We have to leave room for dissent, no matter what we might think of it personally, I think.

The problem lies within the realm of politics. I saw a link where Dem. Dick Gephardt railed against the speech George H. W Bush gave back in the '90s. So it cuts both ways this political stuff.

But still, I believe parents have a right to raise their children as they see fit... within the bounds of the law, that is. That's all.

Saying this doesn't mean I'm opposed to the president's speech.

*Thanks, Mona. ;>)

Linda said...

It is, in fact, that follow-up lesson plans that most parents are having problems with as never in the course of history when a President has given a speech directed towards schoolchildren has the Department of Education sent out a lesson plan to be used afterward.

I think that open discussion after the speech would and should be a great a thing but not when the government is telling teachers how that discussion should go.

Had I taken that Facebook poll, I would probably have had a big red X next to my results, too, but I haven't taken it.

Carter said...

Facebook is not a place of subtleties, which is why I loathe it. Multiple choice tests of any sort, except maybe arithmetic, are anathema to me. Nothing is that simple. The only choices you got were "Yes," "No," and "I don't care." Where was the one that said "It all depends on several factors not mentioned here?" Or this: "Only if no 'discussion questions' are included"? Or several other possibilities.

They want to know what's my favorite book. Well, that's a stupid question. Favorite movie, same. Favorite opera, same. Is chocolate better than vanilla?

I hope this post teaches somebody something. I know you, and you usually hate to come down hard on one side or the other, which can be a virtue, even though it can slow you down. I think you should put a big red "X" on your Facebook bookmark and never go there again. :-)

Barry said...

According to a local paper, here's how our school district handled it:

"XISD to allow students to watch Obama's address
by A. Reporter
09.04.09 - 10:21 am

"Administrators with the XXX Independent School District decided on Friday that they will participate in President Barack Obama's nationwide address to students next Tuesday.

"However, students will not be able to watch the address live. Individual instructors will be given the option to record the address and use it as an educational tool when appropriate.

"XXXX said the chances are "astronomical" that a teacher would be able to fit the address into their curriculum Tuesday, so there should be no reason for parents to keep their children home that day if they do not want their children to watch the address.

"Superintendent XXXX XXXX said in a press release that students and staff will not be required to watch the address whenever it is used in class.

"The address will not be used as an educational tool on Tuesday, XXXX said in the release. There will not be a general assembly to view the address, nor will the address be shown in classes where there is no reasonable curricular connection.

"The address will feature Obama speaking to students on the importance of education and encourages students to respond in writing.

"XXXX said he has received numerous calls from concerned parents who said Obama's address is purely political and do not wish their children to participate in watching it.

"'Since we have had some parents indicate they do not want their children to view the President’s address, the district will honor that request,' XXXX said in the release.

"Notes will be sent home with students of all four XISD schools Friday. Parents will be able to sign the note and return it to the school if they wish their students not to participate in viewing the President's address. Alternate educational activities will be offered to those students not watching the address."

A few years ago we defeated an attempt by a quasi-governmental water authority to put a research facility here to study water conservation and land mgmt. The leader of that successful effort stated, "We don't want any more smart people up here."

This county doesn't like what's going on at all and local churches are having a meeting on the town square this afternoon to pray for America and for God (Christian-type, 1 each) to return the federal government to the righteous path.

Here's another quiz:

Should Texas secede?

< > Yes
< > No
< > The sooner the better

Love it or leave it, they used to say.


Paul said...

In the final analysis, parents (should) control what their children watch on television. Some people are trying to make an issue of this proposed chat in part because they don't like Obama.

Rozel (a.k.a. Michelle) said...

I found the most fabulous "Do Not Publish" option after every quiz! Now you should just link your blog on the vote so everyone will understand :)