By Frank Belluscio
Forget the H1N1 flu. According to some people, the biggest threat to our children’s well-being this fall will come on Tuesday (9/8) in the form of a Webcast speech to the nation’s schoolchildren by President Obama. That’s right. Fringe lunacy has risen to a new level–not in NJ (at least according to a report posted on nj.com/news)–but certainly in other locales.
Don’t get me wrong. If President “W” had arranged a similar PR tactic four years ago, I’m certain that the howls from the far left would have been as loud, as accusatory and as illogical.
Yesterday, President Obama’s upcoming speech dominated messages on a listserv for the communications officers of the state school boards associations. My colleagues report that the speech is generating controversy in parts of their states. Here are some examples:
From Ohio–A Web site is making available the following message for parents’ use: “To Whom it May Concern: When it comes to teaching my child about personal responsibility and life goals, I have determined that I am a far better teacher of those objectives than a President who has chosen to surround himself with known anarchists and terrorists. Therefore, <insert child’s name> will be at home on Sept 8th in order not to be corrupted by the propaganda that will be shown in his class room.”
From Maryland–A member of the state’s legislature sent the following message to his constituents: “According to the office of the Baltimore County Superintendent of Schools, if you do not want your child to participate, you need only notify the school principal, and your child will have an alternate activity available during the address. However, rather than stigmatize my child by having him pulled out of class, I would just keep him home that day (I do have two children in public school).”
From Tennessee–According to a newspaper story, a superintendent indicates that “about half of the callers have wanted to opt out of children watching the speech while the other half want their children to be able to see it.” A memo issued to parents stated that “students will be given the opportunity to listen to the speech in their schools, provided their parents or guardians give permission in writing for them to do so.”
From Kentucky–A newspaper reported, “Fayette County Superintendent said his district got about 50 calls, mostly from parents who were misinformed by radio hosts who ‘have blown this thing out of proportion.’ One (host) had everyone believing that the president was going to talk to elementary kids about his health care agenda. Once people got the correct information, most seemed to be fine.”
And from our colleagues at the Arizona School Boards Association, located in a state with its share of parents opposed to the Obama speech, comes a voice of reason–and indeed a sentiment shared among the various states’ school boards organizations:
“ASBA believes that accountability for meeting fair standards that encourage high student achievement and responsible and informed citizenship is the common responsibility of the elected school district governing board, staff members, parents, the students themselves and the community at large. Though we strongly encourage our school district members to participate in this non-partisan, non-political educational event, we also believe that the choice to participate must be a local one.”
Amen! 2009 is neither a presidential nor a Congressional election year. Tuesday’s Webcast is a function of the Office of the President as the leader of the country and not as the leader of the Democratic party.
As a local school board member, how do you feel about the president’s planned speech to the nation’s schoolchildren? Are your district’s schools planning to show the Webcast on Tuesday?