As you read this, we hope you've had a chance to read or listen to President Obama's allegedly controversial speech to students. We've got news for you if you're still having issues with someone who talks to students about:
- "teachers' responsibility for inspiring you … "
- "parents responsibility for making sure you stay on track"
- "the government's responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working …"
- expecting "students to get serious this year" and put their "best effort into everything (they) do.
When the president decided to give his speech to students and set forth ideas that teachers might be able to use in the classroom to further discussion, he did NOT require every school to show the speech, did NOT require that teachers use the suggested "talking points." Instead he opened up a line of discussion that every parent and every teacher should be having with students, not just on the first day of school but throughout the year.
George Bush gave a similar speech in a Virginia classroom in 1991, and even asked students what they could do to help the White House with their education. The loudest outcries then were that it was a waste of students' time or politically motivated - not that the president was a "pied piper" leading our children to ruin or was similar in his tactics to cult leader Jim Jones.
What kind of message does this send us about our nation, which is built on freedom of speech and choice. Yes, if you feel that our leader is a threat to your children, maybe you were right to keep your children out of school. But at least take the time to read the speech and talk to your youngsters about the nation's principles and how important their education is.
To use the words of a former teacher: "There is nothing more important in transforming education than an administration that cares about children, teachers and families. The culture of education is one that comes from the top down - an administration that sets out to encourage kids, support teachers and nurture families sets the tone.
"This is the opportunity to set the tone for an entire school year of hard work and, for many students, will undoubtedly set them on a journey of dreams that cannot be stopped. There's nothing wrong with a president who supports the dream of creating a nation of children who love school and begin to dream beyond it."