Monday, September 07, 2009

I Don't Care For It

The President's speech to schoolchildren, that is.

It's too focused on negatives (i.e., it seems to assume every child is struggling or dislikes school and learning), too collectivist (there's an awful lot about learning for the good of the country), too hectoring ("I expect you to get serious this year" or there's "no excuse for talking back to your teacher"), and too focused on himself, down to taking credit for "working hard to fix up your classrooms." (And why did his mother get him up to study at 4:30 a.m. when he was a young child? Unless he went to bed extremely early, that seems...odd.)

He also usurps too much of the parental role, from "calling on" children to set goals and behave, to telling them to wash their hands and stay home from school if they're sick. Similarly, I don't need the President of the United States to remind me of my responsibility to make sure my children do their homework and don't watch too much TV. Good gravy.

He wants children to study history "to make our nation more fair and more free." I think if the President had studied history he might realize that his notion of "fairness" (redistributing income) cannot happen simultaneously with freedom.

Perhaps some folks will find his speech inspiring, but in my book he conjured up images of a very dreary America, with learning as something boring and unexciting that has to happen with gritted teeth. He made getting an education sound as stimulating as going to the dentist to have a cavity filled.

Mr. President, you be the President, and let us be the parents.

Ironically, our local schools here in California won't even be in session tomorrow...the White House apparently just assumed everyone goes back by the day after Labor Day. This year I will have two high schoolers attending the local "bricks and mortar" school, starting at the end of the week.

I'll also begin my seventh year as a homeschooling parent tomorrow! We won't be watching the speech...because we'll be having fun learning new and interesting things.

Update: Welcome to readers of Yahoo News.

Tuesday Update: Welcome to readers of Holy Coast.

Late Update: Heather MacDonald also noticed that the speech did not convey a love for learning.

MacDonald had initially been more in favor of the speech, but has reconsidered: "The impression it gives is of an enormous ego and sense of boundless power and portfolio. Even if Obama had not announced: 'I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn,' the speech still makes you ask: Who, exactly, are you to be saying these things to children? Isn’t it the role of teachers and parents to encourage hard work and a love of learning? Is the president also the Great Roofer and Parent and School Purchasing Department in the Sky?"

She concludes "...this speech does suggest a disturbing lack of perspective."

I also enjoyed the comment posted here by "Ann's New Friend," addressing the speech's finger-wagging, negative tone: "Who assumes that kids plan to do any of this? Really rousing cheer-leading, is it not? Imagine a coach telling his team: 'I don't care what others say, you're not a bunch of losers. Really, you're NOT losers. So if anyone says you're a LOSER, don't believe them.' How do you feel? Ready to win the game??"

Wednesday Update: Before the nationally broadcast speech, the President campaigned for universal health coverage to a live audience of high school students.


Blogger Ann's New Friend said...

I saw your link at Holycoast and I completely agree. Indeed, here's the comment I left at Rick's blog about Obama's speech:

"I would be interested to compare the texts of the two speeches. Limbaugh was talking about Obama's speech today, asserting that Obama's actions contradict his words -- that he calls for personal responsibility in the kids' speech but wants nanny state for the adults. And while that is true in a superficial way, take another gander at the kids' speech.

That speech is really much more negative than it's being portrayed. The whole tone is bottom rung all the way. 'My dad was a dead beat.' Maybe your parents "don't support you" either. But you gotta step to the plate anyway.

His assumptions are negative through much of it. Read around in the psychology some -- recall someone made the rather quaint claim that Obama actually uses hypnosis in his speeches -- nah! we know that couldn't be -- BUT note the strong words in the speech.

For instance, "... if you quit on school -- you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country." Who said they were quitting? In studying persuasion, psychologists assert that "not" words slip past the subconscious and in a sentence like that one above, the most salient idea is "quitting." He repeats the word three times.

He uses other strong words with very negative connotations such as "support that you need," someone in your family has lost their job," "there's not enough money to go around," "friends pressure ... are pressuring you to do things you know aren't right." "There's no excuse for neglecting your homework, or having a bad attitude ... for talking back to your teacher, for cutting class, or dropping out of school ... for not trying."

Who assumes that kids plan to do any of this? Really rousing cheer-leading, is it not? Imagine a coach telling his team: "I don't care what others say, you're not a bunch of losers. Really, you're NOT losers. So if anyone says you're a LOSER, dont believe them."

How do you feel? Ready to win the game??

Big O's "pep talk" is an abomination."

2:50 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Your comment re you and yours will be at home having *fun* learning new things is priceless, Laura! Love it.

8:47 PM  

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