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Posted at 9:25 AM ET, 09/ 4/2009

Kids Should Listen to the U.S. President

By Valerie Strauss

Children should listen to the U.S. president. Period.

Notice I didn’t say “agree with” or “blindly follow.”

But the furor over a speech that President Obama plans to give Tuesday, live online at noon urging kids to take their education seriously, has overshadowed this point: Whatever the adults in the room think of a president’s policies, he is the president--and it is important that kids learn to respect the office and listen to the occupant.

Conservative critics of Obama are using the occasion of his speech to demonize him, saying he is really trying to indoctrinate kids. An inept attempt by the Department of Education to promote silly classroom activities linked to the speech gave these critics an opening to turn this episode into something it is not.

Some schools are now making arrangements for kids to watch during the school hours.
Others, including in Loudoun and Charles counties, are passing on the opportunity. The reasons vary; some schools can’t logistically get all students to watch online, while others don’t want them to.

The White House says the speech is not about policy or politics. Still some teachers are being required to get parental permission to allow their kids to watch the speech in class. There have even been calls by conservatives for parents to keep their kids home from schools that are showing the speech, because, apparently, it makes perfect sense to not allow your kid to go to school to watch a presidential speech about why it is important to go to school.

If schools can’t find the time or resources to let kids listen to the man with the biggest bullhorn in the United States tell them to stay in school and do their best because it matters for their future and the health of the American democratic experiment, then parents should let their kids see it later. Because he is the president, and has a message about staying in school.

Let’s turn this unfortunate episode into a lesson in civics education, which is so sorely lacking in this country that newly retired Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter recently said, “We know from survey results that two-thirds of people in the United States cannot even name all three branches of the national government. This is something to worry about.”

Indeed it is.

Let's give former Rep. Newt Gingrich, a conservative Republican from Georgia, the last word: “Why is it political for the president of the United States to discuss education?”

By Valerie Strauss  | September 4, 2009; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Civics Education  | Tags:  civics education, obama, speech  
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Next: TEENS to PARENTS: Calm Down!


Again, no acknowledgement that congressional Democrats raised exactly the same furor when Bush I spoke at a junior high in 1991. I agree that the current controversy is silly and unwarranted, but let's not pretend that the Post's coverage isn't politically driven in its own right.

Posted by: tomtildrum | September 4, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Ummm, only the Repugnant chair in Florida used the word "indoctrinate," and the word "socialist."

Why does tomtildrum want schools to censor the President of the United States and control everything their students see? Why do these school districts hate freedom?

Posted by: bs2004 | September 4, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

In my years of sheparding children through schools I never met a teacher that didn't want to turn on the TV.

I'd let my kids watch the President, we could discuss what he said that evening at dinner.

Overall I think it sounds like a typical waste of time.

Posted by: RedBird27 | September 4, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

I honestly can't believe this is controversial. They should just make short TV commercials pumping education though...long speeches don't cut it.

Posted by: staticvars | September 4, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"An inept attempt by the Department of Education to promote silly classroom activities linked to the speech gave these critics an opening to turn this episode into something it is not."

Exactly right. Another demonstration that this otherwise competent administration is amazingly incompetent when it comes to education.

Posted by: skrashen | September 4, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

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