Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Please Mr. President, don't speak on school time

Here we go again. I dodged a lot of electronic tomatoes last year for suggesting that President Obama NOT give his back-to-school speech during class time. Many readers thought that was a stupid suggestion. The president and his staff apparently agree with them, because the White House has announced he is going to do it again on Sept. 14. The White House is again encouraging schools to interrupt class so students can listen.

I am going to stay away from the political issues. I know this is an election year. Here in the Washington area, including D.C. and the Maryland suburbs where I live, Sept. 14 will be primary election day, with a D.C. mayoral race important to the future of D.C. schools. But I don't think the president's speech will affect that much. That is not why it bothers me.

Last year, at least, the speech occurred on or near the first day of school for many students. That day is often a waste anyway, just finding your classrooms, greeting your friends and sizing up your teachers. This year he will be speaking on what is the second week for some students, and for many the third or fourth week, when serious learning should be underway. Why does the White House think this is a good idea?

Every study I have seen of how to raise achievement for students, particularly in low-performing urban and rural schools, indicates that two factors are essential---better teachers and more time for them to teach. It is difficult for regular public schools to follow the most effective charter schools in adding two or three hours to the school day, but they could at least use the six and a half hours they have each day as effectively as possible. The president's choice of speaking time suggests he doesn't think such efforts are very important.

I know teachers so frustrated by their schools' habitual interruptions of class time for announcements or assemblies or parties or sports trips that they actively resist, and keep their kids in class to see if anyone will call them out on it. Some of them turn off or disable their loudspeakers so their class can continue with the lesson rather than be knocked off track by the latest schedule for the football rally on Friday.

If the president of the United States shows up personally at a school, as Obama did last year for his speech at Wakefield High School in Arlington, that is different. Those students should of course should go see a man who is making history. The same goes for events of colossal national importance, like the landing on the moon.

But watching Obama on TV Tuesday can be done when students get home. Some channels will rerun it. It will be online. I think his speech would work better as an educational exercise in its written form, giving teachers a chance to have students edit it or reply to it. That will mean more writing time, essential if they are going to learn to handle words as well as Obama does.

If a teacher sees a way to weave Obama's speech into an ongoing lesson, if the class is doing a unit on rhetoric, or politics, or something that will tie the event to what they will be doing in class before or after the speech, then by all means they should watch. But we all know that most schools won't do that. This is relatively short notice. Their teachers will be focusing on other things. The president should think about that before he takes up some of their precious time.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | August 26, 2010; 4:23 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Obama speaks again on school time, a bad idea, time almost as important as teacher quality in raising achievement  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: LA Times reporters respond to my questions on school ratings
Next: America's worst colleges

Comments

"Every study I have seen of how to raise achievement for students, particularly in low-performing urban and rural schools, indicates that two factors are essential---better teachers and more time for them to teach."
=================
Actually Jay, you should check your facts and research. The prevailing research and experts in education cite home environment and more parental involvement as factors which have the greatest impact on student achievement.

I also wouldn't cite the longer school day in charter schools as a factor considering the decline in scores in KIPP schools in DC this past spring.

That being said, we educators realize the latest fad and the hottest new trend in education reform these days is blaming the teachers and unions for the failure of public education and firing us in droves. Some of us will wait this current fad out because in 5-7 years we'll realize teachers and unions really weren't the problem and we'll move on to some other new fad or trend.

Perhaps someday we'll find a way to actually hold students and parents accountable but they have been completely left out of the equation.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | August 26, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm getting worse and worse about playing the teacher card, but we also see things differently because you seem to spend most of your time in 8th grade or younger.

But as usual, you leave out the disclaimers and the qualifiers on both of your lessons on school improvment. I'll concentrate on the 2nd, more time for teaching.

Those studies have the qualifier that more business as usual time does no good. Learning without emotion and connections is not retained. That's basic cognitive science.

I always tell my students that they need to work harder, but the key is working smarter.

Secondly I tell the story of the British Navy when it was the best in the world. As their opponents would rush to battle stations, the British sailors would stop and listen to music, a hymn I believe, then get down to business.

Learning is fundamentally a social and an emotional process. I suspect, though you know more about this than I do, than even in KIPP, its not the extra work as much as the extra work being a way that the adults say "I love you" to the kids.

Presidents speech is a wonderful tool in teaching and learning.

We may see this differently because of the age of students, but this is another example of where I believe "reforms" are damaging learning. I earned my paycheck by reading people. I had to trust my subjective time clock. I wanted to slow down, not speed up instruction. I wanted to slow it down as much as the students allowed. When their body language said it was time to move on, it was time to move on.

(When theorists said that high school teachers should follow some curriculum alignment schedule, they were just saying that they knew nothing about instruction.)

When great young teachers face a problem, now they are told to battle away at it. NO!!!!! You back off, go around, and try again later. Our job is teaching human beings not complying with stupid theories that encourage "learning" that's like the Red River, a mile wide and a inch deep.

Besides, even your theorists, I assume, will let teachers have 2 or 3 days of Orientation to teach students to be students, to preview key thems and class procedures, to build relationships, and to incorporate multidiciplinary and multimedia lessons. I want my classes' Orientation to last 2 to 3 weeks.

Now that testing has worsened the Cover Your Ass mentality where everyone is on the same page and educational malpractice is thus mandated, administrators have been juicing themselves up to micromanage instruction. Our district's 2nd in command came into class during the first week and threw a fit. We were listening to, discussing, and writing about the literary features (point of view, metaphor etc) of Bruce Springsteen's American Skin.

Her words were "our kids don't have time for this."

Young teachers can't do this anymore but I went to the very top and said that if they want to restrict that lesson in a Government Class, I'd see them in Court.

Posted by: johnt4853 | August 26, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

barack hussein obama,hmmmm, hmmm, hmmmm. I hope no indoctrination this time. Parents alert your kids, I am sure he will be blaming Bush for his mess.

Posted by: mightyheidi | August 26, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I said how to RAISE achievement for students. Certainly the family situation is the most important factor on how the kid is going to do in school, but schools have very little power to change the family situations of their students in order to raise achievement. what can they do? improve the quality of teaching and find more time for learning, and as johnt4853 notes, the extra time has to be well used.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 26, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

The presidents track record on thinking things out speaks for it's self.This is just another way, for this pitiful excuse of a president, to push HIS religious convictions on the youth and possibly cause an upset in a delicate balancing of educating students with different ethnic or religious backgrounds.Mr. president is unable to sway the adults of his ideology so why not try to brain wash the youths of this country. Isn't that what Hitler did,brain wash the children so they would turn in their parents if they did not agree with him? Is Obama planning on having Obama patches made so the children with these patches can turn on those who choose not to wear them? I do believe it's time for the military to order a surgical strike on the white house,it can be rebuilt.His own party is telling him this idea of pulling the school kids away from learning,just to hear him speak, is a bad idea.Why do the Dems.not vote to have him extricated from his post on the grounds he is incompetent.His record has proven that fact beyond any doupt.Even the weak backbone V.P. has to be a better choice,he's at least an American.I said it before and now again, this president is attempting to turn black against white,religion against religion.To the black Americans please see Obama for what he truely is,a racist Muslim.

Posted by: dollar_bil2 | August 26, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

It would be nice for Mr. Mathews to give the reasons why it is necessary for a President to have televised addresses to children at the start of the school year.

We used to have Presidents that had televised addresses to Americans for some purpose.

But that was the time when Presidents were expected to spend their time with the problems of the nation.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 26, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

said how to RAISE achievement for students. Certainly the family situation is the most important factor on how the kid is going to do in school, but schools have very little power to change the family situations of their students in order to raise achievement. what can they do? improve the quality of teaching and find more time for learning, and as johnt4853 notes, the extra time has to be well used.

Posted by: Jay Mathews
..............................
Challenges clear for School 61 kindergartners

During one play period, a dispute arose between a boy and a girl about some foam blocks.

The boy, who wanted them all to himself, picked up a hardcover copy of "The Cat in the Hat" and whacked the girl with the book -- twice, on her leg.

When she refused to give in, the boy thrust a clenched fist into her face.

Then, he grabbed her by the throat. His 5-year-old hands weren't big enough to cause real injury, but they were enough to force the girl to give up the blocks.

His triumph would be short-lived.

A second boy who had been playing with the girl earlier returned and found the blocks in new hands. He took them back.

The first boy couldn't allow this. He got up in the newcomer's face just as he had the girl's.

This time, though, he had messed with the wrong kindergartner.

The second boy punched him square in the jawbone, knocking him back into a bookshelf. Stunned, the reeling lad felt his reddening cheek and then gathered himself.

With both boys on the floor, he retaliated with a two-footed kick to his challenger's chest.

Before the two adults in the classroom knew what was going on, the boys separated themselves. The girl and her knight -- in white sneakers -- got their blocks back.

Kindergarten has many lessons to offer. Some are taught by teachers. Some are taught by bullies. Some are taught by little boys who won't be pushed around.

http://www.indystar.com/article/20100824/NEWS1003/8220394/1013/NEWS04
........................
I guess the schools does not want small hard objects in the class room as using a weapon when fighting is for the later grades. The child that used a book for a weapon is advanced. I doubt scissors will be given out in this school.

Great educational system where early on disruptive and prone violence children are simply accepted in classes with normal children.

Wonderful article on how educators are so willing to accept the norms of Title 1 public poverty public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 26, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Do I feel a little guilty that I used the camapign the the Obama presidency to build engagement? Yeah. If I lived in Texas would I have used our favorite son presdency so much? no. Have I stopped calling the President by his last name, and always now use the full name President Obama? of course.

So was I bending rules a little? won't deny it. But I still presented Republican sides to every argument.

But, did President Obama inspire me to be a better teacher. no question. did he inspire better students? yes.

Should we take advantage of presidential addresses to motivate and build a team spirit? Was I wrong to take advantage of the appointment of a Latina to the Supreme Court? Should I not use Elizabeth Warren to build pride in an Oklahoman made good, or an Arab American from Oklahoma City making it big at the Washington Post?

As they are discussing over at the Answer Sheet, we have to build a community in our classroom, and that means taking time out for celebrating. We took time out the watch Mickey Mantle in the World Series when I was a kid, and losing that time didn't kill us.

Posted by: johnt4853 | August 26, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't he have better things to do, such as: 1) getting rid of Duncan; 2) repealing NCLB; reauthorizing IDEA; 3)redrafting immigration and healthcare bills; 4) creating MORE jobs; et cetera. Vacation is OVER, Mr. President. We don't ave time to listen to your speeches written by your staff writers. Students have core subjects to learn as opposed to listen to you read the teleprompter. Gee...is anyone working in the White House. Get to work!

Posted by: inickdc | August 26, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Schools welcome military recruiters in during school hours, so Obama should be welcome as well.

Posted by: fudador | August 26, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Urban Dweller,
Seriously, you surprise me. You have turned the teacher thing into a zero-sum game. You say, "Some day" parents and teachers will be held accountable--you say this in reaction to the understandable concern about what you call "teacher bashing." So, holding students accountable--whatever that means and parents accountable--whatever that means will make things right for you and other teachers? Sir, you are not competing with these children and their parents; you are serving them as the good public employee you sounded like, until the above post. I hope you have not, in effect, let your true cat out of the bag. Woe.

Posted by: axolotl | August 26, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

In Prince George's County schools will be closed on September 14th for the primary elections. Therefore, in that county at least, and probably in other Maryland counties as well, students will have to listen to the President's speech at home.

Posted by: finitor | August 26, 2010 8:30 PM | Report abuse

This reminds me of an old family legend about my great great grandfather who was a teacher in Gettysburg during the Civil War. He was very renowned for sticking to schedule, so when all the other students in the school left to hear President Lincoln speak at the dedication of the cometary he wouldn't let his class go. They had already lost too much time during the battle and that day's lesson was something that might change the lives of his students forever.

Well, slightly more than 100 years after that I was sitting in French Class one day, when the message came over the loud speaker that Kennedy had been shot. My teacher stopped the lesson so that we could hear what was going on, then I remembered the story of my Great Great Grandfather, and got up and yanked the wires to the loud speaker out of the wall, and instructed her to get back to teaching, that's what she was being paid for, and we couldn't do anything about Kennedy anyhow. Learning French Lesson was VERY important!

Posted by: david_r_fry | August 26, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

I said how to RAISE achievement for students. Certainly the family situation is the most important factor on how the kid is going to do in school, but schools have very little power to change the family situations of their students in order to raise achievement. what can they do? improve the quality of teaching and find more time for learning, and as johnt4853 notes, the extra time has to be well used.

They can't do much, especially when the media and the moneyed reformers are convincing citizens that schools and teachers are THE MOST important factors for a good education.

Maybe if we started to talk about the real problems with education, like lack of proper funding--especially since NCLB and RTTT--and why kids come to school with such different baselines of knowledge (home effect), poor health, poor nutrition, no books in the home, violent neighborhoods, and on and on.

Do you mean that "schools have very little power to change the family situations of their students in order to raise achievement" as a joke?

Do you see how your construction places the blame for poor parenting on schools' inability to alter "family situations"?

Jesus! American government has a responsibility here, and abdicating it to the billionaires seems a pretty blatant relinquishing of responsibility, that you, Jay, agree with!

Schools/students/teachers are not what ails us. Poverty, classism, billionaires and corporations that get to do what ever they want are what ails us. Teachers can't fix that. But the media could talk about it.

Posted by: tfteacher | August 26, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Oops, I forgot html won't work.

That 1st paragraph is Jay's comment from up thread a bit, and I am quoting him.

Posted by: tfteacher | August 26, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

President Obama's message is aimed at the students, telling them to work hard and to stay in school. I think he is a wonderful role model and his pro-education speech is an excellent idea.

Jay, in the schools where teachers classes are constantly interrupted the problem is not the President. The problem is the principals are making poor decisions. If they do not understand that students should not be interrupted, then I would say those schools are mismanaged.

I also do not feel the first day of school is a waste of time. The first day of school sets the tone for the whole year. My students always learn something on the first day as well as the classroom procedures and names of their classmates.

Perhaps in college it is just a day to get a syllabus, but in elementary, middle or high school most students are already working.

I do feel strongly that schools should be run without interruptions, however, the President of the United States is our leader and he is telling the kids that education is important. What could be more important than that?

Posted by: celestun100 | August 26, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

john4853

Your comments are a breath of fresh air. I too find it odd that sometimes the very lessons that reach the kids (and take more preparation time)are looked at as "fun", when in fact they show the kids how to apply education to the real world.

Posted by: celestun100 | August 26, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

Even as home environment and parental involvement are very important towards academic achievement, these are also over focused on variables and, too often, used by some schools to shift a level of accountability. In fact, there was an interesting study out west a few years ago which identified that schools in their study which didn't assume parental involvement tended to account for key student learning objectives better than those who kept waiting for parents to call back.

It is important to remember that parents and other primary caregivers are not paid staff of the school and have no mandate to follow the school's 'directions.' Parents have their responsibilities just as teachers and the school have those of their own. Many parents, and particularly lower income parents, may be unable to leave work or other responsibilities to come by the school or meet with teachers and should not be faulted as a result.

Similarly, parents who have long work days and/or may have academic and learning struggles of their own should hardly be expected to make up for classroom instructional goals and time. When homework is given, for instance, it should only be based on information that the child already has been effectively taught rather than intending for parents to help with new or less familiar material.

In fact, many parents/caregivers may rely on their school's knowledge and professionalism and not be able to more directly be involved. Under such circumstances, we want parents to be encouraging and positive with their child about the school experience and to support school success. That is a key!

It is the school's responsibility to nurture the home-school relationship rather than to assume its presence. This is the best way to have parents support their child's school efforts. And once such a positive rapport exists, hopefully that can then lead to more active involvement and direct participation for some of those same parents.

Posted by: DrLou1 | August 27, 2010 1:07 AM | Report abuse

Obama is nothing if not presumptuous in encouraging teachers to interrupt class so that he can serve up some vague, mildly encouraging blather.

Posted by: bokamba | August 27, 2010 1:15 AM | Report abuse

Well, slightly more than 100 years after that I was sitting in French Class one day, when the message came over the loud speaker that Kennedy had been shot. My teacher stopped the lesson so that we could hear what was going on, then I remembered the story of my Great Great Grandfather, and got up and yanked the wires to the loud speaker out of the wall, and instructed her to get back to teaching, that's what she was being paid for, and we couldn't do anything about Kennedy anyhow. Learning French Lesson was VERY important!

Posted by: david_r_fry
..................................
Yes and it was great to televise 9/11 to children in the primary schools.

Children do not have to be brought up to date on the news in class rooms.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 27, 2010 1:57 AM | Report abuse

President speech to public schools children.

Our policies is for safe public schools.

Our policies is for classrooms that are not controlled by the disruptive and/or prone to violence.

American students should not be in classes with those that are disruptive and/or prone to violence.

Cheers from teachers and students in public schools.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 27, 2010 2:12 AM | Report abuse

This is what happens when people who claim to have evolved from apes start running countries!

Posted by: tjmlrc | August 27, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Jay can you please cite the data that shows the negative results that occur when the US President encourages students to be successful, stay in school and mind their teachers? According to your logic we should also end all career days, field trips, guest speakers etc, because they take time away from learning.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | August 27, 2010 8:34 AM | Report abuse

You have to understand. Most (intelligent) adults now see thru obama and his empty suit rhetoric. Most of the adoration (that he needs to feed his gargantuan ego) now comes from innocent children. They don't know any better so he takes it how he can get it.
It's a shame that the mal-adjusted child grew up to be the mal-adjusted man and was put in charge of a country.

Posted by: tjmlrc | August 27, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Jay, If this speech is the biggest time waster in a particular school's academic year then I agree, don't watch it. But if a school pauses active classroom teaching for any other purpose ... a holiday or birthday party, homecoming pep rally, school play, field trip, or any other school-wide event ... then the argument that our students need the additional 30 minutes(?) that would be spent on this does not hold up.

Posted by: CapHillNow | August 27, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

For celestun100 and others---Of course the message the president will be delivering, about learning and schools, is important. But isn't this something they have heard repeatedly from all kinds of authority figures? Will it really add that much to their day to hear it from the president, and why wouldn't it have just as much merit if heard after school? I love to hear the president speak. I think he is the best speaker we have had in that office since Reagan and Kennedy. But I think he is setting a bad example. The mayor, the school board chair, the president of the local Chamber of Commerce will henceforth feel that if they interrupted school for Obama, they sure as heck should be able to interrupt school for them when they want to stop by and show how much they care for kids.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 27, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Jay,

You identified exactly what we need. We need "The mayor, the school board chair, the president of the local Chamber of Commerce will henceforth feel that if they interrupted school for Obama, they sure as heck should be able to interrupt school for them when they want to stop by and show how much they care for kids." Its called "it takes a village." Its called community schools. Malcolm Gladwell called it "six degrees of separation."

Our poor kids need a real education not the drill and kill we'd never impose on our own kids. They also need field trips, recess, art and music, and the other holistic activitities that "reformers" want to drive out of the classroom.

Cognitive science is very clear on this, as is an overwhelming body of social science.

Posted by: johnt4853 | August 27, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Any competent teacher from kindergarten through grade 12 can create a meaningful social studies or writing lesson as a response to an address by the President to America's school children.

This issue would provoke no public debate whatsoever if the president were white. It wold be seen as a basic civic function.

Posted by: baseballguy | August 27, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

If only schools were run w/o interruptions.

This is a teaching moment. I don't think anyone can say just how it will affect students, but, it certainly can't hurt. I teach in a Title I school...about 50% or more minority students and many who have a deployed parent. I don't think we can undervalue the importance of any leader speaking to these kids about the importance of education. To me, that is one thing that has been missing over the past 3 decades...The "importance" of being educated has, for too long, been a card decreasing in value for those kids who are the hardest to reach.

I don't agree with his RttT, but it is high time folks who these kids look up to tell them to study hard and stay in school. And yes...that goes for the mayor, the Chamber of Commerce person, and... athelete's, rock stars, etc.

If his RttT program you support is worthy of billions of dollars schools will receive, then a 5 or 10 minute "Education is Important" speech can certainly be squeezed into the curriculum.

If this is all we have to discuss about education, maybe we are making important strides in reform!?

Posted by: ilcn | August 27, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

This issue would provoke no public debate whatsoever if the president were white. It wold be seen as a basic civic function.

Posted by: baseballguy
..............................
Yes Americans would have been thrilled with President George W. Bush having televised addresses to public school children?

Time for the supporters of President Obama to recognize that there are many Americans that simply see Obama as a black version of Bush.

Time to stop this nonsense. There is no need for Presidents to have televised addresses to public school children. Let them be satisfied with the photo ops in a classroom and photo ops with native Americans in head dress.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 27, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

I never noticed anyone having a problem when past presidents did their address to school kids. For some reason it has become controversial now that this president is doing it. I can't understand why people get so much more bent out of shape with this president than any past ones. I know people trashed Bush, Clinton and all others for many things. But this school speech is nothing. They all do it. It's to be ignored.

Posted by: bgormley1 | August 27, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

remember last year: "borock hussein obama, hmmm hmmmm hmmmm" the chant that some obama -zombie teacher in new jersey made her students chant. Parents be on alert for this and don't let the obama zombie teachers brainwash your child.

Posted by: mightyheidi | August 27, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Remember last year: "Borock Hussein Obama, HMMMM, HMMMM, HMMMM" the chant that the obama-zombie teacher in New Jersey made her students recite. Parents be on alert that obama-zombie teachers do not brain wash your children.

Posted by: mightyheidi | August 27, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Bush did address the students during school as well. I just think it is something patriotic, like the pledge, with the added emphasis on trying hard in school.
I also agree with ilcn that for all students our President is a great role model. He is someone who overcame a lot and used education to do it.
I am not fond of Race to the Top, however, I feel that President Obama is a superb role model for ALL students.

Posted by: celestun100 | August 27, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Ever notice the Obama detractors don't know beans about real leadership?

Pandership? Yes.

Posted by: mmax | August 27, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

for 12345leavemealone, johnt4853 and others,
field trips and visiting speakers are a terrific part of schooling if woven into the lesson plan. The KIPP schools spend month preparing their kids for the end of the year one-week field lessons. They attend musical theater at night after having listened to the score, discussed the show's history and pretty much have the lyrics memorized. As I said in the piece, if a school does that sort of thing with the president's speech, weave it into classes in rhetoric or politics, have them print out and edit the speech, that would be terrific. But we all know that in 90 percent of the cases, that is not what is going to happen. They will stop the lesson, let them watch the speech, maybe have a few minutes of discussion afterwards, and that's it. And if you really believe that letting a long line of local leaders come and talk to your kids about whatever they want to talk about, with no connection to lessons, is a good use of school time, please don't run for any of those offices.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | August 27, 2010 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I strongly disagree that we all know that in 90 percent of the cases there will be no follow up instruction. Many teachers will hold discussions about what the President says and what it means to the students. Your cynicism needs to have some data to support it. Otherwise your conclusion is preconceived based on personal opinion. How many students will be motivated by the President's words to stay in school and not become drop outs? How many will see him as a role model and aspire to improve themselves academically? We don't know the answers to these questions, but using your logic we can say they are true based on personal belief and speculation.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | August 27, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I strongly disagree that we all know that in 90 percent of the cases there will be no follow up instruction. Many teachers will hold discussions about what the President says and what it means to the students. Your cynicism needs to have some data to support it. Otherwise your conclusion is preconceived based on personal opinion. How many students will be motivated by the President's words to stay in school and not become drop outs? How many will see him as a role model and aspire to improve themselves academically? We don't know the answers to these questions, but using your logic we can say they are true based on personal belief and speculation.

Our country has never had a black president, we have no idea what affect his words may or may not have on minority students who have never been able to visualize themselves as the leader of the US.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | August 27, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

The comment that 90% of classrooms watching the speech will have no follow up instruction is just insulting, Jay. As a teacher who has worked at a KIPP school, DC public, other charters, and an independent school, KIPP was the only place I had to stop my real teaching to perform dog and pony shows for visitors. I'd rather stop my class for 100 Bush or Obama speeches and have a real discussion than that any day. I don't say this to knock KIPP. It was a good school with dedicated teachers. It is just silly to think that out of all the interruptions throughout a school year, a speech by our president, even if you hate him, is a complete waste of time.

Posted by: lyj123 | August 27, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Well, I guess my amateurish attempt at irony didn't sway anybody to my point of view on this topic, so I'm going to try a more straightforward approach. I'm going to stick just to the issue at hand and try not to digress on to the issues of education reform and politics in general. Do any of you who oppose this speech during school hours really think the President and his staff haven't considered all your objections? Do you really think he would make this speech if their collective judgment was it was going to be harmful to education in this country? I say no chance. In my mind what it boils down to is whether the negative impacts to classroom instruction are offset by the motivational boost provided by the President's speech. I'd be very surprised if the President didn't analyze the issue in that way. Although all your individual objections have merit, in my judgment the motivational boost far outweighs the negative impacts, and delivering the speech outside regular school hours would not have the same effect. In fact it's sort like the equivalent of a first minute of the first round knockout in a prize fight.

Posted by: david_r_fry | August 28, 2010 1:11 AM | Report abuse

Exactly how I feel, davidrfry.

The kids that need to be motivated by his speech would probably not watch him at home later on.

The dropouts he will prevent would not necessarily turn on the tv to watch the President tell them to stay in school.

But in school they will watch and some will be saved, and others may think twice about doing something dumb, and others may teach their kids the message one day that it is good to study, etc.

Posted by: celestun100 | August 28, 2010 5:40 AM | Report abuse

Jay,

You got to the essence of much of our disagreement. If David Fry is teaching a class and doesn’t want to take time to watch the President, then he doesn’t have turn the T.V on - or since he is not amateurish he can fight it out with any dissenting student. He sounds like someone who can decide for himself on these issues, and I'd like to hear more satire from him since he had had me at first. (by the way, if teachers can't handle a presidential address and the following class discussion, how can they handle the inherently dangerous tools of standardized testing?)

If the Superintendent of D.C. doesn’t want the T.V. on, then her possible decision to micro-manage her own district is one thing. If KIPP doesn’t want trips until after testing that’s one thing. I don’t have a problem with KIPP. I haven’t anointed myself as the scourge of KIPP. But don’t micromanage teachers all over this diverse country.

When Janey was superintendent I just watched from a distance of 1500 miles and learned. I was in no danger that his minions would come to Oklahoma and impose D.C.’s reforms on us. If Gray wins, whoever is named D.C. superintendent, then I don’t have as much to fear from his followers spreading their ideology. I won’t have to worry that approaches that may or may not work in elementary or middle school or KIPP or in districts like D.C. with tons of money or whatever will be imposed on my high school class by people who know nothing about my situation. His people won’t be lobbying to get his version of the TNTP to indoctrinate our principals, and grant writers, and turnaround people or intrude in our local bargaining.

In education - as in all of the mega-issues - we’re all like the blind men touching their part of the elephant. My biggest complaint is not what Rhee or Klein are doing to their systems. My biggest complaint is that they think that their touching of the elephant is the Truth, those that disagree are “the status quo” and they want to impose their Truth on everyone.

By coincidence I’m working on this part of my book when a bipartisan coalition called MAPs was campaigning for a tax increase and a reform agenda. In our case, the voters were to decide - until NCLB was imposed. I'll continue by e-mail.

Posted by: johnt4853 | August 28, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

What's the matter with giving the president a few minutes to address the future of America every year at the beginning of the school year? I thought what he said last year was spot on and hope what he does this year is even better.

Posted by: glenglish | August 28, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Jay is wrong again.

At least he is consistent.

He tries.

Or as his teachers no doubt said many years ago, Jay is very trying.

Posted by: 809212876 | August 28, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

for johnt4853--i want to see the book.

for 809212876---that is precisely what many of them said.

Posted by: jaymathews | August 28, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to stick just to the issue at hand and try not to digress on to the issues of education reform and politics in general. Do any of you who oppose this speech during school hours really think the President and his staff haven't considered all your objections? Do you really think he would make this speech if their collective judgment was it was going to be harmful to education in this country?
Posted by: david_r_fry
.......................
Why are Americans so naive?

The previous white president did not care about education, and the current black president does not care about education.

Both of these clowns only care about reelection and that is the major concern of their staffs.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 28, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

I imagine there are school districts that prefer not to visit this issue again. It is harmful to communities, incites deeply held racist emotions, harms families and teaches children that disrespect of the President Obama or authority is OK. Shame on you!

Do a little research Jay. A good starting point for a lesson that you simply need to get:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2009/sep/08/bn08ban-la-mesa-schools-obama-speech/

Posted by: bizlearn | August 29, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Barack Obama, who cheated his way through school, should not be allowed anywhere near young people.


Posted by: Jerzy | August 29, 2010 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I imagine there are school districts that prefer not to visit this issue again. It is harmful to communities, incites deeply held racist emotions, harms families and teaches children that disrespect of the President Obama or authority is OK. Shame on you!
Posted by: bizlearn
...............................
I totally lost any respect for this President when at the end of October in 2009 this President used the return of the fallen at Dover air base as a photo op.

The photo op had to wait since most of the relatives of the fallen objected to the photo op. The coffin of the fallen that was used for the photo op was taken off the plane last for this photo op.

At this time there was strong public debate regarding sending more Americans to Afghanistan and my assumption was that this photo op was simply the first step of a President that would simply send more Americans to die in Afghanistan as a matter of political expediency for his reelection.

This President is as repulsive as his predecessor.

Posted by: bsallamack | August 29, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Children tend to perform at their best when the important adults in their lives care about them and share their expectations of success with them. It seems to me that having an annual pep talk from out nation's highest elected official would be evidence that important people care about children and their education.

Posted by: DrS1 | August 29, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

These are some of the lamest excuses I think you could've pulled together for this article. Somehow you guys think because you can write an article that it gives you some divine insight that other people don't have. The problem with you Republicans is that whatever you're doing to Obama becomes part of the norm. Don't start making excuses the next time your candidate is in office on why what was unacceptable to you with Obama is now acceptable for your candidate. Your hypocrisy shines right through your stupid baseless article.

Posted by: ATLGuy | August 29, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

So...he only does this once a year? Puh-leez! Total waste of column space.

Posted by: forgetthis | August 29, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

I think its great that the President speaks to school kids every year (even during the school day)!!

Posted by: sdposter | August 29, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Who is this Jay Mathews character?

he claims he doesn't want to go "political", then proceeds to go quite.... political.

If the President Of The United States wants to talk to the Kids Of The United States, back of for God sakes.

I hadn't much love for Dubya, but if he ever wanted to talk to kids, fine with me, too.

It's something about respect, love, guidance, leadership, and love of country young people need.

By the way, I think "Class Struggle" is an excellent name for your column. Good job on that front.

Posted by: binkynh | August 29, 2010 11:05 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack,
There's no way for you to know if Obama or Bush care about education or not unless you have ESP. I may be gullible at times, but I'm definitely not naive, at least not naive enough to think that you have ESP. My guess is that you're just a cynic. Being indiscriminately and irrationally cynical is far worse than being naive or gullible.

Posted by: david_r_fry | August 29, 2010 11:14 PM | Report abuse

barack hussein obama,hmmmm, hmmm, hmmmm. I hope no indoctrination this time. Parents alert your kids, I am sure he will be blaming Bush for his mess.

Posted by: mightyheidi |


This is a perfect example of how people use the internet blog and its anonymity to make stupid comments because the have a platform and audiance to do so. Did you say anything when other presidennts visited or spoke at schools. Bush was in a classroom on 9/11. Do you think he was trying to influence students politically? Like i said, save your stupid comments for your drinking buddies. Try to make better use of the internet.

Posted by: geo030865 | August 30, 2010 9:04 AM | Report abuse

barack hussein obama,hmmmm, hmmm, hmmmm. I hope no indoctrination this time. Parents alert your kids, I am sure he will be blaming Bush for his mess.

Posted by: mightyheidi |


This is a perfect example of how people use the internet blog and its anonymity to make stupid comments because the have a platform and audiance to do so. Did you say anything when other presidennts visited or spoke at schools. Bush was in a classroom on 9/11. Do you think he was trying to influence students politically? Like i said, save your stupid comments for your drinking buddies. Try to make better use of the internet.

Posted by: geo030865 | August 30, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

dollar_bil2

There is an easier way to express yourself bill. Just say you dont like nor trust Obamma because he is black. That way you dont have to create all of the boogyman conspiracy theories that make little since like Hitler references and scare tactics. Kind of like how the government did MLK. Remember he was a communist. Just say I hate the black man being my president because when it boils down to it thats what you mean. Thats why you try to think of the worse people to compare him to. How do you compare your president to hitler unless you have a deep seeded hatred towards him because of his race. He is not a nazi nor does he have any ties to hitler. Yet Presscott Bush, the grandfather of our last president did but I never recall white people like you havving a problem with it. I wonder what changed? The color of the presidents skin maybe?

Posted by: geo030865 | August 30, 2010 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I will be glad when Obama is no longer president so all the redneck whites can go back to acting normal. Right now you whites are behaving like its 1948. I knew Obama being elected would bring all the closet racist out. And you will retreat once he is no longer president. You have a decent man as your leader but you are soo distracted by his race that you cant appreciate it. But keep calling him Hitler, Just like when Jackie Robinson was the first black MLB player history will be kind to Obama and expose racist whites for what they were. Its a shame that future generations of whites will have to make excuses and apologies for your behavior in the same way you have to make excuses and apologies for your great grandparents regarding racism. The election of Obama was a perfect opportunity for whites to walk the walk regarding race relations being better in this country and from what I can see by what people post on these blogs white people are blowing the opportunity to show they have changed.

Posted by: geo030865 | August 30, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

There have been 43 presidents before Obama and I dont recall any of them being accused of trying to brainwash our children because they made a speach to them about staying in school. Can you be any less objective. I have to say Obama being president has shown how creative some people can be in their efforts to cast him as a monster. He makes a stay in school speach and some of you want to accuse him of indoctine? Of what? Nazism, Socialism, Blackism, Radical islam? what other crazy theory can you people come up with? Kind of like Glen Beck with he theory of Obama having deep seeded hatred towards whites while having a white mother and family. I guess he realized how stupid that really sounded since he wants to be a national political mover and shaker now. But if anyone is trying to indoctrine and brain wash these days its whites who are against him like beck. These people are actually trying to convince other whites that their country is being taken away just because he is president. Now thats brainwashing.

Posted by: geo030865 | August 30, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

There have been 43 presidents before Obama and I dont recall any of them being accused of trying to brainwash our children because they made a speach to them about staying in school. Can you be any less objective? I have to say Obama being president has shown how creative some people can be in their efforts to cast him as a monster. He makes a stay in school speach and some of you want to accuse him of indoctine? Of what? Nazism, Socialism, Blackism, Radical islam? what other crazy theory can you people come up with? Kind of like Glen Beck with the theory of Obama having deep seeded hatred towards whites while having a white mother and family. I guess he realized how stupid that really sounded since he wants to be a national political mover and shaker now. But if anyone is trying to indoctrine and brain wash these days its whites who are against him like beck. These people are actually trying to convince other whites that their country is being taken away just because he is president. Now thats brainwashing. Its also stupid, nonproductive and is about 60 years behind us. What year is this? Its 2010 and Beck wants to have a white power pep rally? Really? Do white people feel that threatened by a half african american president? Damn, he is half white and he still scares the hell out of some of you. We have a long way to go regarding race in this country if you are trying to call a half black president Hitler, Stalin and Muslim with a radical agenda with no citizenship at the same time just because of his name and color. Its just sad.

Posted by: geo030865 | August 30, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

bokamba

But if Chris Cooley or Daryl Green comes to the schools and interrups class to give a speach about staying in school you dont have a problem with it. How many times do our local sports heros or media personalities do the same thing? You people have a problem with Obama when he give a commencement speach, takes his wife out on a date, enrolls his own s in school and picks a pet dog for them. What havent some of you had a problem with Obama for doing? Wasnt bush at a school the morning of 9/11? I dont recall any of you having a problem with him being there.

Posted by: geo030865 | August 30, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

In the jurisdictions where there's a primary on September 14, schools are probably closed anyway. And maybe sending a video recording to every school in time that it could be played on opening day would be a bit more convenient. But education is, or at least should be, a national concern. How can that point be better made than by having the President spend time on it?
There's nothing magic about seat time.

Posted by: jlhare1 | August 30, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

fr david r fry:

>...then I remembered the story of my Great Great Grandfather, and got up and yanked the wires to the loud speaker out of the wall, and instructed her to get back to teaching, that's what she was being paid for, and we couldn't do anything about Kennedy anyhow. Learning French Lesson was VERY important! <

What an incredibly RUDE little boy you were. Your teacher is the instructor here, NOT you. Get a life, and grow UP.

Posted by: Alex511 | August 30, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama just wants to speak so that he try and corrupt America's youth with his leftist propaganda.

Posted by: Jsuf | August 30, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company