Thursday, September 03, 2009

To watch, or not to watch?

I'm about to get a little deep and political, y'all. Hold on to your seats.

(I happen to be very opinionated, politically speaking, but I'm also Southern, and I was taught that politics and religion don't come up in polite conversation. While there are some exceptions, I think our present atmosphere has become quite unhealthy.)

As some of you may have heard, President Obama will be addressing the nation's schoolchildren next week.

Now, I know some folks are going all "brainwashing" and freaking out. I know parents in the district just north of mine, who are sending their kids to school on Tuesday with a note that they are to go into the hallway during the broadcast and "pray for our country."

Fine. Whatever. Our country and the people in it need lots of prayer. I'm all for prayer, and for your rights as an American citizen, and free speech, and all that.

But, I'm also all for not over-reacting. And I'm all for getting the facts before making a decision. And I'm all for letting times when your kids are exposed to things that are outside of their "norm" being used as talking points and teachable moments, so you can explain why your family believes what they do and so forth.

So, I went to the White House website. The address is (supposed) to be about setting goals, and taking responsibility for your actions. I was a little put off by the language of some of the elementary age discussion questions, like "What is President Obama asking me to do?" But I don't see how that's much different than Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country speech."

(And let me just interject here, one of the things that concerns me is that our children are being raised to ask what the country can do for them, to keep them in new cars and Reeboks.)

(I'll get off that soapbox now.)

And then tonight I was talking to the school superintendent, and I asked him as a mom (not as a reporter) if the children would be watching on Tuesday.

He asked the school board members, and most said that if a teacher wanted to show the broadcast, it was fine, but that they didn't think watching should be mandatory.

(Actually, one board member said to let those who wanted to watch do so on a tiny little screen in the hallway, to make it as hard as possible. But that's just him. It's his personality.)

The superintendent said he was leaving it up to the teachers. I told him that I didn't really care one way or the other, but I wanted to be prepared to discuss it with Anna Marie if she did watch it.

Did you hear that? I'm a conservative, and the President wants to talk to my kid, without me there. And I don't care.

Don't get me wrong - I do care, very much, about the information that she gets. But I also do care that in all this debate about healthcare, and stimulus, and cash-for-clunkers, that something is being lost. We've lost a healthy respect for the office of the President, and I think that's eventually going to trickle down to a loss of respect for all authority.

Or maybe it already has, and that's part of our problem.

I didn't vote for him. I don't like some of his policies. I don't like the suggested discussion question that says "Why is it important to listen to our officials, and why is what they say important?" Mainly because I think that not everything they say is important - and I know enough elected officials personally to say that.

Heck, believe it or not, even everything I say isn't important. All the time.

I don't like extremism of any sort, whether it's the type that causes a country to spend $1.6 trillion more than it's bringing in during one year alone, or the kind that causes people to interrupt public gatherings with fake birth certificates and be completely disrespectful of the other opinion.

And I don't like the extremism that makes people not let their kids watch the President talk to them about reaching their goals. Because as much as some are crying "brainwashing," I have enough faith in my child, and in our ability as parents with God's help, to help her work through whatever she is being taught.

I know that as she gets older, I'm going to have to do that anyway - in science class, on the playground, and yes, even at church.

I wish that we, as parents, could be part of the solution, not part of the problem - and I wish we could set a better example for our kids.


doodlebugmom said...

Very well said. There is such a lack of respect, not just of authority, but of each other in this country.

I have not read the transcript, but I think if the Obama wants to tell kids to stay in school and be responsible...more power too him! (Not like he will sway their votes, since they don't vote anyway)
George Bush Sr addressed school kids when he was in office, his message was "don't do drugs." I suppose the Democrats got their noses out of joint then.

I think this is a scary time, such extremes and name calling, wonder what will come :(

Melissa said...

Linda, I was in 8th grade in 1991 when the first Bush did that address. We watched, and one of the news stations came down from Memphis to film us watching. I remember what an honor it was to have the President address us.

Sad how things have changed.

Rachel said...

This is the e-mail sent by my principal today:

"Per Dr. L*noue, President Obama’s webcast on Tuesday May NOT be viewed in Elementary School. Since the program can be seen at night, parents with elementary age children should be the first to discuss the program with their children. In addition, showing the program for parents and their children may be a good parent-student program sponsored by the PTO/PTA."

I wouldn't have shown it to my students anyway.

Melissa said...

I told our school board members last night that I couldn't imagine the teachers in the elementary school taking time out of their already-packed instructional day to show it. They said it would probably better serve older students in government or history classes.