President Obama will tell students the importance of education but some of them won’t hear him

President Obama will talk to students this week in a "stay-in-school and study" speech. Why is this controversial? (AJC file)

President Obama will talk to students this week in a "stay-in-school and study" speech. Why is this controversial? (AJC file)

I said this last year and I will say it this year: It is a sad commentary on political incivility when schools feel compelled to allow students to opt out of watching a back-to-school speech by a U.S. president.

But it is happening in local schools systems, including Gwinnett, which sent this note home to parents at some schools.

Dear Parent(s) or Guardian(s):

We will air President Obama’s third annual national address directly to students on Monday, October 3, 2011, at 9:30 a.m. President Obama’s speech coincides with the beginning of school for many districts across the nation. His actual speech will be delivered on Wednesday, September 28, 2011, at 1:30 p.m.

If you do not want your child to view the address, please complete the bottom portion of this letter and return it to your child’s homeroom teacher no later than Friday, September 30, 2011. Those students who will not view the broadcast at their parents’ request will report to the gymnasium with an appropriate book, magazine, or newspaper after reporting to homeroom. Please feel free to contact me if you have additional questions or concerns.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

86 comments Add your comment

The Phantom

September 27th, 2011
6:00 pm

Politics aside, is it really the best use of time for the children to watch a boring televised speech or loaf around in the gym?

Based upon the graduation rates, test scores, SAT scores, etc, our kids need all the time they can get in the classroom learning from their teachers.

College Professor

September 27th, 2011
6:12 pm

Many of the students who attend the President’s address won’t hear him either. They will be staring into their cell phones or absorbed with some hand held electronic device.

RustyHinges

September 27th, 2011
6:13 pm

@Maureen – I’ll file this away to see if you (and the Gwinnett School System) have the same response at this time next year with a Republican president in office.

RustyHinges

September 27th, 2011
6:16 pm

Plus…90% of students from middle school on up could give a sh*t about listening to what any president has to say. Just extra time for them to goof off.

@ Rusty

September 27th, 2011
6:43 pm

I would venture to say that 90% of middle schools students “give a sh*t” about 75% of the things we teach them, but we still expose them to it.

Former SPARK parent

September 27th, 2011
6:46 pm

I think it’s a great idea to expose the kids to a one-term wonder whose unwavering support of teacher unions and cynical abandonment of high-upside charter schools in Washington, DC (WHERE HE LIVES) makes him an actual enemy of educational progress rather than the champion he purports to be. On second thought, maybe not.

Eric

September 27th, 2011
6:58 pm

Very sad to see this happening. Thanks for posting, Maureen.

Logic

September 27th, 2011
7:17 pm

The president of the USA has been doing this for years. All the way back to Kennedy, Now it’s a problem. I guess it’s true racism is a learned behavior. If one’s skin makes him more or less of a man then how is it your vital organs operate the same as those who are of a different skin color. One thing i have notice is Southern Republicans are insecure, narrow minded people who are fearful of those who apply logic in life. These are the very people who praise god and claim christianity.

APS 4th grade teacher & a Proud Cheater!

September 27th, 2011
7:26 pm

Obama is merely Grand Standing! Please allow me to repeat my comments from the other day:

President Obama would not send his daughters to a school where they teach to the test every day, dwelling only on subject matter that will be tested at the end of the year . In fact, the school where the first daughters attend does not give letter grades ( “Letter grades are an imprecise metric and do little to reflect a student’s progress.”)

I voted for Obama, but he has proven to be like so many politicians, a true demagogue: pandering to the gut-level feelings of a mislead electorate in hopes of winning their blind allegiance.

The Obama’s want their children on tract to attend Harvard and Princeton (where they attended) and would never subject their darling daughters to mind numbing, systemic reform (ghetto) instructional practices. The Obama children must be in classroom environments where high level thinking is encouraged amidst a well rounded, interwoven curriculum.

The President is absolutely aware of the third class education so many of America’s youth are receiving as a result of NCLB, and he fully knows that his “criteria for a waiver” will offer no substantive relief. Obama is merely grand standing on the backs of innocent children.

Thank you very much,

Fighting in the Trenches

Curious

September 27th, 2011
7:36 pm

Has this been a practice of previous President’s or did this begin with Obama? If it was practiced prior to Obama, did the Gwinnett School District send letters home to parents?

TaxWatch

September 27th, 2011
7:40 pm

As much as I detested some of our republican presidents for their non support of public education policies, students were never pulled away from their studies to hear a back to school welcome. If so many of our youngsters need to read more often, give them a printed version of the speech to read at their leisure.

Obama is politicking, plain and simple.

ricardus

September 27th, 2011
7:45 pm

Obama has no credability, so why should anyone listen to that great liar! I think children should not be allowed to listen to him…or see him.

Smith parent

September 27th, 2011
7:53 pm

I didn’t agree Jimmy Carter on everything, but he was a man of principle. One of his first chores upon arriving in Washington was to enroll his daughter in public school. We knew Mr. Carter truly valued the role of public education. No interrupting classes for speeches, just genuinely supportive.

Not words, but action!

Concerned DeKalb Mom

September 27th, 2011
7:57 pm

I don’t care who is Commander-in-Chief, radical leftist or psych-conservative right-winger…if he/she is making a speech to the children about staying in school, the kids should watch and listen. Plain and simple.

Not a shocking reaction from folks in a state where a Congressman chose to stay in his office and twitter rather than attend the President’s speech during a called joint session of Congress.

You said it, Maureen…incivility. And the children are watching. And don’t think they aren’t learning.

Jennifer

September 27th, 2011
8:01 pm

No parent letters ever went out in Gwinnett prior to President Obama’s tenure. Not a one – I have been in this county for 14 years with two children in public school and never got one letter.

God knows a board member or Superintendent Wilbanks should be able to produce a letter if it ever has been done prior to the current President. These folks have all been around for about half a century.

DeKalb Teacher

September 27th, 2011
8:04 pm

Obama supports charter schools. He knows how badly underfunded our public schools are and that charter schools will mean even less resources. I say let him speak to the charter children.

Obama is an opportunist!

Rabunite

September 27th, 2011
8:08 pm

yea Decatur, like the civility shown by the left? How about the calling of people who disagree with you, “sons a bit$3es, and hate filled racists”. You mean that type of civility?
Go away child. You are so indoctrinated by the leftist fools, you can’t even see that both sides are really ugly to each other.

Eddie G

September 27th, 2011
8:12 pm

Jimmy Carter??? A man of principle??? The only reason that Jimmy Carter is no longer considered the worst president of all time is due to the current resident of the White House. Jimmy Carter is an old windbag. If you could buy him for what’s he worth, and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth, you could make a fortune.

Judy

September 27th, 2011
8:28 pm

Obama doesn’t really care about poor people, kids included. The man’s a brand of politician that will do whatever it takes to get re-elected. He could easily dedicate one of his Saturday radio speeches to children and ask that school districts inform their students of the date and time.

Maureen Downey

September 27th, 2011
8:34 pm

@Rusty,President Bush senior spoke to students, and no one complained. I checked our AJC archives to be sure, and we didn’t say a word against the speech on the editorial pages or anywhere else. It was a non issue.
Here is some background on presidents speaking to students:
http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/sep/03/arne-duncan/barack-obama-not-first-president-address-school-ch/

Great Idea!

September 27th, 2011
8:38 pm

Let’s bring back Bill Clinton to give the kids a lecture on abstinence.

Beth

September 27th, 2011
8:41 pm

Another example of government supported racism. The President is the President and children should be taught that they have to listen to what the leaders have to say – not the fool commentators. Then they make up their own minds after listening to the leaders. If more adults did that we’d all be better off.

Held Harmless

September 27th, 2011
8:44 pm

Nobody paid attention to Bush, he was not a coherent speaker….pretty much a moron.

Streetracer

September 27th, 2011
8:47 pm

Beth @ 8:41 – Is it racism for voting age students to decide what they want to listen to? Remember a lot of high school seniors are old enough to vote. Do you believe that those deemed responsible enough to vote have to be told who to listen to? If so, you have a very warped sense of reality.

The Deal

September 27th, 2011
8:54 pm

Wait until the President has an (R) after his name instead of a (D). Any letter that is sent home then will be branded Un-American and potential terrorist activity.

Ed

September 27th, 2011
8:56 pm

“is it really the best use of time for the children to watch a boring . . . speech or loaf around in the gym?”

Sounds like a good argument agianst football pep rallies to me

Atlanta mom

September 27th, 2011
8:58 pm

This is a nonissue. For a student to opt out he/she must
1. Bring the permission slip home.
2. Give permission slip to parent.
3. Parent must sign permission slip.
4. Student must bring permission slip back to school.
5. Student must turn in permission slip.
Does anyone want to guess how many children can follow all five steps especially if the student doesn’t really care?
I can’t tell you all the permission slips that never made it to step 5, even when my kids wanted to participate.

Teacher Reader

September 27th, 2011
9:11 pm

I think that when any politician address school children that parents have a right to opt out. I would prefer to watch it with my child and discuss what is being said rather than have a teacher with their own agenda and view point discuss it with my child. Our children are being indoctrinated more and more in our schools that what may seem like a simple speech could really be more. I agree with another poster, that many would not feel negatively about parents have a right to choose if it were a republican.

Great Idea!

September 27th, 2011
9:16 pm

I don’t want to be accused of being partisan. Since I mentioned Bill Clinton -

f Sarah Palin get elected she can give a lecture on abstinence too.

Jack

September 27th, 2011
9:18 pm

Being an insecure, narrow minded, southern Republican, I won’t require my kids to watch Obama’s speech: they’ve got better things to do. And so do I.

Teacher Reader

September 27th, 2011
9:22 pm

@ Streetracer, our children aren’t taught US history. They don’t understand the Framework of our country. They don’t understand the Bill of Rights, the American Revolution, the Civil War, Republicans/Democrats throughout history-something most adults don’t understand-, important people such as George Washington, Fredrick Douglas, and so on. So our children really can’t form an opinion to vote, because you should have knowledge and an understanding to cast a vote. Voting is taken too lightly here, we are very fortunate to have the privilege to vote, and yet we do not teach our own history, so that our citizens are able to cast informed decisions.

Oooops There It Is

September 27th, 2011
9:37 pm

@The Phantom September 27th, 2011 6:00 pm

Students had to listen to that country redneck hick “George W. Bush” why not Barack Obama.
At least they will be able to understand his speech and not a lot of hillybilly bullsh*t!!

Oooops There It Is

September 27th, 2011
9:40 pm

@Jack September 27th, 2011 9:18 pm

I think you meant “Being an insecure, narrow minded, redneck, racist, southern, tobacco spitting Republican”.

Oooops There It Is

September 27th, 2011
9:43 pm

@Held Harmless September 27th, 2011 8:44 pm

TELL THE TRUTH AND SHAME THE DEVIL.

Gwinnett Shame On You

September 27th, 2011
9:47 pm

When I was in school we had no choice but to do what we were told to do out of respect for authority and especially our president who was a white man we did not agree with. But we had enough class and respect to listen to what he had to say.

The Phantom

September 27th, 2011
9:51 pm

Maureen, Bookman would be proud of you for this blog entry: It went political by the third post, and claims of racism in the eighth. Awesome.

Maureen Downey

September 27th, 2011
9:55 pm

@Phantom, Anything to make my pal Jay happy, although he has enough political and, at times, crazed commentary on his blog to keep him busy.
Maureen

The Phantom

September 27th, 2011
9:55 pm

@ Ed, I’ll agree with you about the pep rallies & wasted learning time. However, the pep rally may be something the children are halfway interested in. I don’t think you would get the same buy-in from the students to watch a politician speak (be it Obama, Bush the Elder, Bush the Junior, Clinton, etc).

Who Are You Fooling?

September 27th, 2011
9:56 pm

@The Phantom September 27th, 2011 9:51 pm

Give us a break. It was racism from the first post (”Politics aside, is it really the best use of time for the children to watch a boring televised speech or loaf around in the gym?”)

The Phantom

September 27th, 2011
10:03 pm

@ Oops,

“Students had to listen to that country redneck hick “George W. Bush” why not Barack Obama.
At least they will be able to understand his speech and not a lot of hillybilly bullsh*t!!”

So to paraphrase you:
white = country redneck hick
Texas drawl = hillbilly bullsh*t

Tell me, which president’s supporters are racist again?

‘Night, folks.

Whose Fooling Who

September 27th, 2011
10:06 pm

@The Phantom September 27th, 2011 9:51 pm

Give us a break. It was racism from the first post (”Politics aside, is it really the best use of time for the children to watch a boring televised speech or loaf around in the gym?”)

The Phantom

September 27th, 2011
10:09 pm

Give us a break. It was racism from the first post (”Politics aside, is it really the best use of time for the children to watch a boring televised speech or loaf around in the gym?”)

How could this possible be construed as racist? Seriously, what bizarro world do you inhabit?

Jakori

September 27th, 2011
10:58 pm

The parents who’ll sign the opt out note will be the same ones who wouldn’t let their kids watch Teletubbies because they heard Tinky Winky was gay.

tom teal

September 27th, 2011
11:05 pm

I fear not only for the state, but the country as well. How sad that the State of Georgia is, at least in part, represented by people whose thought processes contain only vitriol and hate. Don’t make your State symbol the baseball bat.

bootney farnsworth

September 27th, 2011
11:23 pm

despite the fact I disagree with almost everything Obama stands for, objecting to students listening to POTUS – any POTUS – is somewhere
between stupid and idiotic.

my only concern is he will -as usual- have nothing worthwhile to say

Dawg '88

September 27th, 2011
11:30 pm

Perhaps some parents don’t want their children to take advice from someone who sells his soul to the highest bidder just to get elected. Perhaps they don’t want their children to be subjected to someone who supports immoral lifestyle choices. Perhaps they don’t want their children to be indoctrinated with a person who is the face of the Culture of Death.

So in the end maybe just maybe they don’t want their children to listen to a man who (if he had his choice) would support their dismemberment in the womb. Thats abortion folks and I wouldn’t want my child to listen to someone who would rather have them never exist in the first place because he believes that a baby is “a mistake”. This isn’t about race or politics…its about life and anyone who “chooses” to keep the murder of the innocent legal…is not anyone who we should take advice from…if my children can’t pray at school then I can choose to opt out of his useless diatribe which only to score points for his reelection anyway. You see…he wants the keep “the right to choose” death legal…well then I can be sure to “choose” to keep my child from listening to him!

Dawg '88

September 27th, 2011
11:33 pm

BTW…President Bush was Pro-Life and is a man of moral character…the day that is said about Obama will be when the cows come home.

hello.life

September 28th, 2011
12:03 am

^LOL When did this turn into an abortion issue? I personally think you should let your children hear both sides of the story. They are going to most likely agree with you anyhow. But, how your children are raised has nothing to do with me so just carry on. Btw ALL candidates sell out, okay more like rent out, their souls. It gets them votes. Indoctrinate? Umm… He is just stressing the importance of education. If he was talking about his running platform, by all means cover your kids ears.

ryan

September 28th, 2011
1:20 am

I do not recall seeing Presidents Reagan or Bush addressing students when I was in school

Agree with the sentiment that Maureen Downey would not be so concerned about “losing the message” if a GOP President gave it.

This paper is so liberal even since Ms Tucker departed

Gwinnnettian

September 28th, 2011
4:36 am

This is the same Gwinnett that banned employees at the county office from displaying Obama bumperstickers back in 08.