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Sound students hear Obama?

Courier editorial

POSTED: September 7, 2009 12:35 p.m.
Perhaps you’ve heard about President Barack Obama’s planned speech to the nation’s schoolchildren on Tuesday. If so, you probably also heard that it has created controversy, which comes as no surprise.
After all, we seem increasingly to be not only a nation polarized by politics, but also a society in which too many people are apparently unwilling to listen to anything they don’t want to hear. And no matter how you boil it down or dress it up, it’s hard not to look at this controversy and think it’s about anything other than that.
In case you have no idea what we are talking about:
In short, the president claims he wants to urge kids to study hard and do well in school — and it is worth noting that the first President Bush did something similar in 1991. As did President Ronald Reagan before him.
Yet those who don’t like President Obama or his politics point to a lesson plan released by the White House in which students may write letters explaining how they can help the president achieve his goals.  
To some on the right, this smacks of an attempt to brainwash children into little socialists. Or it’s political speech they don’t want their children to have to hear — even though no one has actually seen the speech yet.
Those who speak for the White House say the lesson plan was “inartfully” worded, but promise there is no plan to try and turn America’s school kids into marxists. The White House also says the text of the speech will be released Monday, so parents can decide for themselves whether it’s a message they want their children to hear.
It is a moot point in Liberty County, where the board of education decided earlier to make Tuesday one of the state suggested furlough days for faculty. So there will be no classes here.
And in Bryan County students also won’t get the chance to watch the president’s message, at least not in classrooms Tuesday.  
Instead, Bryan County Schools interim Superintendent John Oliver said he and the school system’s curriculum committee will watch a tape of the program before deciding whether it’s appropriate viewing for students.
That is an understandable decision under the circumstances. For one thing, Oliver noted, the system doesn’t have the capability to broadcast the live speech — which will be carried by CSPAN — to every student in the county.
But equally important, Oliver noted that confusion over the president’s message and the outcry it has provoked has made the issue a distraction from the mission of the schools, educating our children. What’s more, we believe that our schools have no business being at the center of an ideological shouting match, even if so far it seems one side is doing all the shouting. Better to let things simmer down and calmer heads prevail.
Of course, our kids don’t live in a vacuum, and those old enough to understand what is going on will be old enough to form their own opinions — about the president and about the reasons some don’t want him speaking to them. In the meantime, we expect President Obama’s Tuesday speech to be one of the most watched in history.
Controversy has a way of drawing crowds.
 

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