September 4, 2009
Local parents 'appalled' at planned Obama speech to students
Many see political motives behind "Classroom Actvities"

GOFFSTOWN - A suggested lesson plan that calls on school kids to write letters to themselves about what they can do to help President Barack Obama is outraging many Goffstown parents and troubling many education experts who say it establishes the president as a "superintendent in chief" and is aimed at brainwashing children to support him politically. 

Obama will deliver a national address directly to students at 1:00 PM on Tuesday, which will be the first day of classes for many children across the country.  The address, to be broadcast live on the White House's Web site, was announced in a letter sent directly to school principals last week by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. 

In advance of the address, the Department of Education (DoE) has offered teachers "classroom activities" to coincide with Obama's message (see Obama's "Menu of Classroom Activities - PreK-6" and "Menu of Classroom Activities - Grades 7-12").

Students in grades pre-K-6, for example, are encouraged to "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals."  Teachers are also given guidance to tell students to "build background knowledge about the president of the United States by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama."

For grades 7-12, the DoE suggests teachers prepare by excerpting quotes from Obama's speeches on education for their students to contemplate - and ask as questions such as "Why does President Obama want to speak with us today?  How will he inspire us?  How will he challenge us?"

Activities suggested for after the speech include asking students "what resonated with you from President Obama's speech? What lines/phrase do you remember?"

Goffstown Parents Upset

Many parents in Goffstown say the lesson plans and the president's calls for a "supportive community" are troubling on many levels.

"Overall, I don't think there's a problem if the president tells kids to work hard, study hard and things like that.  But there are some troubling hints in this, both educationally and politically," said one parent. "It promotes the notion that students who don't support Obama or his educational policies will start the school year 'behind the eight ball,' or academically trailing their peers."

Roger Sheehy, who has two sons attending Goffstown High School, said, "I've read Obama's "Menus of Classroom Activities" for Pre-K and 7-12 and am appalled that this type of political indoctrination is being shoved down the throats of our children.  We have enough problems with our school systems, and as a parent that supports the family being involved in the education of our children and supports public education, I find this a deplorable action of our President and his political agenda.  I would rather he spend his time and my dollars educating parents in their roll in the education of their children."

Another parent of a Mountain View Middle School student said, "I don't think it's appropriate for teachers to ask students to help promote the president's preferred school reforms and policies.  It just helps the president set himself up as a "superintendent in chief of schools."

Allard Announces Plans

In an email to one concerned parent, Keith Allard, chairman of the Goffstown School Board, announced that Obama's address "will not be shown in the elementary schools - this is primarily because it really won’t be as effective.  Elementary schools may choose to tape this so that they may show it at a later time if it is deemed to be appropriate."

As for Mountain View Middle School, Allard wrote, "MVMS will plan to tape (download) the viewing, for possible later showing. This will allow us to better determine the appropriateness of the address and the right audience that we may wish to show the address."

According to Allard, Goffstown High School will be allowed to have flexibility on which classes show Obama's speech, based on the content of the course and the linking of the curriculum.  Allard said that parents will have the opportunity to contact teachers if they don't wish their child to participate. The teachers/administration will also develop alternative plans for those students. 

As of September 3rd, Allard said, no teachers at the high school had indicated their intention to incorporate the president's speech into their class activities.



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