Obama and pronoun I

By Linda Bentley | September 9, 2009

It’s not the speech it’s the ‘worshipful’ menu of activities

CCUSD – On Aug. 25, the U.S. Department of Education sent out an e-mail through crisisalerts@vipconsulting.com signed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to school principals across the nation, announcing, since it was the first day of school for many children across America, President Obama would be delivering a national address directly to students on the importance of education.

The e-mail stated, “The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning … call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”

Duncan wrote, “We encourage you to use this historic moment to help your students get focused … to join me in watching the President deliver this address on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009.

“In advance of this address, we would like to share the following resources: a menu of classroom activities for students in grades PreK-6 and for students in grades 7-12,” providing the respective links for each.”

Duncan thanked educators for doing “society’s most important work by preparing our children for work and for life. No other task is more critical to our economic future and our social progress.”

The firestorm began shortly thereafter as citizens learned of the associated “menu of activities” with Duncan citing how critical it was to our “social progress.”

Sonoran News became inundated with phone calls and e-mails from parents wanting to know if schools in the Cave Creek Unified District planned to partake in this “Obamafest,” if students were required to participate or if they should keep their kids home.

There was a menu of activities for before the speech, another for during the speech, with more suggested activities for after the speech, such as discussing student (PreK-6) responses to: “What do you think the president wants us to do? Does the speech make you want to do anything? Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us? What would you like to tell the president?”

To make it an all-day affair, there’s another section following “After the Speech” called “Extension of the Speech,” where “teachers could extend learning” by having students participate in a host of other activities, which initially included having them: “Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.”

Parents across the nation declared such activities “indoctrination,” forcing the White House to revise that section to say, “Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals.”

Even Arizona Department of Education Superintendent Tom Horne spoke out against the suggested “menu of activities” and called them “worshipful,” rather than educational.

Sonoran News first contacted CCUSD Superintendent Debbi Burdick on Wednesday, Sept. 2, asking if any schools in the district were planning to air the speech and engage in any of the “menu of activities,” stating parents wanted to know whether or not they will need to keep their children home from school on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Burdick responded by saying, “Typically, each of our schools decide the curriculum that they are to teach, if it is aligned with the standards for that grade level and the subjects they teach. I certainly hope none of our parents are keeping their students home. I am advising our principals to find out if any teachers are doing the lesson that day and if so, to send an opt-out form to the parents in that classroom.”

At around 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Burdick said, “All elementary schools have some classes that are showing the speech, grades K-5; at middle school, 6-12 social studies' classes at one school and all 8th graders at another will view the speech; at high school, 34 teachers across grades 9-12 in math, English, social studies, foreign language and fine arts will view the speech.

“Today, all schools have sent an opt-out form home hard-copy, via email; and, at the high school, it was also outdialed and put on the high school website. We have also placed it on our district website …”

Tuesday has come and gone and the President made his speech using the pronoun “I” 65 times to let kids know, “When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have enough money to send me where all those American kids went to school …”

Later in the speech Obama addresses “challenges” in kids lives “that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.”

He said, “I get it. I know what it’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.

“So I wasn’t as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and I got in more trouble than I should have. And, my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.

“But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school and follow my dreams.”

Obama went on about Obama.

As far as opting out goes, that became an interesting issue. The CCUSD website posted a letter and opt-out form pertaining to the President’s speech and associated activities.
It states, “As always, parents have the choice to have their child participate in any given school activity, such as attending a field trip or viewing a movie in support of curriculum.
If you approve of your child participating in this school activity there is no need to respond to this letter.”

However, according to parents and students we’ve spoken to, field trips and viewing movies require a permission slip.

We’ve not heard yet what sort of activities teachers selected from the menu or how many parents kept their children home from school.