If Media Reported About Presidential Speeches Historically The Way They Do Now

9/7/09 UPDATE: Here is a link to the Speech.

In light of the response to President Obama’s upcoming speech to schoolchildren about doing well in school. Schools here have been getting very angry calls from parents demanding that the speech not be shown, using words like Hitler and Nazi and brainwashed. I wondered if our media had given as much coverage to pundits and fringe groups before past presidential speeches what may have happened.

I do not want my children to watch President Kennedy’s speech about going to the Moon. He is a Democrat and therefore a Socialist, Marxist and I do not want my children exposed to his ideas.

I don’t want my kids to be brainwashed by that “anything for the rich” President Bush and why he thinks we should go to war in Iraq. He might make my son or daughter want to join the military, so I don’t want my child to watch the president’s speech and participate in the discussion afterwards.

I will take my child out of school for the day if you allow his teacher to show FDR’s “The only thing we have to fear … is fear itself .” speech. Roosevelt is a closet Communist, and I don’t want my child exposed to this propaganda.

I don’t want my kid to be forced into watching the Gettysburg Address because it’s just an attempt by Republicans to brainwash my child into believing that he should be a Republican and a greedy mega-capitalist!

I do not want my child exposed to watching that war-mongering President Reagan giving his “Tear Down This Wall” speech at the Berlin Wall.

Actually this whole uproar might lead to a messy discussion about the open discussion of ideas. Well I can hope!
Add your ideas to the above in comments if you are so inclined.

Learning is messy!

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14 Responses to If Media Reported About Presidential Speeches Historically The Way They Do Now

  1. Julie says:

    The thing is, some us do not have the same beliefs that Obama does and we are not comfortable with the direction our country is headed. We are teachers too, and educated Americans–not just fringe groups.

  2. RDOwens says:

    I think it has more to do with the original lesson plans that were distributed with an activity of having students determine what it is they can do to to help the president. Children should not be implored to help the president.

    The federal government is precluded by the Constitution from having a role in education. I do not believe ED is supposed to write curriculum and yet there it is distributing lesson plans.

    That is the objection to the speech. Of course, in my district the speech falls on the very first day of classes. This is not the kind of activity that day one lends itself too.

  3. Brian says:

    Julia and RD – None of us have had the same beliefs as any president that has ever been elected. But they are the legally elected leader of our country. When I was a kid to have the president speak to kids about doing well in school would have been treated respectfully, mostly. The mayor of the city my school is located in comes and speaks to the students every couple of years and talks about the importance of going to school and doing your best. We usually follow that up with a discussion about what the mayor said. Last year members of the local university basketball team came and gave a similar speech.

    In addition whatever the president says becomes a discussion point that should be seen as a teachable moment. Both the teacher and the students’ parents should be talking to them about the meaning of what the president says and clarifying and even disagreeing or agreeing with the message. Isn’t that the higher order thinking our students should be experiencing?

    My own high school age daughters have had social studies and history teachers that we didn’t agree with politically present material in a fashion and message that we don’t agree with. We’ve had some frank and interesting family discussions as a result. I don’t think that should be discouraged, that is what education should look like. They even watched some presidential news speeches either live or historic ones on video of presidents we would have vehemently disagreed with.

    But calling your child’s school and screaming at the teacher and principal that “You will not show my child the speech by that Nazi!!!!” (and many other totally untrue and disrespectful names and labels) is not respectful nor educationally supportive or valid in numerous ways in my opinion.

    If this is an issue, then where is the respectful discourse? Seems like we’ve degraded conversation into a yelling, name calling match, where people that disagree are instantly non-patriotic, instead of the respectful, more persuading discussion we used to have.
    Thanks for your comments
    Brian

  4. Jen says:

    I have a lot of still unanswered questions regarding the speech on Tuesday– though none have to do with the President. Though I did not vote for him, and personally, I still have yet to see him fulfill promises and pledges he has made……he is still my president. And both my citizenship and also my faith commands that I respect him, his title, and his role. I share this with you — and I would share this with anyone who ever asked me.

    I just don’t see evidence that this conversation on Tuesday — honestly, the word speech with students just irks me……..does not seem well planned out.

    And here is why.

    #1. Why the time change — and also — are not all of America’s students invited to this — because Alaska and Hawaii kids are going to have to get up very early to be a part.
    That bothers me.

    #2. Why has the curriculum been changed? Why was there a need to alter it? And could it be altered again before Tuesday? I don’t know. But honestly, if they felt what they had created was solid — there would not have been a need to change it.

    #3. Who is this speech to — and what are the goals and objectives — and Most IMPORTANTLY does the government realize that they are expecting educators to upload files to sites which are blocked — and stream events that are blocked — by many of their schools?

    And Brian — I have to call attention to your last 2 paragraphs….because honestly, that is not the case across the board but that is how the media and internet conversations are spinning it — or perhaps the ones that are getting the most attention.

    There are people willing to have quiet, respectable, educational (okay and yes personal conviction) discussions about this. People who are not knee-jerking,yelling, threatening, and such. However, those conversations — unfortunately, are not being broadcasted or noticed.

    I thank you for allowing YOUR blog to be such a safe place to do so.

    Jennifer

  5. Brian says:

    Hi Jen – I am reporting what has happened here (I have 1st hand reports from school’s here that were inundated with calls, and I have heard news stories that report the same from elsewhere), but your point about just how widespread that attitude is and the media spin is well taken. Pseudo TV and Radio News shows in search of high ratings are not doing their jobs.

    As for your numbered points … they are all probably valid or mostly valid, but that was not what my post was about. I was drawing attention to the “over the top”, … No the “way over the top” reaction that I’ve experienced and friends and family have experienced with this event and much of the political discourse of late.

    I’m not even sure if or how I will share the president’s speech with my class. We will be just entering and then leave our room to go to another activity when the speech is being shown. So I will probably video-tape it or download it from the web at my convenience, pre-view it and then show it if and when I deem it is a valuable part of our curriculum, like I would with any event. I haven’t done the math, but is it possible for the president to give a speech at a time when it is watchable live across all US time zones and not during lunch somewhere?

    As the last paragraph of my post says “Actually this whole uproar might lead to a messy discussion about the open discussion of ideas. Well I can hope!
    Add your ideas to the above in comments if you are so inclined.”

    Thanks Jen!

    Brian

  6. Jen says:

    Smiles — you are right —
    I might have taken liberty feeling safe on your blog — and also, my comments might have been also in response to the other comments.
    I do apologize for wandering from your initial post…..

    Always enjoy your conversations.
    Jen

  7. RDOwens says:

    I believe the number of “over the top” reactions is a small number that has captured a few (many?) media outlets whose revenue stream comes from creating a us-them divide.

    Nevertheless, the federal government is still precluded by the Constitution from having a role in education, irrespective of the party in power. While I have no objection to a president addressing a group of citizens, the original lesson plan was problematic. It is also, I believe, something ED is not supposed to create and distribute.

    Many school districts begin school on Tuesday. Taking an hour of an already jammed-packed day is . . . arrogant. Videotaped or not, it does not demonstrate an understanding of what is happening in public school.

    I hope this is not perceived as “over the top”.

  8. Brian says:

    RD – Your contention that, “the federal government is still precluded by the Constitution from having a role in education, irrespective of the party in power,” is more of a talking point than a fact, many still argue that point and I’m not going to even attempt to claim I have the definitive answer.

    The president is going to make a speech addressed to school students. He is not mandating, nor is anyone in government mandating that anyone watch it or follow the lesson plan … it is there for anyone that wants to use it. I can tell you I will not be doing the lesson offered. Sounds to me like any other speech a president might make except this one is about asking kids to do their best in school. If he crosses the line in the actual speech and pushes his agenda then I’ll be among those that condemn him for that. Explain to me how this is arrogant.

    Explain to me how this is showing, “a lack of understanding of what is happening in public school.” If no one has to watch the speech, or follow the lesson, how is that different than many things that have been done by every presidential administration ever? Presidential (and other) speeches have been viewed and analyzed by students for as long as schools have existed in this country. On the other hand if a teacher finds it fits well with what they are covering in their classroom and the speech provides fodder for substantive class discussion and learning about education or the constitution or presidential powers or the role of media in discourse in our country, or any number of other possible connections … I say all the power to them as long as it isn’t just a teacher or anyone else JUST pushing their views on their students.

    I don’t think you have an “over the top” opinion necessarily, however I will state that the people that say our president is a Nazi and worse without explanation or seeming understand of what a Nazi is or was, before they have even heard the speech … are way over the top. At least!

    Thanks for your part in the discussion.
    Brian

  9. RDOwens says:

    A talking point? Constitution Day is on the 17th. You would do well to read the document and pay close attention to Tenth Amendment. The enumerated powers of the federal government are clearly defined. In the Tenth Amendment, all rights not specifically delegated to the federal government are reserved for the states and the people. You’ll note education is not enumerated.

    SCOTUS ruled in San Antonio v. Rodriguez (a school funding case) that education is not a fundamental right. Fundamental rights are protected under the Constitution. This was after SCOTUS found privacy (not specifically enumerated in the Constitution either) to be implied, and therefore protected.

    Paragraph 2:
    That isn’t arrogant. Of course, I never stated that was. You have erected a strawman. The arrogance I suggested the president has has to do with taking an hour of the first day of school.

    Paragraph 3:
    Scheduling a speech to a constituency that is previously occupied with what is one of the more prominent days of the school year demonstrates the president isn’t in tune. On the east coast, many (most?) school districts begin the school year after Labor Day. Traditionally, it is the Wednesday after Labor Day. Given the lateness of the holiday this year, it is Tuesday . . . at noon, lunch time for many.

    Paragraph 4:
    And people said a previous president was the devil. What’s the point? That there are some folks who argue at the extremes?

    The president is going to deliver a speech Tuesday. I don’t expect him to say anything inappropriate. I suspect most folks do not think he will. The problem is that the original lesson plan distributed by the federal government was inappropriate for many people, not just the ones who call him a Nazi.

  10. Brian says:

    RD

    Regardless of what you state this is still a very contentious point as are many things decided by SCOTUS like abortion even though there is a SCOTUS ruling on the books. Whether you support abortion or not it is not a a right everyone agrees on.

    “Paragraph 3″ OK, I would argue that many, many schools are on a different schedule now, but I think the idea was to be a pep talk at the beginning of the year by the president. I don’t believe that the timing could ever be worked out to watch it live by even half the country, but this is the technological age. He is giving the speech then, I think it would be fairly easy to see it at any time, even weeks later, should schools that started in June (we have some in my school district) be mad because he didn’t time it to their schedule? That said OK, maybe he could have done it next week, and again technologically speaking anyone can, it isn’t a speech you have to see when he gives it, so no REAL issue, it’s available on Tuesday if it works for you, later if it works for you then, never if you’re not interested.

    “Paragraph 4″ My point was that people were calling a school and yelling that the president is a Nazi and worse into the phone without a discussion or being told their child would be forced to watch anything. This is different, sorry but it is.

    Last point you made: No one is arguing that, or at least no one I know.
    Thanks again.
    Brian

  11. Wesley Fryer says:

    Brian: You have done a great job here respectfully and thoughtfully responding.

    I agree with your main point that the over-the-top responses to this speech by some in our communities are ridiculous. They point to how much adults as well as young people need to learn about civil discourse and how to disagree appropriately.

    As to the point about the federal goverment having no legitimate role in education, I am wondering if RDOwens has worked in the past to repeal NCLB, Title I, IDEA, and every other piece of federal legislation that addresses education?

    I think the bottom line to many parent complaints about the speech are that they do not like President Obama, not that his staff wrote a lesson plan that asked students to help him.

    The speech text is out and he is not going to say anything which could be construed as controversial. Why, however, should the President be precluded from asking students to do their part in helping change our nation into a better country? Every leader needs the support of citizens, young and old, to effect change.

    As I wrote on my own post you referenced, I am saddened by the amout of hate we see in political discourse today. We need to speak out, we need to be informed, but we do not need to hate. We need more encouragement to listen to each other and understand each other. I wish more students could use social media tools like blogs in schools to engage in conversations like this. We all benefit when we are challenged to think in a different way by someone who holds views different than ours.

  12. i agree with what ‘RDOwens’ says

  13. Kgoz says:

    I have asked students who watched the speech and received a wide range of responses; however the overlying theme of the responses has circled around the topic of history. I had one student tell me that he, “Kinda zoned out man, but hey I can tell my kids one day that I heard the guy.” Another told me, “It was basically what we hear from our teachers and parents, but it was cool to hear it from the President.” It seemed to me that after speaking to these students, they were not focused so much on the political verbiage, or taking political sides. They just thought it was cool that the president was taking an interest in them.

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