Monday, September 07, 2009


I had hoped that once W. left office I could stop being embarrassed on a regular basis by my country. My hopes have been dashed, yet again, by the radical extreme who seem to be hijacking any and all rational discourse on issues from health care reform to speeches on education to the first lady's attire. And I'm tired of it.

The furor over the president's speech to students about the value of education may just be the straw that breaks this camel's back. When I first heard that President Obama was going to talk to students directly about staying in school, I just shrugged, grateful that I didn't have to listen to it. I hate listening to speeches by anyone. I tend to tune out and daydream, no matter who is speaking.

But then the radical fringe got up in arms about the speech, wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth over the president's plan to "indoctrinate" the children into his socialist agenda.


The President of the United States is allowed to give a speech to kids extolling the virtue of education and staying in school. If W. had planned a speech, as much as I didn't like him, I wouldn't have protested or sent letters or threatened to boycott or pulled my kids out of school for the day. And yet, that's what the radical right is doing, and they're winning.

Thanks to their temper tantrums, school districts around the country, including several here in Austin, are not allowing students to watch the speech. Almost all other school districts are having to send letters or e-mails home informing parents that the speech will be shown and asking them to send in notes if they don't want their kids to watch. Parents with students in schools where the speech will be shown are saying that they will keep their kids home for the day rather than risk having them indoctrinated.

Again, what.the.f*ck?

The Austin school district sent letters home to parents saying that teachers would be showing the speech if it worked with their day's schedule and giving parents the opportunity to have their children do something else if they didn't want them to listen to the president.

Fine. I think it's stupid that the district has to do this, but fine. At least the kids are getting the chance to watch.

Except not at our school.

Word filtered through Saturday morning that the principal had sent an e-mail to all teachers after 8:00pm Friday that a group was threatening to picket in front of the school on Tuesday if the students were allowed to watch the speech. So the principal decided that the proper course of action was to not allow the speech to be shown. If teachers want to show it to their students, they will have to check a copy of the speech out from the library starting on Thursday.

Obviously the principal was trying to fly this decision under the radar, and one of the teachers at the school risked a lot by forwarding the e-mail on to parents and alerting them to the situation.

As you can imagine, the e-mails among outraged parents have been flying fast and furious all weekend. And the principal has an in-box filled with e-mails from parents protesting her decision. I sent a politely worded e-mail to the principal, copying the girls' teachers, asking for confirmation that the school will be following the district's recommendation and allowing the students to watch the speech.

I haven't heard back, which isn't surprising. The principal has a track record of trying to sneak things by the parents and of not responding when they voice their complaints.

But I'm torn about what to do with the girls tomorrow. Many of the parents will be taking their kids out of school and gathering together for watching parties at various houses. I thought the parents who were threatening to pull their kids out for the day so they wouldn't be able to watch the speech were stupid and overreacting, so am I really any different if I pull the girls out? On the other hand, I do want to make a statement, both to the principal and to the girls, that the issue is important to me - not so much the speech itself, but the censorship being imposed by the principal.

I'm furious, and I don't know what to do other than shake my fists and rail about the rampant racism and stupidity in this country, but that doesn't do anyone any good at all.

*** Update - word has come through that our principal has reconsidered her decision and will allow teachers to show the speech, but only during social studies. It turns out the letters and phone calls did make a difference.

But that still doesn't change how frustrated I am by this whole issue - both the uproar over a speech and the underhanded dealings by our principal.


Tony Cooke said...

Excellent post. Painful subject.

I'm surprised that your school is taking the approach it is taking. I am frustrated reading about it.

Fragrant Liar said...

This PISSES ME OFF to no end.

The day our country's president can't speak to our children is a sad day for all Americans.

I'm an Austinite too. It's completely crazy right now.

Becca said...

Since I home school, I really don't have a dog in this fight. However, I don't agree with the speech. I wouldn't agree with ANY president doing this, no matter what political party they represent. This - is a fairly good summation of my issues with it. I just don't think it has any place being shown in public schools.

I also think that many opponents of the speech have completely gone off their nobs. It's embarrassing to share an opinion with them.

Seamus O'Pine said...


I'm curious why you think that a speech by the freely elected leader of our country, extolling the virtues of a good education, is anything but positive?

And BTW, the President of our country doesn't represent a political party. The office supersedes that. He represents ALL of us. He's OUR president. I didn't like former President Bush's policies, but I never stopped respecting the office and the position that he held.

HOK, sorry you're having to deal with this. I never would have thought this would happen in Austin, TX.

Seamus O'Pine said...

My "favorite" so far was the red-faced igno who called the President and "Afro-Leninist." If only he could channel that creativity for the betterment of those around him.

Baino said...

Oh Heather I share your frustration. It's not my country but the US is so influential around the world . . or was. . I fear the shenanigins of these ridiculous objectors are indeed making Americans look more like censorship ridden China than the land of the free. If only these objectors could see the irony in their actions and behaviour. By censoring, they're doing exactly what the Chinese did during the Olympics such as limiting sites available via the internet and impinging the right of free speech. Ridiculous proposition and I'm very glad that the school is allowing the broadcast. You're probably at a double disadvantage living in largely republican Texas. Still, after my post on the health debate, all the American commenters were in agreement that this behaviour is minority of very squeaky wheels reacting to Obama personally . .not the president or what he has to say. They just want him gone but surely they don't want a Palin or a McCain or worse still a Bush, back in the hot spot. Remember America, you are where you are because of Republican lack of fiscal responsibility. Not because you have a black liberal (and I use the term VERY usely) president.

hokgardner said...

Becca, I read the post you linked to, and I can't say that I agree with anything the man has to say. And I'd be saying the same thing if a Republican was in office.

joanna said...

The speech is online and you can read it. Please, someone point out what is so bad? Children shouldn't have responsibility for their education? Probably too dull for my 1st grader, but nothing worth all this hysteria.

The Kretzings said...

It does seem like all this is aimed at Obama personally rather than at the idea of our President addressing schoolchildren. The fact remains that whether one voted for him or not, he IS the PRESIDENT and the speech is good non-politically-charged dialogue. When these parents pull their children from school and start to censor our President (esp for a speech such as this), it teaches our children disrespect for and fear of that Office. When their children ask why they can't hear the speech or ask what the speech is about, I wonder what these enraged parents say to them.

It's ridiculous and embarrassing for our country.

Suna Kendall said...

Yeah, Heather. I agree with the above. And I don't think I'd be a popular parent with the administration if that had happened to my kids. And I am only one school district over, too.

Glad the principal changed turned it around.

Dripping Springs isn't showing it. I just heard that on KUT.

Melanie said...

This is an excellent post. I find it absolutely ridiculous that people are saying he's going to "indoctrinate" the kids.

Shelly said...

I have so many issues with this topic I hardly know where to begin. Let's just go with this. Apparently parents must know, and agree with, every word spoken to their children; by teachers, by television programs they are watching, by friends and parents of friends, etc. I suppose they do not let their children have friends, teachers, coaches, scout leaders who belong to a different religion, political party, or ethnic group, lest those people try to indoctrinate them with their beliefs.

Here I have been trying to raise a decent, open-minded child by having continuing discourse with him about things I find important while exposing him to other viewpoints so that he will be able to make informed decisions when necessary. Obviously, I should have just locked him in the closet.

Unknown said...

seriously, I have never ever imagined people being upset that the president wanted to address student directly. it seems unamerican to protest an address from the president (but I am canadian, what do I know?)It amazes me that this is a source of conflict.

Cathy said...

great post!! i'm completely on board with you--the principal of Ethan's school didn't allow the students to watch it live--the teachers can show it to them if they want. WTF?? it's so discouraging and disheartening.

Shelly said...

I know I'm beating a dead horse but I just can't let it go. If you do not want your child to hear the speech, then that is your decision as a parent and more power to you. Surely they can do some other activity while the speech is on. But don't stop MY kid from hearing the speech. That is censorship and yes, Becca, I agree, it is un-American.

Anonymous said...

A well-thought and -written post. I'm completely with you -- a speech on education, to schoolchildren. Hello; this is divisive? This is anything other than unilaterally applauded? HowSO??

It wasn't shown here, in our district in Virginia. I didn't follow local coverage to know why, but I'm saddened by the decision.