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.
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.