COLUMBIA — Although President Barack Obama's planned speech to students has drawn controversy, Brenda Blankenship plans to show a recording to her students on Wednesday.
"I'm really excited that President Obama is reaching out to students to let them know that education is important to their future," said Blankenship, social studies department chairwoman at West Junior High School.
Obama plans to speak directly to students Tuesday about the need to work hard and stay in school. His address will be sent out on the White House Web site and on C-SPAN at 11 a.m., a time when classrooms across the country will be able to tune in.
Conservatives across the nation are criticizing the speech, saying Obama is using it to promote a political agenda.
At first, technological issues prevented Columbia Public Schools from making the speech available to all teachers in the district.
That is now possible, however, after the White House announced Thursday morning that the speech would also be broadcast on C-SPAN, a public affairs television channel, in addition to the White House Web site.
Teachers will be able to access the speech, live, "through a network connection that teachers can access," said Michelle Baumstark, the school-community programs coordinator. "It's like watching TV on your computer."
A message regarding the speech has been sent out to building principals and curriculum coordinators from the district. It is up to building principals to speak with their staff regarding the speech and the procedure to notify parents, Baumstark said.
"We have received a number of phone calls from parents who have had questions or concerns about the presidential speech," Baumstark said. Teachers are required to notify parents if they plan to show the speech in class. Viewing the speech is not mandatory.
Blankenship said she plans to e-mail the parents of her students regarding her decision to show the speech in class. She said any parents who do not have e-mail will be informed via letter.
Rock Bridge High School Principal Kathy Ritter said she e-mailed all teachers Thursday morning asking whether they planned to show the speech in class.
With the speech, Obama plans to “challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning,” according to a letter sent to principals across the nation from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The White House plans to make a transcript of the speech available online hours before it is broadcast so parents can have a chance to look it over.
In 1991, President George H.W. Bush made a similar speech to students and received comparable complaints from liberals.
"It's simply a plea to students to really take their learning seriously," Heather Higginbottom, White House deputy policy director, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
C-SPAN will also make the speech accessible live to viewers online and on C-SPAN Radio.
The speech is expected to last 15 to 20 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Classroom activity suggestions for teachers can be accessed online as well. The department is sponsoring a nationwide “I Am What I Learn” video contest to promote the importance of education.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.