Columbia Public Schools to make Obama speech available

Friday, September 4, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

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.

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James Twomey September 4, 2009 | 11:44 a.m.

The honor of being addressed by the leader of the free world and the freely elected President of our Democracy is a wonderful and historic event. Why would anyone want to deprive their child of that experience? In fact not allowing our children to listen to the President when he wants to address them seems to be an act that could only be called ignorant and silly.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 4, 2009 | 11:57 a.m.

James, I haven't had a chance to investigate the claims as I'm heads-down on some work this week, but some of the earlier proposed classroom materials seemed a bit sketchy to me. Based on the descriptions of some of the questions for kids to ponder, I don't blame some parents for being a little suspicious. I say let Obama speak and let the local educators, not government bureaucrats, lead any discussions in their classroom.

As an aside, the USA is not a democracy, but a constitutional republic. Small pet peeve of mine.

(Report Comment)
Lori September 4, 2009 | 12:45 p.m.

John says, "...let Obama speak and let the local educators, not government bureaucrats, lead any discussions in their classroom." I say, "Why not let PARENTS lead these discussions?" Politics and religion need to be left out of the classrooms. Many teachers are not able to separate the facts that they teach from their personal beliefs! President Obama will probably not say anything harmful to our children. However, it is not a teacher's job to interpret (or spin) anything that the President says. If the President wants to address the nation's children on educational issues, he should do so during prime time viewing hours when children can watch with their parents!!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 4, 2009 | 1:54 p.m.

("The Washington Times:

President Obama’s plan to inspire the nation’s schoolchildren with a video address next week erupted into controversy Wednesday, forcing the White House to pull out its eraser and rewrite a government recommendation that teachers nationwide assign students a paper on how to “help the president.”

Presidential aides acknowledged the White House helped the U.S. Education Department craft the proposal, which immediately was met by fierce criticism from Republicans and conservative organizations who accused Mr. Obama of trying to politicize the education system.")
Why would the White House be involved with helping the the Dept. of Education craft the teacher recommendations?
PTA council president Cara Mendelsohn said Obama is "cutting out the parent" by speaking to kids during school hours.

("Why can't a parent be watching this with their kid in the evening?" Mendelsohn said. "Because that's what makes a powerful statement, when a parent is sitting there saying, 'This is what I dream for you. This is what I want you to achieve.'")

Sept 8th… Here are two of the books on Obama your kids are expected to read…
By PUMA Pundit on September 2, 2009

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 4, 2009 | 9:51 p.m.

Lori, I haven't seen any indication that Obama is bringing politics to the classroom unless you think just the fact he is one means the topic will be political. Myself, I'm going to wait until the transcripts are available prior to the telecast, as I understand they will be, then determine my appropriate outrage factor at that time.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 4, 2009 | 11:16 p.m.

("Obama plans to speak directly to students Tuesday about the need to work hard and stay in school.")
I too am interested in how he will be able to fill an hour of rhetoric on working hard and staying in school.
(Although some of the most successful people in this world also work smart and some even lack college degrees.)
Although to become President of the United States, it does seem helpful if one has a law degree.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr September 5, 2009 | 5:12 a.m.

OMG!! When will those koolaid drinkers of the GOP stop their endless crying and belly aching? Alot of past Presidents have spoken to the school age children of our nation over the years with nothing like this caterwauling going on across our entire nation ever.

What is your major malfunction in this you koolaid drinking drones of the GOP?

Is it the fact that our first African American President is going to do his civic duty in encouraging your children to excel in school where alot of you parents have obviously failed and continue to fail?

Is it the fact that you the GOP as a whole got your back sides whipped up on in the last election and you are still having a problem dealing with that fact?

It is a fact the the "Good Ole Party" is no longer a fun time and you cannot have your cake and eat it too?

Knock off the crying and the moaning and begin to realize that this country is in horrible shape and there is one whole lot of blame to go around not just at the top executive level of the past 8 years but also in the Congress too.

Our Government is dysfunctional enough with out the GOP koolaid drinking parents across this entire nation showing all of the children of our nation they cannot play nice in society like you constantly preach at your children and others children.

What kind of example are you setting for your children and others across this nation by not being real adults and playing nice with each other? It is beginning to look like most of our children in our nation are more "Grown Up" than their own parents!


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