Today's Question: Did the uproar over Obama’s speech obscure its message?

Thursday, September 10, 2009 | 9:28 a.m. CDT

For many parents and school districts, late on Tuesday morning it wasn’t about the message — the issue was the delivery. Or, well, the deliverer.

Controversy swelled immediately after the U.S. Department of Education announced on Aug. 25 via an e-mail to districts and individual schools that President Obama would give a 15- to 20-minute address to America's schoolchildren on the day after Labor Day. Those opposed to the speech felt the president’s intent was to force-feed children a political agenda. Those in favor of the speech saw nothing wrong with his chosen method to help kids kick off the school year. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the uproar silly, and Former First Lady Laura Bush said she supported Obama's initiative.

Many school districts handled the controversy by passing the decision of whether or not to show the speech to principals, who in turn passed the choice on to teachers.

Just as they did in the Columbia Public School District, teachers across the nation who decided to show Obama’s address alerted parents beforehand and offered them the choice of opting their children out.

In the message, the contents of which the White House made available on Monday, Obama told kids it was their responsibility to work hard and set personal goals so that they could achieve as much as possible in their education and future. He also said that the country is facing difficult problems, problems that it would be up to their generation to fix.

Will children leave this week with that message ringing in their ears, or will they only remember the noise the adults and media were making?


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