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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The President Goes to School

Why are many people upset that President Obama will be addressing public school children today?

Many supporters of Obama claim that this negative reaction is personal. They note that in the past, Presidents Reagan and Bush also spoke to school children. They recall no opposition to those speeches at the time, and so believe that people are not affording Obama with fair treatment.

The answer for us is simple. We have found ourself paying more attention to political matters this year than in past years. The reason for this is that we have the distinct sense that the federal government is encroaching too far on our life, on our liberty. C.S. Lewis said, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." This is what many people fear today.

Conservative voters naturally involve themselves as little as possible in politics. Government, for them, should be in the background. When government becomes too apparent, conservatives become suspicious. We have begun to question things boldly.

We listened to the speeches of Reagan and Bush today. We read the text of Obama's speech, which can be found on the White House website. For us, the speeches all sounded remarkably similar. And we found almost nothing political, or objectionable, to Obama's speech. And we expect his presentation will outshine that of his predecessors.

Obama suggests children use their critical thinking skills. We don't believe critical thinking is something which is being taught in grade schools, but which should be. It is these skills which allow people to weigh information and make judgements about that information, rather than simply accepting and digesting. Part of the uproar over the speech is the lesson plan that was initially produced by the Department of Education, asking children to think about how they could help the President. This, unfortunately, is not critical thinking. The lesson plan has since been withdrawn from teachers, although it can still be found online.

Our only quibble with the speech is, at the end, the comment that the President is trying to get more computers and things for schools. The problem with this is that the Constitution grants no authority over education to the federal government. This is an example of how the federal government is encroaching on our lives.

Aside from that one small complaint, we think this speech from President Obama to students is appropriate. And even if one doesn't agree, if one thinks Obama ought not address their children, this strikes us as one of those teaching moments. If this speech is not appropriate, lets allow the children to hear it and then figure out what makes it inappropriate. This is what a balanced lesson plan, with a focus on critical thinking, would involve.

President Obama should get an A- today. We will continue to pay attention and be wary of government involvement in the future, as everyone should.

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