Thursday, September 3, 2009

Why are people afraid of a child learning?

So, Barack Obama has decided that education is important enough that on Sept. 8, "the president will speak directly to the nation’s children and youth about persisting and succeeding in school. The president will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning," according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a letter to school teachers detailing the purpose of the speech. The letter includes links to suggested classroom exercises for teachers before and after the speech.

I've read the letter. I've read the classroom materials. It's pretty straight-forward. It's all about getting students excited and motivated about their education, and about encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions and their futures. It seems just like the kind of message every parent should want their child to hear. And who better to deliver that message than the president of the United States? He is the most powerful man in the free world, and he's the leader of our country, whether you like him or not. As such, he deserves our respect. And, last time I checked, children respecting their elders and their leaders was considered a virtue.

Unless, of course, the president isn't a member of your political party. Then, he's the devil incarnate hell-bent on "indoctrinating" your children to his "socialist agenda." It has nothing to do with simply educating your children.

I thought a major part of education was to teach children to think critically, make informed decisions and learn through knowledge. However, if you are going to deny them access to knowledge, and tell them they can't listen to the president of the United States speak because you don't agree with his message or agenda, and simply keep your children ignorant, how will they learn? Oh yes, I forgot, knowledge is power. The learned tend to be able to make informed decisions, and not blindly follow those who espouse rhetoric based upon fear. I can name five people I work with -- at a four-year public university, no less -- who hate Obama because he's not white. I can name several people with whom I attend church whose racism has been blatantly exposed when they talk about Obama. Racism is simply a product of an uninformed, uneducated individual. It's based upon fear, not knowledge. By denying our children this opportunity, you continue to spread this same fear and deny children the knowledge they need to be our future leaders and decision makers.

The chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Jim Greer, has gone so far as to claim that Obama's speech is meant to infiltrate these children's minds and brainwash them against their parents and against American ideals. Good grief!

My son attends what is supposed to be a high-achieving academic magnet school. Today, the principal felt compelled to send out a robot phone call to parents because of the endless phone calls she was receiving from parents who don't want their children exposed to the president's message next week, telling us we can send a note to our child's teacher if we don't want him or her to participate in this activity. I'm sorry, but that's just ignorance at its highest. I would expect these parents, who are mostly affluent, highly educated individuals, not to be so ignorant and closed-minded. Many of them recently fought hard, alongside me, to see that their children's educational futures weren't denied by an obtuse school board. They claimed they wanted their children to learn in a high-achieving environment that exposed them to challenging ideals, forced them to become critical thinkers, and to learn from the best knowledge that could be provided. I thought they were more enlightened than this.

I guess not.