Obama to Address the Nation's schoolchildren
From ED.gov :
Below is an excerpt from a letter sent to school Principals accross the nation from the Education Secretary, telling of the President's upcoming address on Tuesday , Sep. 8 to school aged children of the U.S..
Of course, many in the blogosphere are already alarmed at the state-maternalistic tone of some of the suggestions for grades 1-7 and on through 12, which entail students discussing excerpts from Obama's speeches, and critiquing what needs to be on his agenda for the future of education. I would assume the community spirit hearkens a bit back to a general government consensus. I can sympathize to a degree.
Notwithstanding, the comments I have read that W. Bush would not have gotten away with this sort of thing do not fully ring true, as his post 9-11 addresses to students and parents had the patriotism of the state tone as well.
This is the first time an American president has spoken directly to the nation's school children about persisting and succeeding in school. We encourage you to use this historic moment to help your students get focused and begin the school year strong. I encourage you, your teachers, and students to join me in watching the President deliver this address on Tuesday, September 8, 2009. It will be broadcast live on the White House websitewww.whitehouse.gov 12:00 noon eastern standard time.
In advance of this address, we would like to share the following resources: a menu of classroom activities for students in grades preK-6 and for students in grades 7-12. These are ideas developed by and for teachers to help engage students and stimulate discussion on the importance of education in their lives. We are also staging a student video contest on education. Details of the video contest will be available on our website www.ed.gov in the coming weeks.
On behalf of all Americans, I want to thank our educators who do society's most important work by preparing our children for work and for life. No other task is more critical to our economic future and our social progress. I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead to continue improving the quality of public education we provide all of our children.
Here is a very interesting refutaion - moreso, a polite voicing of concerns - from the perspective of a Catholic:
In my opinion, one of the great dangers of a liberal democracy (something emphasized by Tocqueville, among others) is a tendency toward a maternal state, a tendency that has been around in the U.S. for quite some time, arguably dating back to Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, if not further. This leads, slowly if not always directly, to an implicit or explicit belief that the State 1) possesses a sort of sacred place in the life of citizens, 2) is theprimary educator and teacher of both children and adults, and 3) should use education and appeals to civic responsibilities in order to grow in size and influence. All of this is very problematic from a Catholic perspective, regardless of how negative, ambivalent, or positive you might be about public education.
It may well be that President Obama's speech will be non-offensive in content, containing exhortations to studying hard, being diligent, setting goals, and so forth. Fine. My issue with the speech, which I didn't make clearly enough above, is not so much with the content (although I'm very curious about what he will say), but the bothersome notion, which is hard to avoid, that the President of the United States is somehow Educator-in-Chief, or even Father-Figure-in-Chief. The fact is, public schools have been, for many decades now, run by a largely centralized, federal system; the direct influence of parents and communities in their local schools does vary from place to place, but it is impossible to deny the increased, often blatant, centralization of the system. This raises serious questions about a host of matters, including (but not limited to) the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity, as well as the role of parents as primary educators of their children, a role that isn't distinctively Catholic in the least.
To put it simply, this speech, in my opinion, may well mark another small but sure step (symbolic, perhaps, but still substantial) toward what Pope Benedict has described as "The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself ... a State which regulates and controls everything." I could be completely wrong. I'm certainly interested in arguments to the contrary.
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Clearlake, California, United States