Two thoughts about President Obama’s speech tomorrow (and my own speech the day after)

Much ado about nothing

I just read the text of President Obama’s hotly-contested speech tomorrow. I encourage you to do the same. Could it be any more innocuous? Whatever happened to waiting to see what happens first and THEN hollering about it? A lot of crying wolf has been going on lately…

If only these opportunities actually existed at scale

I was pleased to see this passage:

What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

I just wish I had more faith in our current schooling system to nurture the problem-solving and critical thinking skills and creativity and ingenuity that the President mentions. Right now I don’t think we’re doing so well in these areas…

On Wednesday I spend the day with 80 or so high school students (juniors and seniors, mostly) in Northwest Iowa. What should I be saying to them about their schools, technology, globalization, and their futures?

11 Responses to “Two thoughts about President Obama’s speech tomorrow (and my own speech the day after)”

  1. You know, it is incredible how many people have a hard time keeping their thoughts and opinions on a level playing field where discussion can take place. I teach in a school district that was all for showing the speech up until a few days ago when we had to send letters home to parents letting them know about this “problem”. We have been told to watch the speech or read it ahead of time and deem whether or not it is necessary to show our students. What is so bad about our president letting people know that hard work should be the standard? I appreciate your post about the critical thinking and problem solving aspect of Obama’s speech. With what he says I hope that there will be an ongoing push and discussion to make these relevant topics in our schools, not just a side bar when we aren’t testing our kids into oblivion. Maybe this will light a fire under some of our state representatives or even our education lobbyists to push for a revamped education system. This is only my second year teaching and to see how the education system is now (and remembering how it was just a few years ago when I was in school), I hope that dramatic change occurs. Your blog, amongst the many others who continue to have conversations on education, will be the place the reform happens. Through Professional Development and conversations will be where our education system will gain the most. Thanks for the post and keep up the conversation, it has affected me in an amazing way!

  2. Tell the students to push for Twitter in their classes.

  3. Scott, you missed the point of contention about the speech. For most parents who objected, like me, it was not the speech itself (after all we hadn’t read or heard it yet), it was 2 things:

    1. The letters sent to schools ahead of time encouraging them to show it.

    2. The accompanying lesson plans. The lessons were released way before the text of the speech was. And, the activities the President asked students to do were not appropriate to the level of federal involvement in schools that I, and others, want to see (or not see.) Originally, students were asked to write how they can support the President AND were going to be held accountable by their teachers for completing the assignment. All that was changed only after the outrage.

    Presidents have spoke to schools before, although only a few times and other than Reagan addressed students live after the Challenger explosion, none have done so nation-wide, live. And, none have sent in “suggested” lessons and activities for schools to accompany the speech. That’s my problem with the speech and it does not matter to me who the President is and what color his/her skis is either.


  4. I was suprised by the move to censor the President’s speech. What are we coming to, is education about limiting perspectives?

  5. Good point regarding fed. level in ed. Education is a state matter, will the governors and mayors speak out next year? Should they?

  6. Look at most school’s missions and we’ll see higher order skills. Yet, how many schools teach and assess higher order thinking? Check out Dimensions of Learning:

  7. I agree with you. I have watched the media coverage of this over and over, but still can’t see where the Republican objections are founded. It is a well meaning message – Stay in school and work hard! Good, solid advice from a national leader. What more is there to say?

  8. the whole day with 80 kids?
    i’d be listening more than talking.
    asking more than answering.


  9. I’m one of those that thinks this is over-hyped and excessive.

    Brian, as a HS principal, I didn’t receive any such letter, and even if I did there is more to accountability of teachers than just “saying so.”

    jnewmanvt, schools aren’t pushing for this “censorship” at all. It is parents and community that are concerned for some reason.

  10. It’s hard to take some educational matters seriously when funding and time to appropiately commit and succeed in the program.

  11. I agree with Brian that you missed the point concerning the promotion of the speech and the lesson plans.

    But I also wonder if the speech would have been so innocuous if there hadn’t been so much concern before it aired. Who knows what it would have contained if he had a free pass on the speech?

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