September 16, 2009

Innocuous and Clueless but Creepy

That's the impression I got when I listened to the President's speech to school children last week. I described the innocuous and clueless parts in a previous post. I'll get to the creepy part.

The reason why I'm still writing about a week-old speech is a late feed I got for Will Richardson's post on the speech.

After I read Will's post, I thought to myself how that would be the exact argument I would include in my Little Red Book when I become leader for life.

The real reason why the President's speech was controversial to many and offensive to some is the President's lack of respect for federalism and the limited government powers given to the federal executive office's. That the speech was given to children in a government-run school doesn't help matters. The implicit power grab by the President is unseemly. The dear leader parallels and the paternalistic overtones are simply creepy. That smart guys like the President and Will Richardson completely missed them is, well, disturbing. Didn't we fight a revolution not too long ago over executive overreach?

The Cato guys have the best take on these aspects of the President's speech.

Now compare to Will's take.

I keep thinking of those teachers out there right now who have had a level of confidence and professionalism stripped away by school districts who have ceded to parents wishes to avoid rather than to trust them to teach.

Last I checked, we still lived in a representative democracy. The people, through their elected school boards, still run the show (at least in most places). That is how it should be and the fact that some teachers and school districts misjudged and had to bend their will to the opinion of the locals is a healthy reminder of who remains in charge.

I keep thinking about what kids are learning by the way their schools are reacting, what it says to them about what school is and its value in their lives.

It tells them that their parents and not the schools are the ultimate authority.

I keep thinking what this says about a public school system that has “educated” the people at the front of all of the screaming and yelling.

This is how a democracy works when it comes to deciding controversial political issues like what goes on in public schools. In a private school, there is no yelling and screaming when the leadership of the school makes a bad decision, there is only a quiet call to the principal demanding a tuition refund.

That many people, many publicly-schooled, either missed or failed to appreciate the present controversy at the heart of the amount of power we've ceded to the government in the current environment of the public voluntarily ceding back hard-earned freedoms to a government (both Democrat and Republican run) that presents itself as a all-knowing benevolent dictator is quite disturbing. As Will writes -- "Talk about a teachable moment." Indeed.


Anonymous said...

Oh, geez. It was just the president talking to school kids, telling them to stay in school. There was nothing evil about it. There was no power grab. It had nothing to do with federalism and usurping states' powers. Will it be effective? Probably not. But to think it was some kind of plot is just delusional.

KDeRosa said...

I don't remember claiming there was a plot, evil or otherwise.

What I did write was that many people, including the President, either "missed or failed to appreciate the present controversy" much like you did.

Parry Graham said...


As a principal who heard from multiple parents with concerns, I can tell you that the nature of the concerns at my school was less about federal intrusion and power grabs, and more about the potentially political content of the speech.

My take was that the White House did a particularly poor job publicizing the speech, the proposed content of the speech, and the intentions of the speech. For many parents, it seems that all they heard was "The president is going to be speaking to school children the day before he addresses Congress about health care." Parents I heard from did not have a clear understanding of the intent of the speech, and they were worried that it would focus on the president's political agenda.

My guess is that, had the White House done a good job of publicizing the speech and its content well in advance, and made clear that it would have no political overtones, there would have been much less controversy.


KDeRosa said...

Parry I'm sure you're right that the most articulated reason for the controversy was political speech content.

But isn't that what the President still did despite not mentioning the hot topic du jour? (And, for that matter isn't it what Reagan and Bush I did back when they gave speeches to school children?) Part of my argument is the unseemliness that many Americans don't appreciate the concepts behind limited government and federalism and the dangers those concepts were meant to guard against.

Dick Schutz said...

I agree that "Innocuous and Clueless but Creepy" is an apt title for the post.

The scariest aspect to me was that the President and his advisers apparently believe that responsibility and accountability for el-hi schooling does not go higher than kids, parents, and school site personnel.

D-Ed personnel have more productive things to do than preparing (vapid) lesson plans. If it's anything that teacher's can do well, they can prepare lesson plans. Offering lesson plans and expecting them to have any positive instructional effect is profoundly clueless.

KDeRosa said...

Dick, I couldn't even bring myself to look at the lesson plans. Imight have had an aneurysm.

Dick Schutz said...

Aw, c'mon Ken. You're healthy, and you really should peek at the stuff.

An aneurysm is a possibility, but apoplexy or vomiting would be a more likely reaction.

Actually, "lesson plans" is a bit of a misnomer. What we have is two "Menus of Classroom Activities"--One for preK-6 and one for 7-12:

The "menus" were "Produced by Teaching Ambassador Fellows, U.S. Department of Education"

The Ambassador Fellows and the D-Ed officials who approved the "menus" could use some (actually a lot of) DI about instruction. I haven't come across any better poster-example of why the el-hi enterprise clock is striking 13.

Is there such a condition as "post-clueless"?

Michael Shirley said...

Actually, Ken, we "appreciate the present controversy." We just think you're wrong.