Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mr. President Goes Back to School: A Controversial Issue?

The problem with trying to include topical subjects in a blog like this is that when I see something that fits, it may be days before I get around to posting it and by then the matter is most likely irrelevant. This is one of those posts.

Remember how upset a lot of people were about Obama addressing students in school? Yeah, I know. But it was just a few days ago and some folks huffed and puffed about it. The girls were out that day so it didn't really matter to me and, besides, as I understood it, Obama was going to address some pretty traditional topics: stay in school, work hard, be good. Who can argue with that? And, hey, if I'm going to be bored by a Presidential speech, no reason why girls shouldn't be.

But Adam Baldwin had the best take I've read about what the real controversy was:
Appreciating yesterday’s early release of President Obama’s speech and having now read it in context, I would heartily maintain that opinion, were it not for the ED’s controversial lesson plan.


Part I, Sec. 1905 of the ED’s General Provisions: ELEMENTARY & SECONDARY EDUCATION states:


Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic achievement standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction.

That raises some questions:

Is what the White House and ED submitted to teachers merely a suggestion for a lesson plan, or is it considered a mandated part of the curriculum?

If it is mandated at the school level, will districts potentially lose any NCLB funding if the lesson plan is not completed?

If not, can schools still mandate students to participate in the lesson plan?

If so, at what cost–in both classroom hours and subsequent elimination of otherwise state-mandated curriculum–will be the result of the ED’s lesson plan?

Is the lesson plan in any way controversial? (A rhetorical question.)

If a district unilaterally deems it uncontroversial, will the district automatically be exempting itself from any laws requiring equal time for varying viewpoints?

Are Districts legally and/or ethically required to establish and enforce standardized criteria on how teachers shall base their decision to show the speech and implement the lesson plan?

Will written consent be required from parents prior to any future screenings of the president’s address and/or participation in the lesson plan?

If teachers do show the speech and use the lesson plan, how will the teachers present them in a consistent, district-wide manner?

Baldwin, like me, didn't find anything objectionable to the speech and now it's past and, surprisingly, the republic's children have survived. Ho hum, really. But I thought we should get straight what the real controversy was all about. By all means, pipe in a speech by the President to schools. But let's not have the Department of Education dictate what lessons should be drawn from the experience.

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