Uneasy about address


There was a lot of uneasiness about Tuesday's address by president Obama to all public and private school students whose districts opt in.

It has been vilified by many as an outright attempt at indoctrination, as the advancement of a "cult of personality" around President Obama. Supporters have called it an "encouragement to succeed" from the top office in the U.S. government, saying it is a harmless support of success in education.

How should parents and citizens view it? Should there be cause for alarm, or are we seeing a conservative over reaction?

Here are a couple of things to consider that I think put the president's action in a needed perspective:

1. The president had an excellent opportunity to show his support of educational success recently, by backing the continuation of the federal private school choice program in Washington D.C. During his campaign, Obama said that if voucher programs worked, he would support them. The president's own Department of Education revealed that students who enrolled in the D.C. program in 2004 are two full years ahead of their public school peers. The president said in his initial budget that when it comes to education, "We cannot waste dollars on programs that are inefficient." Average tuition at the DC voucher schools is $6,620. The DC public school system is spending $26,555 per student.

So why did he kill the federal private school choice program in Washington DC by allowing it to sunset after the currently enrolled students graduate? Perhaps the saddest part of his decision is that the greatest beneficiaries of the program have been poor, black, innercity kids.

2. The president and the Department of Education have emphatically stated that the president's speech on Sept. 9 has nothing to do with politics or public policy. I have to object. In politics, timing is everything. The president and his party have been engaged in a strenuous public debate about health care reform that is meeting with an unprecedented amount of public opposition. The legislation is scheduled for a vote soon after the return of Congress from recess on Tuesday, Sept 9. The president's speech to school children on that date comes with suggested activities for teachers, one set for pre-kindergarten to sixth grade students; and one set for seven-12th grade students. The content of these activities can be found at www.ed.gov/admins/lead/academic/bts.html. With great respect for those excellent public school teachers who are in opposition to the increasing control over education by the government and their own unions, the majority of public school teachers are in accord with the public school teacher's union's political positions. To see the stance of those unions on Obama's Health Reform Act, H.R.3200, go to www.capwiz.com/nea/issues/alert/?alertid=13943726=CO.

The president knows that he needs do no more than open the door to discussion with his speech and suggested classroom activities, and the biggest current political topic cannot help but take center stage.

Both of these in my opinion add up to calculated political deception and manipulation. You decide.

Charles Evans



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