We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program…

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At 12:00 PM, Eastern Time (ET) today, President Barack Obama delivers a national address to the students of America. Other presidents have done this kind of thing before. President Ronald Reagan happily addressed and took questions from students from four area middle schools on November 14, 1988. His successor, President George H.W. Bush, interacted with students as well on October 1st, 1991 from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C.. Apparently, presidents think it’s a good idea to demonstrate a willingness to promote the importance of learning.

In his address, President Obama will speak directly to our nation’s pupils. He will urge students to roll up their sleeves and do the hard and necessary work of learning. His speech will call upon students to set educational goals, persevere (especially when the work is neither fun nor easy), and ultimately resolve to be responsible for their own learning. The U.S. Department of Education is understandably excited about the occasion. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has released a letter to school principals inviting students, teachers, and other administrators to participate in the event by watching the president deliver the address.

Sadly, though, as MediaMatters points out, some people are attempting to derail this promising educational message and steer it into a political divide. Opportunistic, venomous critics of the President are fanning the flames of fear and ignorance, encouraging parents, administrators, Boards of Education to not even entertain the idea of listening to President Obama’s appeal to students. A civilized society allows and requires its citizens to debate the merits of an idea. However, before one can debate the merits of an idea, one has to listen to the idea.

President Obama’s message to students is not a secret. Anyone–even those who oppose the president’s address–can read an advanced copy of the speech. The White House has made the Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama Back to School Event available online. Despite all the dire warnings that demagogues and other incendiary media schismatics are voicing, the President’s address is not a dastardly plot to subliminally deliver a partisan political agenda into vulnerable young minds.

What’s wrong with challenging students to dedicating themselves to working hard, working smart, staying in school and dramatically reducing dropout rates? Why wouldn’t our nation want its president to echo such a sentiment? ANY president of the United States, no matter what his or her political affiliation, should be able to inspire America’s students to be dedicated to serious lifelong learning. Of all the things people could worry about negatively influencing young minds, President Obama’s address to students isn’t one of them. A small minority of splenetic critics and opportunistic instigators are going about the detestable business of corrupting what should be a unifying message to students–education is so important that ALL of our parents, educators, business experts, and political leaders, regardless of other beliefs, agree that dedication to learning is vital for success and a wise nation.

Whether you are a parent, a superintendent, a principal, a media specialist, a teacher, or a student, you have the the right to make decisions. Do what wise people do: listen to another individual’s ideas–in this case, President Obama’s address to the nation’s pupils–and carefully analyze those ideas before you decide who or what to believe. The President’s message will be streamed live on WhiteHouse.gov/live at at 12pm ET, and broadcast live on C-Span. Thanks to technology, anyone with access to the internet can check facts and thoroughly inspect the merits of ideas.

Think for yourself...it’s what Americans do.

Related resources:

  • No ones likes to be tricked. Having someone pull the wool over our eyes is embarrassing and potentially harmful. Yet, how often do we arm our students (or ourselves, for that matter) with the cognitive tools to chip away at incorrect logic or obfuscations? My guess is (in the rush to prepare for standardized testing) that we probably don’t consistently explain to our pupils about how incorrect lines of reasoning sometimes appear plausible. Dangerous thinking can go unnoticed. We must be vigilant and prepare for a battle of wits. Thankfully, back in 1996, Stephen Downes created and graciously shared his wickedly wonderful Guide to the Logical Fallacies. The Guide is extremely enlightening and well worth visiting on a regular basis. Also check out the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill‘s incredibly handy collection of common logical fallacies. Teach students to use all of these resources to analyze and clarify their thoughts as well as ideas propagated by ALL figures of authority–including pundits and political officials from BOTH sides of the aisle.
  • Looks like it’s time to get out your Baloney Detection Kit.
  • FactCheck.org is an indispensable means of sorting through political spin and should be included one’s collection of tools for verifying claims.
  • Be a strong advocate of literacy. Citizens who can read have access to new ideas and perspectives, ingredients for a healthy, open mind. Today, September 8 is International Literacy Day. Even though there are approximately 4 billion literate people across our planet,  that’s not nearly enough! Visit Literacy Online and get involved with worthwhile reading projects.