Neal Sheeran

Rants, Raves, and Geekery

Responsible Education


I’m sure the President wasn’t expecting this level of uproar over his pep talk to the nation’s schoolchildren. Personally, I don’t think the idea of a speech is terrible and it doesn’t necessarily justify the amount of vitrol; although that somewhat depends on the content of the speech.

On the other hand, the Department of Education deserves whatever flack comes their way. One of their suggested activities related to this speech was to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.” Ummm…help the President do what exactly? Ask Mommy and Daddy why they are mean for not wanting a public option? Are the angry grown-ups at town hall meetings too much for him? What issue is giving the White House’s crack squad of bright shining lights such a hard time that they need help from kids? I would like to see the grading criteria for this assignment. Actually, maybe not. I would probably get bent.

According to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the President’s address “will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.” Work hard, set goals–I got it. However, my initial reaction to that last part was this: you know who takes responsibility for childrens’ education? Their parents. Parents are right to be miffed about this. I expect my child to get an education in school (naive, I know), not be a pawn in some political game.

If I’ve done my job as a parent correctly, I’ve probably taught my son to be respectful to his teachers and pay attention to what they have to say. I certainly don’t want to be put in the position of having to counter that when he comes home with an assignment to “support the President” on some issue that I disagree with. Furthermore, if schools are doing their job at all (doubtful sometimes), then children are taught the importance and significance of the Office of the President. When taken in that light, this affair is borderline manipulative.

Granted, the backlash against this episode has resulted in the White House changing the assignment from helping the President to how to achieve goals, but it should never have come to that. And I’m well aware that teachers are fully capable of indoctrinating students towards a certain political slant all by themselves (because I had some), but for the federal government to get in on the act is kind of lame.

So if little Johnny comes home with an assignment to write a letter about why cap-and-trade is good, be a responsible parent and help out with some research.