Friday, September 4, 2009

A note from Jim Peschke

A few days ago I learned of plans for a live speech from President Obama to the schoolchildren of the U.S. scheduled for Tuesday, September 8th at 12 noon EST. The people of Croydon need to be aware of this event and make an informed decision of if and how our school should participate.

A lot of garbage news comes from both ends of the political spectrum, so I waited until I had verifiable sources. Upon discovering a description of the event from the U.S. Department of Education's own website (, I reviewed their literature. (NOTE: Contents of this website have changed since my initial review of September 2nd).

As a parent, a citizen, and a Croydon school board member, I believe that participation in this event is NOT in the public interest. At a minimum, the speech should be videotaped and reviewed before being provided to our students. Parents must be informed and given the option of excusing their children from the viewing.

Conservative pundits have published plenty of strong condemnations, many of which evoke the personality cults of infamous historical figures. Rather than dive into the slippery slope, I would like to present the case against showing this video using the DoE's own documents as evidence of the inappropriate nature of this event.

1) Federal Meddling In Education

Even if the speech, its contents, and its timing were in no way questionable, this speech is an act of federal interference in our educational system. If the teacher were planning to teach Marine Biology, why allow the federal government to preempt that plan? Why replace Johnny's jellyfish lesson with Obama's speech? Educational fundamentals are much more important than anything the President might say.

2) No Review

To my knowledge, this speech is live and neither parents, teachers, nor administrators have any foreknowledge of its contents. What other part of our curriculum operates with so little review? Would we allow any other adult to address the classroom with so little understanding of what they intend to say beforehand? Would we distribute textbooks to the children before seeing what is in them?

3) Age Appropriateness

According to the DoE this speech is targeted for pre-K through 12th grade. How is this possible or appropriate? Would we have 18-year olds watching Blue's Clues? Would we ask our six-year olds to read the Federalist Papers? One of the few messages I know of that can target such a broad range is good old-fashioned propaganda, which brings me to my final point.

4) Cult of Personality

Yes, I must go here because the DoE documents go here as well. The DoE website provides two sets of instructions for pre/post speech classroom activities. Suggested activities for the younger children include:

"What specific job is the President asking me to do?"

"Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?"

"Is he asking anything of anyone else?" (This includes parents)

And my personal favorite:

"Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor?"

The intent may be innocent, but phrases such as this are quite familiar to students of 20th century history.

I urge members of our community to learn about this event and decide for themselves. I have contacted board members and the Superintendent to determine whether Croydon was planning to participate. I have yet to receive an answer.

It is inappropriate for the President to expect Croydon to grant him unfettered, unreviewed access to our school and the students.

Jim Peschke
Croydon School Board

1 comment:

Cathy Peschke with occasional posts by Jim Peschke said...

Section 439 of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. 1232g) is amended to read as follows:


"Sec. 439.
(a) All instructional materials, including teacher's manuals, films, tapes, or other supplementary material which will be used in connection with any survey, analysis, or evaluation as part of any applicable program shall be available for inspection by the parents or guardians of the children.
"(b) No student shall be required, as part of any applicable program, to submit to a survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning--
"(1) political affiliations;
"(2) mental and psychological problems potentially embarrassing to the student or his family;
"(3) sex behavior and attitudes;
"(4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating and demeaning behavior;
"(5) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;
"(6) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; or
"(7) income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such program),
without the prior consent of the student (if the student is an adult or emancipated minor), or in the case of an unemancipated minor, without the prior written consent of the parent.
"(c) Educational agencies and institutions shall give parents and students effective notice of their rights under this section.
"(d) ENFORCEMENT.--The Secretary shall take such action as the Secretary determines appropriate to enforce this section, except that action to terminate assistance provided under an applicable program shall be taken only if the Secretary determines that--
"(1) there has been a failure to comply with such section; and
"(2) compliance with such section cannot be secured by voluntary means.
"(e) OFFICE AND REVIEW BOARD.--The Secretary shall establish or designate an office and review board within the Department of Education to investigate, process, review, and adjudicate violations of the rights established under this section.".