education, government

Why we should listen to the president

Like I mentioned yesterday, I will be watching President Obama’s speech to America’s school children with my children later today.  We have little ones around here, so we’ll be using the elementary lesson plans, legal or not. Actually, we’ll be focusing specifically on this question, because it fits perfectly with some ongoing conversations we have been having around here:

Why is it important that we listen to the president and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?  Classroom Activities, Pre-K-6 (pdf)

I’ll let you know my children’s answers to that later, after I ask them, but here are mine:

I.  I’m Christian, and the bible is pretty clear:

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake:  whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.  For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:  As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.  –1Peter 2:13-16 (KJV)

I consider myself blessed to live in a nation whose ordinances allow me considerable liberty to express my disagreement with established authority, but I try very hard to apply this verse especially to my discussions:  “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men…” By well doing hearts and minds are changed, not by inflammatory rhetoric.

II.  These are our elected leaders, and our responsibility as citizens is pretty clear.

The Salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.  –Hartley Burr Alexander, inscribed on the Nebraska State Capitol Building

If we do not listen, we cannot know, and if we do not know, we cannot act.  Listening precedes all useful action, something I fear some may be forgetting.

Please share your thoughts on the prepared speech, the speech as it is delivered and the accompanying lesson plans.  If you had the stage, what would you tell America’s youth?  And what have you told your own children?

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43 thoughts on “Why we should listen to the president

  1. We are not to submit to sin. This admin is steeped in sin. Ultimately, we will be answering to God for what we have submitted to on this earth. He is first in line for our submission, always.

  2. I just thank God that Many Germans did not do as their Leader asked, & indeed saved thousands of Jews from the death camps !

    The prez speaking to children With out their parents to buffer his words is not what other presidents have done. Nor have other presidents made it about them.. as he has clearly done..
    Sure THIS time he may hold back.. but what about next time ?

    I see your point on the verse you quoted, I get that. But I also believe we are to run from those that wont’ accept council .


  3. By simply listening, you do not have to submit. When you hear or read ANYTHING, you should do so with a critical ear and think for yourself. That is what “If we do not listen, we cannot know, and if we do not know, we cannot act” means.

    Also, please read the text of the speech before jumping to conclusions about what he may be trying to implant into the heads of our youth. The text is available: [ (dot) com/s/ap/20090908/ap_on_go_pr_wh/us_obama_school_speech_text

  4. Great topic Dana! We will be listening, and I think I’ll talk with my kids about this as well.

    From Obama’s speech:
    When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
    Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, “This is no picnic for me either, buster.”

    HA! So he was, at least for a time, at least partially…a HOMESCHOOLER! (bwahahaha!)

  5. I think most people who are opposed to the speech are not necessarily opposed to him speaking, as they are opposed to the lack of parental notification ahead of time.

    If those parents had not caused a ruckus, the “materials” would not have been changed. The original question was “what can you do to help the president?” but it was “poorly worded” and changed to “what can you to attain your educational goals?” because, yea, I can totally see how those two questions could be confused for each other right? /sarcasm.

    Also, considering the inclusion of illegal aliens in the “47 million uninsured”, I wonder if they are including homeschoolers in the “30% of children in our country don’t graduate high school” number. I notice I haven’t heard anyone close to the admin say “30% dropout rate.” They all say “the dropout rate is staggering! 30% of our nation’s children do not graduate high school.” Found this today –
    [honoluluadvertiser (dot) com/article/20090908/NEWS01/909080317/State+disputes+dropout+count]
    – from Hawaii, says that the dropout rate there is grossly overestimated. Hmmm… Wonder where they got the “30%” number.

  6. I’d explain (if my kids were still too young to think critically about culture clash) that the closing line, “God bless you and God bless America” is not really unconstitutional religious indoctrination even though it would be easy, lazy and cheap to throw a tantrum in front of the neighbors and scream that it is . . .

    I’d tell them about [huffingtonpost (dot) com/jim-moore/the-lies-of-texas-are-upo_b_277749.html] The Lies of Texas, where conservative religious and political indoctrination for partisan purpose runs directly through public school speeches, textbooks, teachers and curriculum standards — and not just in the name of a universal “God” kids can translate into their own cutural beliefs and traditions, but explicitly, dogmatically and as part of the academic lesson, in the name of one faith’s god. All citizens excluded and offended by that, tough.

    So maybe I’ll use this speech to help them learn to [misedjj.wordpress (dot) com/2006/10/24/i-cant-hear-you-lalalala/] when dealing with the offensive speech of others in public —

  7. Actually presidents *have* done this before. Reagan did back in 1986 and if IRC, there was no major uproar (and his talk got more into politics actually).

    [reagan.utexas (dot) edu/archives/speeches/1986/51386d.htm

    I also believe that GHW Bush talked to students in 1991.

    I can understand that folks have differences politically with Obama, but it bothers me that even when he tries to do something good (like encourage kids to take responsibility for their education) it is jumped on with suspicion. Isn’t there anything that we can agree on any more?

  8. Really, Mrs. unlinked gmail commentator? Dana has readers who will compare this president to Hitler and Nazis right here in your lovely comments?

    Shall we politely pretend it didn’t happen or shall I exercise MY freedom of belief and expression, and repudiate this as offensive, out of bounds and part of the problem, not the solution for America?

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  10. I agree, JJ. It’s absolutely offensive and it’s drawing attention away from the issues and into a big black pool of fear mongering.

  11. I’ve had readers compare Bush to Hitler in my comments box, as long as there is public dialogue Hitler’s name will be invoked.

    As for me, the speech isn’t as troubling as much as how the media commented on their objections, including saying they are dangerous and “they are not smart enough” to raise their own kids. Sigh.

    School children will survive a one day speech, it’s what they’re hearing and doing the other days of the year and how they will or won’t act that I’m wondering about.

  12. I find the speech “nice.”

    I find this staement a bit out of line: “I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve. ” Why because I think it sends the wrong message of what it is government is and should do. I think it paints a picture of a nationalized educational system and that is misleading.

    I think Obama tends to talk a bit too much about himself as some glorified example and that is annoying, but not troubling to me. I realize that many children will not have heard his personal story like many of us whom followed this election closely.

    And I find this a bit misleading :”No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work.” I think that some people are born good at things! That doesn’t mean they don’t have to work hard to stay good at them, but I feel this paints a picture of complete sameness in all of us… and that is not American, that is not the melting pot of differences that makes us so great!

    But over all it is a “nice” speech for the kids, coming from an important figure, on an important subject.

    As to how my son feels about it–he hasn’t heard it yet, but he is pretty adamant about not “listening.” I know he will listen, though. He has his own political views, very separate from my own, often contrasting my own. And I have tried to make it clear that forming an opinion before actually experiencing the information 1st hand isn’t a smart thing to do and actually leaves him less informed than he likes to see himself. So I’ll have to get back to you on what his take is 🙂

  13. Shawna says: “I feel this paints a picture of complete sameness in all of us… and that is not American, that is not the melting pot of differences that makes us so great!”

    A melting pot of differences makes us great but not the same. Hmmm. Is this satire?

    I find that much more confusing than anything our American president said today! His speech was ordinary secular civic cheerleading in the great national tradition, no special skills required to think through a simple speech like this. (Schoolkids could do it if we’d let them!)

    He did say: “”No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work.”

    AND he also said:
    “Every single one of you has something that you’re good at. . . And you have a responsibility to yourself, to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an EDUCATION can provide.”

    No special education required to read those two statements together and make sense of them as one coherent thought. How hard it is, seriously, for anyone other than a rightwing radio propagandist (I just heard Rush Limbaugh say the same thing Shawna just said) to apply ordinary understanding to those two ideas and agree?

    I think it’s only hard when we’re determined NOT to understand but only to object and obstruct, or else when we’re held in sway by those who are, preventing us with smoke and mirrors from seeing what’s really going on and why and making of us [en.wikipedia (dot) org/wiki/Useful_idiot]

    I say home education parents are up for real thinking challenges about complex meanings in modern culture, never mind political speeches or trash-talk radio. Tackle (melting pot immigrant yet brilliantly individual) Jacques Barzun through his magnum opus, [nytimes (dot) com/books/00/05/21/reviews/000521.21everdet.html] when you want to show how independently well-educated we really are and the level of discourse we can rise to! 🙂

  14. I’d LOVE to watch the speech with my kids. But they’re all grown and gone now.

    I’m less comfortable having my kids watch the speech with 30 others and a teacher who belongs to the NEA. I don’t think it’s a comfortable setting for a child whose parents have been vocally opposed to Obama. Echoing the parents’ criticism in a public forum puts the child in an uncomfortable position. Keeping silent could be worse–particularly if the teacher presses kids for a public and personal response to the speech.

    Not a problem for homeschoolers. Could be a big problem in a diverse classroom.

  15. All true Before Obama.
    And the opposite is true in Texas.

    So what do we do, Scott, seriously? We’ve broken everything else government does, including to wage war with honorable clarity. So shut down the public schools too, let Texas, Alaska and several other southern states secede and regress to the 1800s, and just give up?

  16. Michele and Mrs. Lisa Mickey, that could be an interesting theological discussion on its own…exactly where to draw lines and why.

    Mrs. Mickey, you said:

    I just thank God that Many Germans did not do as their Leader asked, & indeed saved thousands of Jews from the death camps !

    And I couldn’t agree more. I am thankful there were some Christians willing to display their faith actively through well doing rather than simply as inflammatory rhetoric.

    You really have to read both parts together and not separate them to understand my point. I never said that we do whatever our leaders ask.

    Obviously we do not submit to sin, but we must also remember the state of the church when this was written. One of the themes of the book is perseverance in persecution. I’m not bringing that up to say we are being persecuted like the early church, but only to point out that much worse atrocities were going on in these churches than a president speaking to school children.

  17. I want to read the speech BEFORE the controversy began, I bet it was quite a bit different than this speech. This one was a real snoozer.

  18. Don’t know what you are referring to. I seriously doubt many public school teachers, even in Texas, are telling students the president is steeped in sin. They’re too worried about the state assessment.

  19. My son and I ended up talking more about the question and answer time at the end. Bug didn’t know who Gandhi was, so we learned about him and discussed civil disobedience and non-violent means of protest. I had no idea that would come up!

    I look forward to hearing how your discussion went.

  20. JJ, you almost seem to be taking everyone’s opinion that is differing from your own as personal. Why all the nasty insults?

    I have never even heard Rush’s radio talk; I have seen him interviewed for television slots a few times. As for special ed? Again, why the personal attacks to somebody’s passing thoughts?

  21. H/T, JJ: “…determined NOT to understand but only to object and obstruct.”

    Sorry, Shawna, but taking issue with Obama’s statement, “No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work,” begs for a response of some kind.

    The truth is that many people are so blinded by hatred for this man, they say the most irrational things. It’s both frustrating and frightening. Especially when discussion never fails to find its way to Nazi death camps.

  22. Shawna, I wrote “no special skills required” and then “no special education required” to emphasize the ordinary thinking and communication skills all children and citizens need, for America to be successful — not some barb in the much maligned schoolish sense at all. That would have been a nasty insult indeed, not just against you but all the wonderful children and teachers I’ve known and loved and worked with in my career. Not something I think or feel nor would mean to say, ever. I completely missed that and I apologize. Truly.

    And I’m glad you said something, because it helps underline the different ways people are using (and hearing) words and meanings and intent. Homeschoolers don’t have to let the truly indefensible, purposely and even criminally targeted “nasty insults” of fringe partisans, bigots and demagogues come between us, though we’re free to let them and we’ve been giving that freedom a lot of exercise lately!

    What’s happening to our public discourse and ability to self-govern in this time of crisis, is indeed inflaming personal passions and fears, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. And there are indeed many nasty personal insults poisoning American discourse, but we the people needn’t make targets of each other and turn into rival mobs.

    I wasn’t accusing you of parroting them but I HAD just heard exactly that line from Limbaugh who, with a high school diploma still has all the education to understand Obama’s words. “No special education required.” He could do better but he purposely misconstrues instead, twists and ties ideas in knots, not to help Americans or put better ideas in the public marketplace but merely to keep his personal power trip and supernatural-sized ego and multi-million dollar estate here in Florida gassed up and well-fed. Our civic breakdown is extemely profitable for him. That’s a fact and no insult to you or children in school, only to him. You’re right that my problem is with Limbaugh and his ilk, not you.

  23. I don’t think Shawna falls into the group you’re afraid of. She has expressed frustration for Obama in the past, but she was 100% behind Hillary Clinton. I know she was irritated at how that whole primary thing turned out. At first, I didn’t really think that was relevant, but then thinking about it I realized that I read her comment differently than you guys knowing that.

    I didn’t see where it was an attack at all. Just two lines she’s not sure she completely agrees with.

    And now I’ll stop speaking for Shawna. 🙂

    And I think y’all gave me another post.

  24. This is news from Kentucky and not Texas but maybe it will help someone who can’t understand where homeschool parents like Lynn, Nance or me are coming from, in these public education indoctrination wars . . .

    !@#$%^&*.wordpress (dot) com/2009/09/09/handy-dandy-public-school-test-for-constitution-waving-conservative-christians/ – Do Your Constitutional Principles About Parents Protecting Kids from Indoctrination at School Object to This or Cheer It? Think about it

  25. You can speak on my behalf Dana, as you seem to understand where I am coming from.

    What I cannot seem to wrap my mind around is this whole attitude that if you do not embrace everything that this president stands for or does than you are a bigot, racist, a conservative. Why can’t somebody just disagree for political reasons, for general like-ability reasons, for purely fundamental differences in thinking? Why the personal attacks against those who question before embracing? For speaking out when disagreeing?

    There is no middle group under this administration and that frustrates the hell out of me. I respect the feelings and opinions of the Obama supporters, so long as they aren’t calling me a racists for not supporting his agenda.

    And for the record, not all of Dana’s readers are homeschoolers 🙂

  26. “A melting pot of differences makes us great but not the same. Hmmm. Is this satire?”

    JJ, think of a huge pot of something delicious simmering over the fire. There are distinct flavors and differences that create the finished product. Without one, the final stew isn’t the same. What each ingredient adds doesn’t make the other ingredients the same as it.

    No satire. My Mexican in-laws blended and added something to the American experience, but they are so very different than my German grandfather… all Americans, all assimilated over a few generations, yet all different in what they bring to the American experience and culture. Those differences make us great, imo… but their assimilation does not make them the same. No satire.

  27. And [blogs.edweek (dot) org/edweek/District_Dossier/2009/09/critics_say_texas_district_pic_1.html this one is in fact Texas, literally making a hash of any constitutional argument about political indoctrination facilitated by public schools:

    The Arlington Independent School District did not show President Barack Obama’s much-ballyhooed back-to-school speech live yesterday, opting instead to tape it and make it available for use later. Students were allowed to take an excused half-day absence to watch the president’s speech at home or somewhere else off school grounds.

    But when it comes to the 43rd commander-in-chief, former president George W. Bush, Arlington schools are taking a different tack: 28 5th grade classes are being bussed to Cowboys Stadium on Sept. 21, where Bush and former first lady Laura Bush will be among the speakers at an event launching the Super Bowl’s education program. The new stadium will be the site of the 2011 Super Bowl.

    Bush, who was governor of Texas for six years before his two terms in the Oval Office, lives in nearby Dallas, where his presidential library is being built at Southern Methodist University.

    The difference in reception of the two presidents has some locals angry. Pastor Dwight McKissic of Arlington’s Cornerstone Baptist church says the school district has some explaining to do. . .

    The point isn’t about choosing Bush or Obama and then duking it out with soundbite slogans or t-shirt logic. The point is we have to think for ourselves on every issue, every time, before we just choose up sides. (For example, I might start thinking this is nonpartisan corporate controlled loss of individual rights, rather than red versus blue politics, and that we’ll all being sold out and need to wake up and tame the CEO overlords before it’s too late. Sperbowl education, seriously??)

    We can claim the individual power that is rightfully ours, not any partisan’s or preacher’s or teacher’s to take from us. We will still disagree about things (of course!) but they will be REAL things, not Tower of Babel frustrations we can’t even use plain words to discuss.

  28. I think we can agree a lot on this one:

    (For example, I might start thinking this is nonpartisan corporate controlled loss of individual rights, rather than red versus blue politics, and that we’ll all being sold out and need to wake up and tame the CEO overlords before it’s too late. Sperbowl education, seriously??)

    But then, that is a large reason behind my distrust of increased regulations. They always favor large corporations. That is part of why I distrust government involvement/takeovers. They always favor large corporations.

    I just want to be able to raise my little goats and chickens and maybe a couple of pigs, sell a little of my surplus. I have no problem with the minimal regulations at the moment which essentially make sure a facility is sanitary. But there is a lot being pushed by Big Ag that will kill any possibility of that. And it isn’t really the Republicans that are their friends. (& I don’t have any of that stuff…well, a few chickens but not even enough to supply our own eggs. Just a dream!)

  29. And “t-shirt” logic isn’t all bad. It is in the way you are meaning, but at the same time, when you have a message, you have to be able to condense it to something that can be immediately understood quickly. We don’t go to philosophy clubs anymore, and don’t hang out at the local tavern discussing the Federalist Papers.

    There’s a camera, you have thirty seconds.

    It takes a certain ability to communicate to succeed in that, but largely I think the Democrats are far more effective at it.

  30. Agree about regulations but that wasn’t what I was thinking, so much as human-friendly systems. Whole and holistic, intelligently designed! (or redesigned, which is exactly how I think about health care reform and school reform e.g.)

    So take food systems, as you say. It’s not just more or less government regulation. That’s not reform. Reform is changing the economics of our whole food system, a la Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and [michaelpollan (dot) com/indefense.php] In Defense of Food: an Eater’s Manifesto say, and Marion Nestle’s Food Politics. Which ties into natural sciences of course, and requires more than “praying away hurricanes” as my governor has been doing, to shamelessly, stupidly pander to the miseducated electorate that two generations of attacking the public schools has created.

    But if we ever did somehow get a mutually supportive core of thinking (homeschool, charter, ps, red, blue, every world view) families engaged in education reform at THAT level, we would change the world. Governments, corporations, demoninations and unions would change or die in response. 🙂

  31. If you design it and force it, I don’t see how it won’t be necessarily regulatory and antagonistic.

    I think we need a system that allows for us to pursue economic activities with minimal outside control and direction. Some is necessary, and I don’t really want to get into where proper lines would be.

    More is gained by doing than forcing, going back to the “well doing.”

  32. Who said anything about force? The point is rethinking what we’re doing and getting better ideas that stand on their own, as soon as you get the criminal conspiracies to defraud off the decks.

  33. Then we agree that the government shouldn’t be doing what it is currently planning for health care? Somehow, I doubt it. 🙂 I was just tying your comments directly to how things are being reformed at the moment.

  34. I don’t know Dana — I kinda figure I need access without discrimination or highway robbery, to what I need for keeping myself and my family healthy, or else the rest doesn’t much matter . . .

  35. Yeah, but I only see the same thing with different players. Big Pharma is already spending money promoting Obama’s plan, and I don’t think it is because they’ve suddenly caught some redemptive vision. Huge corporations always stand to gain from governmental involvement. Part of why GE is so huge.

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