by Patrick Appel
A reader writes:
You say you are ignoring the furor over Obama's school talk "because it is a fake story."
It is all too real and scary.
I teach in a midwestern, upper-middle class suburban school. Before I was even aware that Obama had announced this speech my principal sent the entire staff an e-mail that in essence said if you plan on airing the speech you are to contact him first and also contact the parents. Since when do I have to contact parents for airing a presidential address?
By the time I got home that night, my own children's district (which is in an adjoining county) had posted to their website how teachers were planning on using the speech and that it would not be mandatory. Unbelievable.
Today there were two more e-mails about the speech from my principal. The first re-affirmed that only two teachers were planning on taping the speech to possibly show later, and if anyone was to do this they were to contact him, contact the parents and be sure it matches standards and not to make it mandatory. Another e-mail was sent to say that the district would be sending a letter home to parents about this.
But the letter was pre-empted by a phone call from our district's automated phone system where a district official notified parents that no teacher would show it live, that only Social Studies teachers might consider showing the video but only if it correlated with state standards and that it would not be mandatory and parents could opt them out of it.
This is our first week of school, and there is the typical nuttiness that goes on in schools during a first week. This was a priority the last 24 hours for administration? Three staff e-mails and an automated phone call home about a presidential speech that is slated to encourage students to stay in school and do well.
Two years ago we had a student bring what looked like an improvised explosive device into school, toss it in a trash can and flee the building. Luckily it was not explosive, but the school went into a lockdown for two hours while the building was secured and the student apprehended. There was one staff e-mail and one automated phone call to the parents.
Two decades as a teacher and I'm absolutely incredulous watching a school cater to a minority of loud, fearful and irrational voices. Sadly, our district has a higher rate of minority students (by far) than the other suburban districts in the region.
This is happening at schools all over the map. There is a furor and it is not a fake story locally at your neighborhood school.