Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's A Slippery Slope

Before I get all heavy and serious and depressing, go visit my other site for a nifty giveaway. I promise, this post will still be here when you get back.


I'd told myself that I wasn't going to post about this. It's a week past the speech (yep, you all know the topic now, don't you?), but it just keeps on with a life of its own in our district.

It started out two weeks ago yesterday when I went to our presidents' council meeting where the PTO presidents across the district get together twice a month. The superintendent told us about the speech and that he'd been getting angry emails from parents since the night before wanting to know why he was mandating that all students in the district watch the speech. Considering that he hadn't known there was a speech and had to google it to find out what the parents were talking about, in his own words, "I hadn't even known about it yet to mandate it." That didn't stop the parents in our district from freaking out.

The decision the superintendent did make, once he had all the information, was that it would be a teacher by teacher decision whether or not to show it, and if parents didn't want their students to see it, they could go elsewhere to study during that time.

Personally, I think the parents who were pulling out of school all day (and there were several) went overboard. The message wasn't a bad one, and I wouldn't be opposed to either of the wee ones hearing it (neither did, FYI). However, if I were the parent of a high school student whose -- say -- math teacher decided to show it for that math period, I'd be upset because my student now lost a day of teaching that the other identical math classes didn't for something that wasn't related to the class that my child easily could have seen later online at home.

I think my district made the right choice in leaving the decision to the teachers, as they're the ones who need to decide if and how it fits with their lesson plans. The key being their lesson plans.

However, last Thursday a memo went out to all the teachers in the district. If they wanted to show the speech again, they had to get signed permission slips from all the parents in the class to show it. In other words, I'm a speech teacher or a civics teacher or whathaveyou and want to tie it into my lesson plan because of the history of it or to analyze the oratory skills, and I now need the parents' approval of my decision to show it in the classes that didn't have me as their teacher during the original broadcast.


Ummm, what?

If I have a legitimate reason to reshow the speech, then I have a legitimate reason to reshow the speech, and it isn't about politics.

How soon before we have to get permission slips to start watching other potentially politically charged -- but valid teaching tool -- speeches and moments in history. Do we decide that the Clinton impeachment hearings now need a permission slip, too? The way that the memo to teachers is worded, yes, they do.

And that means that maybe the Challenger explosion, Reagan getting shot, JFK getting shot, MLK's I Have A Dream speech and more -- they all need the blessing of every parent in the classroom now in order to be shown.

Yes, we had some vocal parents. But why are they now deciding how teachers preside over their classrooms? And how quickly does the administration realize what they've given away?

Sometimes it's about trust. It's about knowing that you've taught your child well and that your teacher is going to teach your child well. It's about knowing that you have a critical thinker who can analyze anything they see and draw their own conclusions about it. I wrote awhile ago about helicopter parents, and this? This really scares me.


Laura September 15, 2009 at 11:34 PM  

Here's my thoughts: I'll be brief :D
1) it was about staying in school which should be on EVERY teachers lesson plan-period
2) the 'angry' voice mails were all pretty much word for word the same across the board-someone (who??) is feeding the fire (hhhmmm does her name start with O-BAM-a deathsquad by the way??) with word for word mini-speeches to pass off as intelligent thought
3)It IS a slippery slope to stupidity I have lost friends of 15 years who were spewing the ranting crazy crap and could not be talked down-insanity

you are brave to post this how many readers do you think you will lose?

Melisa with one S September 16, 2009 at 5:54 AM  

Although I saw no problem with showing the speech live in the first place, I think that a solution to the whole problem would've been for him to prerecord it, and then after all of the people screaming about how they were worried he was going to go all socialist on us could've seen that they were wrong and then the schools could've shown it the next day, after it was previewed. (But I wasn't one of those people, so...)

And I agree with you completely.

BTW, in our district, the high schools did not leave it up to the teachers; they decided not to show it at all across the board. Sad.

Raevyn September 16, 2009 at 6:51 AM  

Unfortunately, at least here in Texas, we are no longer teaching, or even really allowing our children to be critical thinkers. We are teaching them to parrot back answers, and to pass standardized tests.
Honestly, I don't believe it would have hurt any junior high or high school student to see and hear the speech. Perhaps even older elementary students, but in this largely Republican state, I doubt many students watched it in school.

Anonymous September 16, 2009 at 7:14 AM  

Yes, the speech was harmless, but if you teach in a public school, you work for the tax-paying parents. You must respect their beliefs, plain and simple, especially when it comes to politics.

This day and age parents are more involved in what their children are learning and seeing. I've heard teachers begging parents to get more involved in education. Now you've got that and you're complaining?


morninglight mama September 16, 2009 at 8:57 AM  

I'm with you-- there's a clear line between being involved with your child's education, in a SUPPORTING role to your child's school/teacher, and then there's crossing that line to the mindset that as a tax-paying parent you have the right to call the shots. I pay city taxes that go toward my garbage pickup as well, but I'm not out there telling the workers how to plan their routes or how to do their jobs.

This was simply a politicized event due to outrageous loud voices, when it didn't need to be. Plain and simple.

MaBunny September 16, 2009 at 10:08 AM  

Our principal decided against interrupting school time to watch the speech, however, we did watch Obams inauguration.
I also remember watching the Challenger explosion , it happened during our PE class in junior high - we were going to watch the launch due to Christa McAuliffe , so we saw it first hand.
I agree with you that the permission slip and politically correct talk is getting a bit out of hand.

septembermom September 16, 2009 at 10:55 AM  

You should have heard all the "talk" going back and forth on soccer fields the day before the speech. In my district, parents were given the option to "allow" their kids to watch the speech. They didn't even show it to my first grade son. My fourth grader saw it. I think it went right over his head. Like most things :) Michelle, I agree with you that we should trust that our teachers would not make a choice that would interfere with instruction time. I think the whole thing got blown way out of proportion.

Anonymous September 16, 2009 at 12:40 PM  

I agree with you completely. The need to overreact when children are concerned astounds me. Yes, of course, I think you have to be vigilant about your child, but come on. In my opinion, the hate and automatic disregard for this particular president is astounding and does not speak well for what our future holds. I understand people do not like the POTUS, but he is still the president and for that I say he deserves respect.

Unknown Mami September 17, 2009 at 12:02 AM  

I'm with you on this one.

Elizabeth September 17, 2009 at 8:57 AM  

I'm with Shelly Overlook on this one. The position of president still deserves respect. And, besides, it is MY job as a parent to help my children decipher all the things that they come across in their lives. We don't do Hannah Montana or Bratz dolls, but that doesn't mean my daughter doesn't know what those things are. I just tell her it's something we don't play with at our house.
And regardless of WHO I voted for, I still respect the POTUS and the position he holds. We need to teach our children respect and the ability to disagree with others WITHOUT hate and judgment. It takes all kinds, and people are so eager to jump to one side or the other. How about just tolerating each other and agreeing to disagree respectfully?
And even IF my kids saw the speech and even IF he spouted off something I disagree with, then it's MY JOB as a parent to explain to my kids what we as a family believe.
It's all just so silly, isn't it? People need to calm down and take a deep breath. Sheesh!

Michelle September 17, 2009 at 7:45 PM  

Laura - Good points, although the voicemails weren't all the same... we have a nasty habit in my area of rumors spreading like wildfire without confirmation. It at least isn't an organized effort here to cause trouble thankfully. And losing readers? I honestly hadn't given it a thought. If this is going to drive people away, sorry... but I'm not censoring myself for that!

Melisa - Ahhh, but your point is missing one key element: that people against it would watch and it and see that they were being silly. Interesting that your district pulled it completely though!

Raevyn - We're working on that parroting here in many schools, and it's so sad for me. My focus on teaching that to the wee ones because who else will....

Jen - But when things aren't about politics, teachers need to accept that while they are paid by parents (and others), that doesn't mean that parents dictate what is taught because they aren't the experts in the area. The issue is about politicizing things that shouldn't necessarily be politicized and ceding control in an area that shouldn't be ceded.

Dawn - Actually, you made the point I was trying to make above much more eloquently. Amen.

Marcy - It really is the permission slip for ANY video now shown in school that concerns me. Have some faith!

Kelly - It sounds like some of the talk that was going on around here. Except that I was working and therefore missed most of it. It was rather entertaining to watch the news that night though!

Shelly - And the sad thing is that the hate and disregard for this president is echoed by the same for the last president. And to a lesser degree the president before that. The divisiveness is worrisome, and the lack of respect disappointing. I do not like the message it's giving my children.

Unknown Mami - It's good to know so many are. Such a shame you don't live in the Chicago area where you could talk some sense into people!

Elizabeth - Absolutely! It's about having the faith in our teachers and in ourselves and our children that we can teach them to think for themselves and respect those in authority. Here's hoping deep breathing becomes more popular soon!

Mrs4444 September 19, 2009 at 10:59 AM  

I saw the speech as a teachable moment for students and parents. It's my belief that parents who freaked out are insecure about their control over their children's beliefs, and if you're that worried, then you're probably not doing a good job communicating with your kids.

Michelle April 10, 2010 at 10:59 PM  

Mrs4444 - There is definitely a lot of that. I just wish that there was a way to educate with current events that weren't cutting into class time unequally for core subjects like math and science.

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