Editorially Speaking

I’ve never received a hateful comment on my blog, but I realize I am opening the doors WIDE OPEN today.

As a teacher, I find it impossible to stay silent today, on the day of Obama’s speech about education. I try and keep things light around here, but today? Today, I need to speak my mind.

Today, President Obama will go before the nation’s children to deliver a message about staying in school and working hard. That’s it. I’ve read the speech in it’s entirety and there’s no mention of universal health care, or socialism, or becoming a Democrat. There is no indoctrination of our students into any sort of political party. George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan delivered speeches similar to this one—this is not “new” or dreamed up by Obama, or anything that he’s developed in order to serve a personal political agenda.

The speech is powerful, well-written and inspiring to me as an educator. It encourages personal responsibility and hard work, which are cornerstones of successful people, not a political agenda. Obama cites examples of people who have overcome tremendous odds to be successful. He puts the onus of success not on parents or teachers, but where it squarely belongs on the student. He reminds our students of the most powerful thing they can hear: that THEY have something to offer. That THEY have a gift to give the world, and a talent, all things that may go unrecognized until they write a paper, perform an experiment or get involved in debate or student government. Obama addresses the idea that while there is evidence to the contrary, one cannot simply bypass hard work and find success in sports or celebrity, and reminds students that no matter what career they choose, an education is necessary for it. He reaches out to a generation of kids who face struggles of single parents, of financial woes and other troubles and relates to them with his own story. His speech includes this powerful excerpt:

But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.

Is there any better message for kids to hear? That they are in charge of themselves, that no matter where they came from, they can make their own life? That circumstances are no reason for giving up hope and not trying? Isn’t personal responsibility and empowerment what we WANT kids to have today, regardless of their background?

It breaks my heart as an educator to see the seething anger that some people have towards this speech. While I would understand it if there was a political agenda in it, or if remarks were not released prior to the President speaking, the fact is that the speech is available for review. Blind hatred for one person, group or thought process serves no purpose in life. Not one. There’s no reason to openly hate this speech simply because it will be delivered by a leader you may not like. The fact is that, like it or not, Obama is the leader of our country. He is the President. And as President, he is calling our students to a higher level of education. That’s it. He is NOT pushing anything other than responsibility and effort in school. There is nothing about health care, gay rights, abortion, family values, health care, the economy or any other divisive issues. When taken at face value, the speech is something that all children (and many adults) should hear. If you have an issue with Obama’s politics or person, you’re within your rights, but for today? Can we take it at face value? If you have an issue with the speech, please, I beg you: tell me what the problem is. After combing through it, trying to understand the concerns behind it, I’ve come up with none as it relates to the speech.

It’s part of life that kids will sometimes come across things that may not exactly jive with their family’s personal preferences. That’s why it’s imperative that parents do their job: PARENT. Discuss, share your family value and ideas, while letting your kids explore. By parenting actively and being involved in your student’s life, you can pass on your own family values and ideals while exposing them to new things that may help, encourage and inspire them. If your family dislikes Obama, you are well within your rights, but take a step back and read the message that you’re forbidding your children from hearing. Is it really that inflammatory? Is it worth excusing them from class for? Can’t you take a message for what it’s worth: an inspirational message about doing your best, instead of turning it into a political firestorm? I see this message as an opportunity for healing and unity, not for yet more divisiveness.

And as for my role, the choice has now been laid on me, as an educator. Do I show the speech, something I believe in and think is valuable, and risk a negative reaction from families? Do I go against what I think is right and not show it, and play it safe? I am not going to lie: I hate walking the line. I hate being afraid to teach, of worrying about every little word I say because I teach in an age of lawsuits and standards and fear. I think of the adults that poured into me as a child, and I realize that what was powerful was that they let me know them. I remember being young and learning things and knowing I could come home and discuss them with my parents–and knew that they would share with me what they believed was right and true for our family. I don’t wish to indoctrinate students with my beliefs; however, I hate that if I show a speech I believe to be powerful, I could be questioned. People wonder why teachers have changed, why it seems our educational system is in such a bad place, and I will tell you, as someone on the front lines: we are fearful. When we teach in an age where a simple speech, delivered by the leader of the nation, is considered a “concern” and evokes such negative feelings, please tell me how I’m supposed to teach about anything else that might express an opinion. If I read The Outsiders with my students and they develop sympathy for Pony Boy, have I indoctrinated them into a gang? If we read the brilliant words of Maya Angelou, who discusses her womanhood and ardent sexuality, have I encouraged them to speak the same way? Where is the line? How do I give them gifts of knowledge about the world if I worry it may clash with personal beliefs? The fact is that there are questionable things in every good story, in the words of every good author, and every history book tells the story of people who were considered revolutionary and controversial. Our country was built by people who were not afraid to take risks.

I fear for our country. Not because of who is or is not at the helm, but because of where we the people are steering us. If this speech garners national attention, and districts, administrators and teachers are fearful to broadcast it due to a firestorm of anger, what does this show about us as a people? Have we really not come far enough to be able to listen to a message that is POSITIVE, regardless of who it comes from?

All I know as that today, at 10 AM, I will be broadcasting the speech, live in my classroom. I hope that it falls on the ears of my students in a way that is positive and powerful.



Filed under life with titch

20 responses to “Editorially Speaking

  1. *fist bump*

    There’s nothing left to say but YES, MY GOD, YES. Oh, and that when my kids are old enough for school, they have teachers like you. Loved this, Amy.


    I do NOT for the LIFE OF ME understand what all the “controversy” is… other than creating problems for problem’s sake.

    I think that if people are going to act so foolishly about hearing what THIS NATION’S PRESIDENT has to say… then we should export them to Canada.

    I’m just sayin.

  3. kel

    I’m showing it. I see nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with this speech.

    Also, if you wanted hate mail, look no further. I hate your guts. You suck major balls.

    There. happy?

  4. I don’t know what the big deal is. Why is it that people are still mad he won? Is it cuz he’s black, I hope not, but that is the case for some people in other parts of the country. It’s over, he is the President. I don’t know why people want him to fail so bad. Don’t they realize, if he fails, we suffer? He may not have been your choice, but he is all we have for these 4 years. And that speech is empowering and beautiful, and I can only imagine what it will sound like coming out of his mouth; he’s an excellent speaker.

    I live in AZ and here we have the right to bare arms anywhere. In some places, there are bars where you can see everyone with a gun strapped on. Well, Obama came for a speech recently and can you believe, people made it a PURPOSE to bring there guns?! For what? To intimidate him? It’s absolutely ridiculous and shamefull. Call me anti-american, but things like this make it embarassing for me to call myself American.

    xo Anastasia B.

  5. annie

    GREAT COMMENTARY!! Agree 100%

  6. Great post! I completely agree with you. It’s so sad that people are taking their kids out of school for this. It just smacks of blatant racism.

  7. Very well put. And I’m 100% sure if W had wanted to do a speech like this, the conservatives would have been all over it. I was so saddened to hear people thought Obama would try to brainwash their children. Guess what folks? You’re already well on your way to doing that yourselves.

  8. Right now (and for the rest of my life), I’m living with a man who believes that this president is going to doom our country and possibly the rest of the world. But when I see things like this speech, it makes me want to slap him (my husband, not the president). How could this message doom anyone? I don’t understand.

    So many people’s views of education have been skewed by NCLB, close-minded views of literature, and refusal to take responsibility that it’s nauseating. I wish I knew what to do about it on more than a one-on-one basis. I can only hope Obama’s speech, and support for education on the whole, will show people that schools are places to not only gain knowledge, but wisdom.

  9. BRAVO!!! And I can only commend you for showing his speech in your class!
    We cannot be bullied by those who are spiteful and have nothing but hate in their hearts! That would be the biggest tragedy!

  10. Jen

    You can’t see me, but I’m totally standing up in the middle of the computer lab on campus applauding you. Okay, so maybe I’m doing the standing part in my head, but I did mutter an emphatic “fuck, yeah!” that drew a couple of stares. Haha.

    I completely agree with you here. Wholly and without a doubt. Sadly, I think a lot of the bias here is because President Obama is a liberal-leaning Democrat, oh yeah, and he’s black on top of everything else that’s “wrong” with him. It’s disturbing on a number of levels, especially given that if W. had done the same thing we probably would have turned it into some sort of mandatory-viewing-national-oh-my-god-ain’t-he-great-holiday.

    But I digress. I love you even more for your decision to show the speech. And I’ll second that *fist bump* you already got up there.

  11. Ari

    Thank you! That was wonderful! I’ve been wondering myself what all the fuss is about. As a kid, I remember watching after school specials with Bush Sr. and Regan, and no one fussed then that they were giving indoctrinating me with a conservative agenda, so why now?!

    Personally, I think people are hating Obama just to hate him. Or because Rush tells them too. I (and other like-minded Americans) had to put up with (f*ed up) policies of the last administration for 8 yrs. Obama hasn’t even been in office an entire year and is already receiving way more crap than Bush ever did. Give the man a chance!!

  12. I just read President Obama’s speech, (thanks for the link^_^) and I find absolutely nothing other than truth, inspiration and positive reinforcement in those words.

    If an individual doesn’t care for President Obama’s plans as the leader of our country, that’s one thing. Worry. Talk about it. Fine. But ignorantly(because OBVIOUSLY they can’t have read his words, right?!) claiming that he’s going to “brainwash” our children with an encouraging, well-written speech?! Whatever.

    Thanks for posting about this.

  13. I read it too, last night. And I thought, “I say this shit to my students ALL of the time. Parents don’t tell me that I’m trying to brainwash their kids.”

    But I’d LOVE to brainwash them into doing their homework and working hard and trying their best!!

  14. I am horrified that parents are letting their political views get in the way of our future generation’s education and well being. Since when did working hard, staying in school and educating yourself become something to be frowned upon? I applaud our president for this speech, as well as the past presidents who gave similar speeches, and I applaud you for showing this to your classroom. All those crazy parents can suck it.

  15. A Super Girl

    Yes, just yes. I too read the entire speech after hearing people say there was all this backlash. I truly don’t get where the backlash is coming from. Ridiculous.

  16. Juley Robarge Woods

    I should have clarified on facebook that I am not opposed to children hearing the speech, just that I would not choose that for my child. Just like I would never have my daughter get the HPV shot.
    November would be welcome to hear it, sitting next to me. Just as I wouldn’t have her read a column by Dr. Dobson without me explaining it to her. I am glad that the speech was uplifting. The clip you included was fantastic.
    Sorry if it came off wrong Amy!
    Your favorite anarchist,
    Juley Woods

  17. Clap. Clap. Clap.

    Such well-written and thoughtful insights. Thank you for sharing.

  18. more applause. so passionate and beautifully written.


  19. Alyson

    I 100% agree with you and if I was still teaching, I would’ve shown it too. (And you know where I fall politically). People are letting their issues with other views and policies of his get in the way of being open-minded. To me, it’s simply immature and ignorant.

  20. So well spoken. I am considering going into education after I graduate, and I simply could not have said it better myself. Cheers ❤

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