Shortly after the announcement that President Obama would host a webcast with students on September 8, cries came from school district leaders and parents across the United States expressing criticism of this event.
I was impressed with the fact that this opportunity would be available where students could interact with the President and possibly ask him questions or talk with him about issues relevant to students throughout the United States. The last time a US President has interacted with students was in 1988 with President Reagan and in 1981 with President Bush. Personally, I believe this to be an enormous learning opportunity for students of all ages to engage in meaningful dialogue related to topics that are directly relevant to them regardless of where you stand politically. I had no idea the backlash that Obama would receive. Here in San Antonio, parents complained that if their child participated in the webcast they would pull their child out of school for fear that Obama would, ‘sneak in’ differing political views.
Many school district leaders are prohibiting teachers from showing the webcast to their students. Instead, districts are offering to post the event on their district website and parents can download and watch the recorded webcast. Two of the largest districts in San Antonio are planning to do just that and not because of bandwidth issues. In a different district here in town, parents were given the option to of completing a form to opt-out and have their child not participate in the event in other districts in town should their teachers participate in the event but the two largest districts will not have their students participate during the live webcast at all. How sad it is that these students will miss this opportunity.
Word has gotten back to the White House and they are working to ensure that this event will not be a political affair and focus on educational goals instead. Most of the criticism has come from Republican leaders like Governor Rick Perry of Texas (Republican) stating that Obama didn’t give them advance warning or a heads ups, that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology as expressed by Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer or participation would a “worshipful, rather than critical approach” as shared by Tom Horne, Superintendent of Public Instruction of Arizona.
US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, states the webcast will,
“…challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their own learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”
Follow up materials for use in the classroom are sent to the participating teachers to use in the classroom with their students but according to Tom Horne, the materials are not acceptable and do not foster critical thinking. Tom Horne continues his comments regarding the questions on the classroom materials and materials in general,
“What inspired you the most?” and “How can you help the President?” are “not balanced” and “do not foster critical thinking.
“An important part of educating students is to teach them to read and listen critically. The White House materials call for a worshipful, rather than critical approach to this speech,” says Horne, “We like to encourage critical thinking of our students, seeing both sides of an issue, being able to argue both sides of an issue, being able to analyze. And instead what we have are materials that have phrases like how will he inspire us, what are the most inspiring things he said, write them in big letters on the black board, how can we help him, that kind of thing.” Source: Huffington Post