Tuesday, September 08, 2009

President Obama Encourages Kids; Parents Horrified

I saw a woman crying on the news this morning because she just couldn't stand the idea of her children having to sit in a classroom and listen to President Obama tell them how important it is to do well in school and work hard in life.

She was literally in tears, barely able to speak, because of her certitude that, in just a few hours, her children will be strapped to a chair and indoctrinated by Obama's political agenda of socialism and godlessness and being black.

This is what our country is up against. The absolute, unwavering, willful stupidity of people like this Illinois woman who was unloading a bevy of tears over the idea of her children not being dumb.

I still have no idea how this country breeds people who are so proud of their ignorance. Actually, the pride's not even what scares me. It's the way people are so protective of their ignorance. The people so happy to be used by the very people who are disgusted by them, the people who show up at a town hall meeting with a loaded gun, the people who will honestly believe Glenn Beck when he tells them that Obama's health plan is socialist, but who won't take the time to educate themselves on the realities of both the plan and their own insurance system. The people who hear buzzwords like "death panel" and "communism" and let their imaginations run wild, willing to shoot someone to protect their corporate servitude and their non-coverage for pre-existing conditions, simply because someone louder tells them it's good for them.

I am so beyond disgusted with this country.

Everyone is so hell bent on needlessly politicizing every aspect of life that we actually have schools in this country who are opting not to carry the President's school address today. And while you certainly have the right in this country not to listen to what anyone has to say, I'm uncomfortable with the idea that schools--government buildings--are able to simply opt out of an address by the President of the United States.

Have you read the speech? The full text is here. Read it. See what you're protecting your children from. This is the indoctrination you're afraid of? This is the message you fear?

Here are some of the quotes that caught my eye.

"... at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world - and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed."

"Take responsibility for yourself" is indoctrination? Man, I wish. I sincerely wish all it could take to get kids to do better in school is to give them a speech. As a teacher, I can tell you how hard it is to get kids to sit down and pay attention to anything, let alone a presidential address.

But the fact is, and I see this at work all the time, kids today aren't exactly raised to take responsibility for anything. They're not encouraged to do well, they're just encouraged to behave. I see entire classes fall behind because kids won't pay attention. If a kid is too disruptive, he's taken out of the class and put in a class that goes at a slower pace, and this is somehow seen as progressive. I saw a fourth-grade girl take three hours to finish a standardized test because she just couldn't pay attention to it. How is catering to her problem supposed to get her to overcome it? She should be encouraged to work harder. Instead, she'll be put in a class that doesn't demand any more of her than she can do at the age of 8. Good luck in your future endeavors, little girl.

There are parents out there who want to keep their kids ignorant of the idea of personal responsibility. And that's not just overstating or making a false connection. Again, this is what I see as a teacher. There are parents out there who are just utterly offended by the idea that their kid should have to be responsible for anything, should be beholden to any code of conduct, or should have to suffer any consequences. Most of those parents also think that forcing a kid to follow the rule and do his/her homework is "stifling their creativity."

"Every single one of you has something you're good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That's the opportunity an education can provide."

Yes, telling kids about the benefit of a good education must be indoctrinating them into some kind of socialist agenda that only exists in the heads of idiots like Rush Limbaugh.

"And no matter what you want to do with your life - I guarantee that you'll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You're going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can't drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You've got to work for it and train for it and learn for it."

There was a time in our country--I was a child at the very tail end of it--when it was considered a good things to teach kids to be smart, responsible, good citizens, hard workers, and interested in what happens to them. Apparently, this is bad now.

"We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that - if you quit on school - you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country."

That's a message kids don't just need to hear, they need to internalize it. I think reinstating government classes into the school curriculum would go a long way towards teaching these kids just how big our problems are, how far backwards we're sliding, and the importance of government in their daily lives. Kids are supposed to go to school to develop themselves and to equip themselves with the tools they need to do well in life.

I especially dug this:

"... 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."

Anyone who thinks this is a poor message for students is an imbecile. Pure and simple.

What are you supposed to teach kids? That they don't have to make an effort? How's that doing? How has our self-esteem-is-more-important-than-facts education system benefited the future of America? Because not only has the idea that teaching kids to feel good about themselves totally backfired--and its educational benefit completely debunked--it hasn't equipped my generation, for example, to maintain, to innovate, or to progress.

I remember a prevailing attitude when I was in elementary school that you could be whatever you wanted to be as long as you wanted it bad enough. That's a poor, poor message. The message should've been that achieving anything takes hard work and determination, that you don't get anything simply because you want it badly, and that you have to keep trying if you want to succeed.

The woman I saw bawling on the news that her kids were going to have to sit and listen to the leader of their country was obviously not told any of those things.

This was my favorite part:

"Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you're not going to be any of those things.

But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject you study. You won't click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won't necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try."

That's the kind of realism that too many people try desperately to shield their children from.

I had a fifth grader once tell me that he didn't need math in his life. I told him that I'd try not to say "I told you so" in the future when he couldn't figure out how much change to give me at the gas station. And this was considered controversial by the school. The kid told me that he was going to be a great drummer--and I'd heard him play, he's a very talented drummer, and he's obviously worked hard at it. I told him that he had talent, but that his skills were only developed by working hard at the drums every day. I told him that if he wanted to go into music, he should learn math so he knows if he's getting ripped off.

The reality was that the kid got frustrated with math because he wasn't good at it right away. But while that kind of kid benefits from specific attention, he doesn't benefit from getting shunted into a classroom where he learns at a slower pace than everyone else. Maybe it's insensitive, but that caters to his problem. He's got to be made to work. He's got to see how the subject is relevant to his life and what he wants to do. And he's got to be given a real chance to overcome the problems he's having with numbers.

You know what got him to work? I had a discussion with him about how music is math. And when he saw that, he got right to it. So now he beats out the numbers in his head. But you know what? He knows how to multiply now.

"... you can't let your failures define you - you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn't mean you're a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn't mean you're stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying."

Also: "No one's born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work."

Understand, we live in a country that thinks small. We used to dream about going to the stars and revolutionizing travel and curing diseases. Now we dream about having a personal data device that can tell us what time the movie is starting and what restaurants to avoid. Our dreams have gotten small, so our problems seem insurmountable.

What the President of the United States is telling you is that no problems are insurmountable with hard work and dedication. That pushing yourself to do better helps us all succeed.

He's not telling you to narc on your friends, like George H.W. Bush did when he made a similar speech (with the same request that students write letters and essays) in 1991. He's not trying to make you afraid of the future, they way Bush the Smarter certainly did (I was in the audience, I remember it all too well).

President Obama wants to tell your kids that--with responsibility, hard work, and an education--the future is theirs to make brighter and better.

If you're trying to protect your kids from hearing this because you think he's some kind of socialist who's going to teach your kids to be communists--well, not only do you know nothing about either ideology, you're also an idiot. There's no way to be nice about that. You're a moron.

One more quote from Obama's speech: "The story of America isn't about people who quit when things got tough. It's about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best."

If you want to be mad about something, you should be mad that it takes a special presidential address for your kids to hear this when, really, it's something their teachers and their parents should be telling them every day.


Tonio Kruger said...

I'm not the first one to point this one but it must be said: if the last president of the United States had been giving this same speech, there wouldn't be any controversy.

And indeed, though I tend to be as skeptical about the political left as anyone, I'm also cynical about how quick conservatives are to jump on anyone who opposes them even if they give a speech that seems to be right out of the traditional conservative platform.

I can't help but be reminded how quickly cultural conservatives were quick to jump on Wall-E for basically doing the same thing.

Some folks never learn, but then again some folks also stand to reap great benefits from an increase in ignorance. And as long as that's true, I don't see this trend reversing itself.

Brian said...

Well, hey - whaddayah know. You and I agree on a political issue:


Donn said...

I saw that woman on the news and I wanted to write to her and offer to rescue her children and pay her to stop reproducing narrowe minded bigots!

Actually creating a national program to sterilize anyone who doesn't think..
like her...geddit, doesn't think...
and of course any idiot who still watches uber moron Glenn Beck.

Somebody needs to give everyone at FOX news, you too Rupert, a "special" pill that causes laryngitis and sterility.

"The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately in the *USA, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever."
Oscar Wilde
*with minor alteration

Dusty said...

This post is spot-friggin-on!

Oblio said...

HOLY CRAP, GREEN!!! This is the best analysis of Barry's speech I've read so far. I have forwarded a link to your post far and wide, and I hope everyone I know reads and contemplates your perspective.

I too saw that bubbling weeping fount of stupid on the tube this morning... my wife and I both looked at each other and said, simultaneously: 'WHAT A F*CKING MORON".

Thanks again for your amphibious take on this issue... you have a gift for speaking the truth in a straight-forward and cogent manner. I applaud you, sir!

SamuraiFrog said...

Tonio: The fact that this country is now politically divided over something as simple as listening to its own president says a lot about how rough things are going to get. I don't see this trend reversing itself, either.

Brian: Yeah, I think there's a big difference between disagreeing with what the president says and questioning his motives for speaking to any American citizens. I'm not exactly Obama's biggest fan right now, but I can only criticize him by his policies and what he actually says.

Donn: America had the forced sterilization debate back in the 20s and 30s, I'm sure it's not coming back now. In America, anyone can have a forum. I just wish that didn't translate into "everyone's arguments are equal, even when they're batshit crazy."

Dusty: Thanks!

Oblio: It's just from the perspective of a former terrible student turned teacher who wishes he'd done better in school. I appreciated the encouraging content of Obama's speech and his message that kids need to work harder. They do. Too many of them float through and learn nothing at all. I taught a whole group of kids who couldn't even name their own president. This is what comes of the idiot hippie policy that says getting kids to behave is stifling creativity and making kids conform.

la scorchita said...

This is an absolutely amazing right to the chase, cut-throat analysis of the sheer stupidity being bred today. I am sharing your essay with as many people as humanly possible. Your eloquence and sharp wit never cease to amaze me. I 100% agree with everything you said and I feel that you conveyed what I feel so fantastically.
Thank you, as always, for being one of the smartest, wittiest bloggers in the stratosphere.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Amazing post. I too wrote about this topic but once again you made me glad I come to your site whenever you post something new. Its a gift to get to the heart of the issue with facts that cannot be disputed. I felt your frustration that I too feel but from across our shared northern border. How do you stand it being right in the belly of the beast. I am so thankful that here in Canada this kind of fear mongering would not be tolerated from any of our commentators, pundits or polititions. For some reason we would find it all rude and there would be shame in that. Like when I was a kid and you hid your bad grades or poor assignment marks - you weren't proud of failure - from your fellow classmates. I had a great father who really valued education. Its not hyperbole to say that my sister and I could kill someone and my father would have helped us get rid of the body. However, if we didn't do our work, or sassed a teacher or put less than our best effort into a project then he would let us know pretty quickly how unacceptable that was. He had dreams for us to go beyond high school and I loved him for that. I taught school for 20 years and I always believe that students will rise to the level of expectation. Unfortunately too many parents expect so little of themselves that the kids hardly stand a chance to succeed. Great post Brother Frog. You do your own parents proud.

SamuraiFrog said...

La Scorchita: Thank you. I think you overpraise me, but thank you for saying so. I can only give my perspective.

Cal: It is just incredibly frustrating, isn't it? At what point did people stop expecting to get anything? It's like we've just given up and don't care anymore, and gotten so comfortable than any attempt to make things different--even for the better--is terrifying.

Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure how I stand it, either, except that I have hope people will snap out of it. I just don't know what it's going to take.

Johnny Yen said...

The fact that these people exist, and in not-insignificant numbers, explains how the last administration, a pack of jingoistic, kleptocrat morons could have gotten in office and stayed there for eight years.

The good thing is that it's clear that our side can just take the gloves off and swing away at the changes needed in our society. No need to deal with them-- there's no point in trying to reason with people that stupid (or their intellectual apologists). They're a minority, and a shrinking minority, at that.