Districts Plan for Sept. 8 Speech
School districts across Missouri — in Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield, and St. Louis — are preparing for the president’s Sept. 8 address to schoolchildren and dealing with the attendant controversy. As was noted in the comments to my last post on the planned speech, the Department of Education has changed its recommendations for classroom activities to go along with the speech. Now, the assignments have less to do with helping the president and listening to directives from the White House, and more to do with achieving personal goals; the speech is transformed from a political campaign event to a self-help seminar.
Some districts will not show the speech at all, while others will let individual teachers decide what to do in their classrooms. A few districts intend to videotape the speech, review it, and then show it to students later if it conforms to their video guidelines. The diversity in district responses is a good sign. It means that districts are making decisions locally and aren’t just taking orders from the federal government. I think we’d see a different outcome if airing the speech were connected with “Race to the Top” money. Fortunately, it isn’t (yet).
I’d like to see more districts address the issue of how they’ll use the Department of Education’s teaching materials. Will teachers ask students how they can help the president, following the initial set of instructions? Will students brainstorm about personal goals instead? Or will students rigorously examine the president’s speech, considering arguments both for and against?