Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Platitudes from the President

President Obama gave his back-to-school speech today at Masterman High School in Philadelphia. It was a strange choice -- Masterman is a high-achieving, exclusive school whose students hardly need a pep talk. However, that's what they got.

Your future is in your hands. Your life is what you make of it. And nothing – absolutely nothing – is beyond your reach. So long as you’re willing to dream big. So long as you’re willing to work hard. So long as you’re willing to stay focused on your education.

Oh really? If you graduate from your fancy college with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and there's no job to be had, lots of things will be beyond your reach.

But here’s your job. Showing up to school on time. Paying attention in class. Doing your homework. Studying for exams.

It's insulting to tell hard-working, ambitious, cream-of-the-crop kids that they should show up to school on time. They know that already. That's how they got to Masterman. Even when the President visits a high-achieving school, he's talking to low-achieving kids.

My concern for schools like Masterman is that the kids are working TOO hard at mostly unnecessary tasks and are under too much pressure. But that possibility is never addressed by educrats.


  1. My daughter's school brought in Education Secretary Arne Duncan two years ago. He told them the same thing. Stay in school, work hard, show up on time, do your homework. Say what? This is a school from which students attend every Ivy League, Stanford and MIT each year, just to name a few.

  2. Right, all kids are talked down to, the same way all mothers are talked down to. All kids are told to do their homework and study for their exams, even the ones who already lose too much sleep doing just that. All mothers are told to read to their children, even the ones who already do so, and are better educated than the teachers.

    I see it as laziness. Politicians and others can't be bothered to find out whom they're talking to and what might be relevant to say.

  3. PsychMom agrees...Laziness just jumped off the page at me. Whoever wrote that speech sounds like he did it 10 minutes beforehand and that zero thought went into it. It doesn't have an ounce of inspiration in it either. Poor kids.

    If I were a teacher listening to that I would also feel really disappointed. "That's it? That's all he has to say?"

  4. PsychMom....

    And furthermore......What happened to that speech that he made in 2004 at the DNC. Me....a lowly Canadian in the Maritimes, downloaded that speech and thumbtacked it to the wall and told unsuspecting visitors to my office that that man had greatness. That was a great speech.

    But this speech... this "just say no to drugs"-speech, talks down to the one group of people he really should be reaching...the ones who need his leadership more than their parents do. The way he's lighting and pointing them to leads down a deadend, offers no hope or ingenuity and doesn't demand a thing of them but blind obedience. There's no room for creativity in there anywhere!

  5. You would never have thought you'd hear it from me, but I would like to put in a plug for the kids at my daughter's school (now alma mater). I love those kids. They are hardworking, ambitious, serious. To echo FedUp, I don't worry these kids aren't working hard enough, for god's sake, I worry they're working too hard, losing too much sleep, under way too much stress, and are being taken advantage of.

    My daughter's school was rather different from your run of the mill affluent suburban high achiever set. Oh, it's that too, but some of the students actually come from modest means (you're lookin' at it!), are quirky, very intellectual, smart and talented. They were a great group of kids. It's why my daughter wanted to stay and put up with a crushing work load.

    I'd be pretty ticked if President Obama came to this school and talked down to the kids that way. Stay in school? I once volunteered in the clinic. A boy came down complaining of sore throat and aches. We quickly discovered he was running a fever of 103 and "quarantined" him immediately. He was fighting back tears because he'd have to miss school. At this school, we don't make the kids get a pass when they go back to class. These are not the students cutting. That they cheat in other ways is an entirely different story.

  6. Obama wasn't talking to those kids, he was using them as a nice backdrop to help him pose as someone who is "serious" about personal responsibility and "rigorous" about education. The actual kids standing in front of him have nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, it's a nice metaphor for the way kids get treated in our political debates.

  7. Chris, I thought of that too. Obama wasn't talking to "those kids." It was a nationally televised speech. The president pulledo out all the bromides, the platitudes. But if he's not addressing the school kids facing him, why bother making the visit at all? Just sit in the Oval Office or your White House family room, cozy fireside chat style, and address the nation.

    Gifted kids hate being dismissed, valued only for their scores and making the schools look good. They bristle at being marginalized in this rabid NCLB debate when bringing up the bottom has been the standard for years now.

  8. HWB, I had a long talk with a friend whose kids go to our local "high-performing" public schools. She said that one of her son's teachers actually told her that her plan was to let my friend's son coast until the other kids caught up to him, so "all the kids will be on the same page."

    If you look at Obama's speech, part of it was specifically addressed to the Masterman kids. But the rest was just recycled from last year's speech.

    Ugh -- I looked back at the page with Obama's speech, and he's just announced a new effort where he's got 100 CEOs trying to improve STEM education. What do CEOs have to do with it?

  9. PsychMom here:

    Last night I caught a show on tv about the commercialization of public schools. It was about the issue of schools being so underfunded that they HAVE to have corporate sponsorships in order to provide essentials in schools. The Channel one issue was discussed as well. Talk about being kid-unfriendly. The only goal of this commercialization is to derive profit and customers.
    I guess the encouragement for this comes right from the top...

  10. The larger question, Psych Mom, is what exactly are schools doing with the money they DO have (they spend far more than most people think -- study their budget if you have time)?

  11. PsychMom, click on NAME/URL and type in PsychMom in the NAME field. Ignore the box that also asks for your URL. This is easier than initially clicking on ANONYMOUS and having to then identify yourself at the top of your COMMENT.

    PsychMom will come through and you don't have to list your handle twice. In the beginning, I couldn't get HomeworkBlues to show up, it would reject and I had to go into one of my accounts, yahoo or gmail. It was several steps too many.

    Try that. For some odd reason, it works now. Maybe FedUp heard our cries and got Blogger to fix it? :)

    Unless it's different up there in Canada :).

  12. Oh, to add. There is still one more step too many. When you do the above, it doesn't automatically go through and you have to click POST COMMENT again. But then, PsychMom does show up and you don't have to click ANONYMOUS from the outset.