September 5, 2009

What will your children learn on Tuesday?

"The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Raising Thinkers. It's more than the name of this blog, it's what I do every single day. The sheer number of debates, discussions, and banter are testament to the fact that my kids have their own opinions and don't just get told what to think. And yet, I'm not perfect. I do sometimes offer up my thoughts on something without being asked. Lately, I've started to notice that they will repeat what I've said as their own view, and I don't think that's right. I have since resolved to try to keep my opinions to myself unless they ask. But then I started hearing about the controversy regarding President Obama's speech to students on Tuesday, and I was a little taken aback. My friend Mo really nailed it:
Regardless of whether or not you like President Obama, and whether or not you agree with his policies and vision for this country, instead of insulating our students from this ONE speech (or even from the current national debates), why are we not turning this moment (and ensuing moments) into a “teachable moment”? Are parents so terrified of allowing their children to ask questions about the world they inhabit, that they prohibit their children from hearing a view that MIGHT differ from their family’s view? Are they so terrified that their children might actually begin to think for themselves, that they isolate them from the real world, real people, real events, and demand that they ONLY be exposed to views conforming to their family’s world view? Is it okay to raise our children to be mindless drones as long as those drones conform to our own world view? Or do our children deserve the freedom to explore their world, and their own minds, fully and completely, with the loving support and guidance of parents, teachers, mentors, and other adults who love and care for them?

I read through the activities for teachers and students and I didn't see anything alarming. I saw questions designed to help kids think about why the president would be reaching out to them and why they should care. As a homeschooler, I have no reason to even worry about what public school children are doing with their days. Well, except that my kids will have to interact with more people who were in public schools than not. It's not easy to have civil discussions with people that have never been encouraged to think and formulate their own ideas. Not allowing children to practice these skills is only going to make it harder for them as adults. I came across this blog post on We Blogg-ed that is about this very problem.

I think it boils down to: schools shouldn't be afraid of offending parents' sensibilities, and parents shouldn't try to shelter their kids from everything they find offensive. Let them make up their own minds.

ETA: Here's a link for Obama's speech tomorrow. If anyone is interested there are also links to Reagan's 1988 message to students and George H. W. Bush in 1991.


  1. We are a household of 2 politically-opposite adults who agree on the Obama/schoolchildren address: there is nothing wrong with it.

    Our son is a bit young to be interested or care, but we're still going to watch it (after the fact - Tuesday, noon EST, is 1 a.m., Wednesday here), and discuss it.

    I've heard that people are concerned about this speech somehow "indoctrinating" their children. But by keeping their children away from it, the parents are indoctrinating them.

    I guess it is acceptable when they are pushing their own thoughts into their child's/children's heads, rather than allowing them to think for themselves.

    You make excellent points, with which I agree wholeheartedly.

  2. The whole controversy totally blows my mind. The way I see it, a lot of people in this country would love to live in a fundamentalist state instead of free democracy. Those are the ones who really like to call themselves "patriots".

  3. Thanks Wendy :) And just how does one speech indoctrinate anyway? Indoctrination takes a lot of time. I could see some concern if he wanted to talk to kids weekly, but geez, once? Come on!

    Raising a Happy Child- Exactly!