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Teachers Cheated My 7th-Grader By Not Showing Obama's Speech

Updated on September 9, 2009

A matter of respect?

Should the teachers have had the choice of whether or not to show the president's speech, or should they have simply shown the speech out of respect for the president?

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California...not so liberal after all

I can't express how appalled I am by the sixth- and seventh-grade teachers at my son’s public middle school who apparently bent to the pressures brought on by weak-minded people who influenced them not to show President Obama's back-to-school speech; a speech filled with words of encouragement to American children to set goals, study hard and become responsible citizens of our country.

After having read the text of the president’s speech on the White House website Monday to see what all the fuss was about, I was so looking forward to discussing this message of encouragement with my children today upon their return home from school; I was looking forward to hearing what they discussed in class. I believed our schools were taking advantage of this real-time, historical learning opportunity.

The first disappointment came when my third-grader returned home and she said her teacher only showed the speech without any discussion. When I went to the school to speak with her teacher, she said they did have a brief discussion about the importance of staying in school and working hard.

More significantly, I was infuriated upon finding out my seventh-grader (or any of the sixth- and seventh-graders, for that matter) didn't have the option of watching the president’s message because of the teachers’ decision not to show the speech (eighth-graders got to watch). Over the holiday weekend, we had received two calls from the schools saying the children would be watching the speech; I confidently assumed my children would participate in watching along with their classmates and our nation’s youth.

It’s bad enough that right-wing talking-head fear mongers have influenced too many sheep in this country to believe their lies. Then, without any basis of fact, these followers simply spout the anarchist talking points raised by the conservative propaganda machine and ranted by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. It’s bad enough that too many small-minded communities/school districts across the country refused to show the president’s speech. But now, it’s outrageous to find out my own child’s school teachers decided it would be easier, less inconvenient, less bothersome, less controversial and less confrontational to not show his speech. Whatever the reason, you excluded my child from this moment of historical magnitude. You cheated him out of an opportunity to discuss the message of the speech and hear the opinions of his peers.

In online forums, some parents complained they feared this speech would “indoctrinate” children to support the president’s policy positions. Look back at President Reagan’s speech to school children. You’ll hear his positions on communism, democracy’s influence on the world, trade policy, the war on drugs and more. Never did President Obama raise issues outside the premise that if students work hard, they can become successful citizens who ultimately make our country stronger. I ask my son’s teachers, what was the problem with Obama’s speech? Aren't the values represented in his speech the ones teachers say they impress upon students on a regular basis?

One friend tells me the teachers simply don't like change and watching the speech would have upset their tight teaching schedule. My mother's opinion is it comes down to people's prejudice against our president and the lack of respect thereof because of his color. Surely, there must be a sensible reason somewhere in the middle.

After calling the school, the principal said the teachers may show this speech another time. My son didn’t want to wait and asked to watch my recording at home. This 12-year-old quickly interpreted Obama’s message: doing well in school ultimately helps your community. I’m confounded why conservatives find this an antagonistic premise.

I truly hope teachers choose to show this speech soon; not only to encourage students to strive for and achieve higher goals, but to show some respect to the office of the presidency and the exceptional role model Obama represents. Moreover, after eight years of listening to the bumbling fool who made a poor attempt to fill that great office while setting a poor example for our youth, I would have thought our educators might welcome an opportunity to show youngsters, a president can be intelligent and speak using coherent sentences.

The many children at my son's school have already missed out on being part of history; they can't say, "I was there when our president spoke to our nation's children." Instead, they are relegated to learning about this speech, this historic moment, as something that happened in the past as they listen to a history teacher drone on about "this president did this, that president did that." The teachers' choice at my son's school, and many others across our nation, stole that experience from too many students.

Teachers, how can you expect our children to do their best (as is expressed on a banner hanging in the school’s gymnasium) if you refuse to show them our best role models? I truly hope teachers won’t completely bend to the will of obtuse fools. Rather, I hope the teachers have enough fortitude to show Obama's inspirational speech of encouragement posthaste and ignore the erroneous trumpeting of those who seem determined to dumb down Americans.


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    • Joelle Burnette profile image

      Joelle Burnette 8 years ago

      Suiiki, I'm sorry you had to experience the negative changes brought on by the Bush administration. I worry about my kids' education every day. If we had the money, they'd be in private schools.

      Our son does very well in school (honor roll every semester), so I don't have as much concern about him--he's very good on his own.

      Our daughter, on the other hand, has had difficulties all along--she's been in speech therapy since pre-school, she has difficulty with her writing, she's a bit behind the other kids (and yet, she's really good at math). She's in 3rd grade now, and because of budget cuts in our district, they raised the number of kids in her class from 18-20 up to 27-30. The teacher has already told parents she spends a lot of time quieting the children and getting them to focus, but she's hoping things will settle down as the year moves along. Still, I worry that she won't receive the attention she requires.

      Cosette, I agree that this is a form of censorship. Thank you for agreeing this was wrong, especially as you are not a fan of the president. I'm so glad to find out there are people out there who can agree to disagree (about the president), but are intelligent/reasonable enough to realize this was a missed opportunity for these kids.

      Thank you for your comments!

    • profile image

      cosette 8 years ago

      i was surprised to find out that the schools in my district didn't show the speech. well, appalled, actually. this is as bad as some parents filtering every bit of information their children encounter, or censoring & editing textbooks. how are our children expected to build critical thinking skills and the ability to make up their own minds if we ban things like the President's speech? i'm not a fan of Barack Obama, but i wouldn't have banned his speech and think it was ridiculous that anyone would, ESPECIALLY an educational institution.

    • Suiiki profile image

      Suiiki 8 years ago from City of the Newly Wed and Nearly Dead

      If this had happened to me or my sisters, my father would have immediately been on the phone with the principal, super intendent, and school board to complain. After having Mr. "I was not aware that I was dyslexic" Bush ruining the American educational system for eight years, it's about damn time somebody tried to FIX it.

      Bush's No Child Left Behind Act left more children behind. I was in advanced placement classes up until his changes took effect, then all of a sudden the teachers were so focused on getting kids to pass the standardized tests that they couldn't spare ten minutes to help a student who was struggling. I almost didn't pass my grade 12 algebra class, and had to take a remedial course in college because of how far I fell back. If I had graduated two years earlier, I wouldn't have had to deal with "We can't help you, you're too smart to qualify."

    • Joelle Burnette profile image

      Joelle Burnette 8 years ago


      Yes, my son told me he didn't get to watch it at school and then his first question was asking if I had recorded it. So, of course he could watch it here at home, which he did before having a brief discussion about it.

      Was it an historic speech? If it was the principal of the school standing before a throng of students, then no. But because this was our president trying to send a message of encouragement to all our school children across the nation, doing something that has only been tried by two other presidents, then yes, it is an historic event. Regardless of how busy the teachers feel, and yes, I fully realize the pressures under which they have been placed whilst they are forced to teach to the test, this man is still their president. That position should and does come with a certain level of respect.

      I don't know if you watch Bill Maher, but tonight what he said reflects my sentiments. He said:

      If the White House had any balls, they'd say, "He's giving a speech on the importance of staying in school, and if you spineless jackasses don't show it to every damn kid in you school we're cutting off your federal education funding tomorrow."

      I agree with Bill and wish the democrats would grow a pair and finally strike back with the same strength, conviction and venom the republican conservatives do.

      I find it truly frustrating trying to have a civil discourse with conservatives before they resort to lies and ridiculous off-the-wall comments that have nothing to do with the topic. If you'd like to see what I mean, a version of my letter to the school was printed on my county's largest newspaper's website as the "letter of the day." It's unbelievable what these people think makes sense. Visit the "comments" area from my letter at:

      Thanks for your comment!

    • Lwelch profile image

      Lena Welch 8 years ago from USA

      Has your child had the chance to watch it at home? The way I looked at it was that he is the president, but, that these days teachers barely can teach anything for even 10 minutes without the fear that standards and tests will haunt the 10 minutes of whatever. I was curious if presidents have ever spoke to a school audience before. The only news event I remember watching was the Challenger explosion. I am not sure this speech was historic. (well maybe the controversy surrounding it was) But, in my mind there are so many presidential speeches on such a regular basis that another speech is no more historic than any other. I think that parents who really wanted their kiddos to see it and did not have a chance to do that with the school should show it at home. I know this is a bland comment on what became so political, but, had it been another era it is likely the decision most schools would have made. Does it fit the standards? Do I have time? Can the kids watch at home and then talk about it in class? No matter what it is a teachable moment. Share with you child your feelings and see what theirs are, talk about the whys, make them think about it. Nothing better for a child than a good discussion be it at home or at school.

    • profile image

      arlene 8 years ago

      I discussed your letter with my sister and feel there is power in numbers. Present this letter to other parents and have them sign their agreement and present to principal. these teachers should know you are not the only one disgusted.


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