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Obama’s school talk draws divergent views

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By The Staff

By Hannah Hayes

An open mind is an essential ingredient for the kind of education that will best benefit society. Students must develop creative thinking skills with analytical abilities. This idea comes from the work of Rudolph Steiner, who founded the Waldorf system of education. His schools, of which there are now about 1,000 worldwide, integrate the practical with the artistic in an interdisciplinary approach. Locally, alternative Jefferson County Open School has existed for more than 35 years and serves 55 mountain area students who make up 10 percent of the school’s population. Both educational institutions foster the idea of lifelong learning. You can read more about this philosophy in the newly published book “Lives of Passion, School of Hope” by local author Rick Posner.

With all the controls, cautions and CSAPs from Bush’s failed No Child Left Behind program, education has become dumb and dumber. Witness a small group of sore losers who suffer from fear of thinking and penetrated the public school system with their closed-minded philosophy of excluding President Obama’s talk.

Education has become reminiscent of the Mock Turtle’s commentary in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” He mourns his loss of real turtle status to a curriculum that included “Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and the different branches of Arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.” How can NCLB open the minds of real students?

About 92 percent of those who take the citizenship test pass it on their first try, according to U.S. immigration data. Only 3 percent of the students in Oklahoma would be able to pass the same test. Conservative Brandon Dutcher of Strategic Visions noted this is not just a problem in Oklahoma. Arizona had similar results, and that left him concerned for the entire country.

“Jefferson later said that a nation can’t expect to be ignorant and free,” Dutcher said. “It points to a real serious problem. We’re not going to remain ignorant and free.”

Duh. Public education is at the heart of a free society. Jefferson counted it his second most important accomplishment after writing the Declaration of Independence. (And now you have one answer to that citizenship test.)

Administrators who send students to the basement to hear their president’s stay-in-school message might accidentally provide the kind of radical inspiration that opens an inquiring mind. Alternative models of education, such as those used by Jeffco Open School, enliven students. Waldorf ideas, centered on independent thinking, expand public education when incorporated into curriculums.

Should area schools have shown the president’s speech? Yes, and then allowed students to discuss it openly without fear of persecution. NCLB, which features standardized testing as a superficial measure of learning, must be exposed for its punitive approach and lack of flexibility. Real learning is experiential. Dialogue about current events is essential.

Obama’s mainstream talk should have been as welcome as those by former presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes.

By Kelly Weist

Back to School nights are usually about sitting in the small chair in front of your kid’s desk, meeting his teacher and signing up for volunteer opportunities, like organizing field trips and putting on the Fall Harvest party. However, Back to School night this year raised some very intense feelings. They all revolved around President Obama’s plan to address the nation’s schoolchildren.

Many parents at our school were very concerned about the president’s speech. We had been hearing for a week at that point that the president meant to exhort the children to support his agenda, and had even released a “study guide” that asked children to write letters to themselves about how they could help the president. For conservative parents, the whole thing, but especially the timing, was just too cute.

But of course, we must be crazy Nazi racists for being concerned. At least, the liberal mainstream media were eager to portray us as such. There can be no other reason but racism to be concerned about the president’s speech to our children, of course. For liberals, the savior has come to lead us all to the promised land of hope and change, and he has deigned to lead the little children. For the president, caught up in the rosy glow of his own celebrity, it makes perfect sense to grace the nation’s schoolchildren with his pearls of wisdom.

For those of us not caught up in the Obama glow, this is all just a little disturbing. Let’s review what the administration had done to this point. First we have the second stimulus, which was really a great big porkbarrel for everything liberals had wanted to do for 40 years. Then we have the takeover of the banking and auto industries, with the subsequent firing of GM’s CEO. Then the health care “reform” debacle, in which middle-class taxpayers are assured that nothing will change. We’re also told that we need to suck it up and pay more in taxes on every level to make sure that everything is “fair.”

Many of us had just come from, or were planning to go to, Tea Party protests to let the administration and Democrats in Congress know how scared and upset we really are. And then we hear the president has decided to speak to the nation’s schoolchildren. Is it really too far to believe that the president was looking for a way to put out his glorious message, so as to advance his agenda, by leading the little children toward the promised land?

In the end, the outcry forced the administration to completely re-edit the speech and “study guide” in a mild fashion. So clearly, those of us who were concerned were racist crazies, weren’t we? Our concerns, as hard-working, caring parents, don’t mean a thing to this administration. Drink the Kool-Aid, and shut up!

Hayes Rebuttal

Show me one person who believes that Obama is the “savior.” Many savor his election victory, yet wait anxiously for him to advance the programs he was elected to do. As the “public option” disappears and there’s talk of more troops into Afghanistan, liberals are not saluting the current administration.

Characters such as Ann Coulter and Glen Beck are stoking your fear, Kelly. I know you are upset. The far right’s desperation has hopefully peaked with the treasonous news that one of your own, John L. Perry of Newsmax, has called for a military coup (www.mediamatters.org/blog200909290042).

The president is not seizing inappropriate power; He’s piddling away a mandate. Picking up the pieces from the last eight years of financial ruin caused by war, greed, deficit and Republican big government doesn’t seem to leave much room for a liberal agenda.

A message to stay in school seems like a no-brainer. President Obama asked for students’ support by setting high educational goals. But remember George Bush? He asked them to send money. Now there’s a teachable moment.

Weist Rebuttal

I don’t remember the left running around saying that former President George H.W. Bush’s speech to students in 1991, with almost the exact message of “stay in school,” should be welcomed. In fact, I seem to remember a great deal of vitriol around the idea that Bush was trying to strategically polish his public image in hopes of increasing his re-election chances. Of course, liberals used worse words than that.

I don’t think it’s the sign of a closed mind or of ignorance to disagree with our Glorious Leader. In fact, isn’t that the definition of independent thinking disagreeing with the powers that be? Wasn’t it the left that was screaming “Dissent is patriotic” for years? But conservative dissent isn’t patriotic, is it? It can only be ignorant.

I wonder what would have happened had President George W. Bush spoken to the nation’s students. In fact, I know. The left, including teacher union thugs, would have been protesting in front of every school in the nation. Parents voicing concerns to the leaders of their public schools do not in any way rise to that level.

Attorney and political activist Kelly Weist has served on the board of directors of the Colorado Federation of Republican Women and is the co-founder of Mountain Republican Women. She is an adjunct professor of political science at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Hannah B. Hayes is a small-business owner and activist with Evergreen Peace. A recent graduate of Leadership Evergreen with a master’s degree in education, Hayes has remained active in this community through her writing and organizing for 35 years.