Friday, September 4, 2009

Listen to the Speech, Already

I'm a bit confused by the kerfuffle over a speech President Obama wants to deliver nationwide to school kids with the basic message, as far as I understand, of telling the kids to work hard in school. Don't we, sorta, want our kids to work hard? And if the president wants to take time out of his schedule to deliver such a speech, isn't that, at the foundation of all things, good?

Apparently not for everyone.

The school district I attended as a kid announced today they won't air the speech at all. Other districts in the area are waffling, saying they'll let teachers decide on a classroom-by-classroom basis, basically sending the message that if teachers opt to air the speech and parents complain, the district itself can wash its hands of the mess. That's asinine.

Gratefully, the district my kids attend will be airing the speech. They sent a note home with all kids this week letting parents know of the speech and allowing students to opt out if they wish, but at least they've got the guts to send the message: This is the president talking about education. Maybe it's worth listening to.

I just don't know why there's such angst over a speech nobody's even heard yet. Personally, I like to hear speeches before I decide if they're worthwhile or not.

I firmly believe that if this were a Republican president giving such a speech, there wouldn't be any trouble locally, no matter the message. Nobody here complained when both Bushes gave speeches directly to schools, and they hadn't heard the speeches beforehand, either.

But lest Democrats get too smug about the whole situation, they ought to remember similar umbrage over Republicans "hijacking" the Department of Education to "push" their own ideals. Remember, stupid is as stupid does, Mr. Gump.

This slavish devotion to political ideology weakens public discourse and the republic as well. If one side decides not to listen to the other -- or even acknowledge that the other side might possibly be doing something worthwhile -- then we may as well be living in a dictatorship. Maybe that's what the local Republicans fear. But then again, they only fear a dictatorship led by a Democrat.

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