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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Teaching kids not to listen?

President Barack Obama’s attempt to encourage students to take their education seriously has resulted in accusations of propaganda, indoctrination and a sly attempt to endorse his “”socialist”” agenda.

Today at noon (EDT), Obama will be making a speech at a Virginia high school which will be broadcast across America to any school district that chooses to listen.

This is not the first time a president has addressed school children in a nationally broadcast speech. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan made a speech, broadcast nationwide, addressing the nation’s students. In 1991, President George Bush followed suit, this time addressing school children nationally from a Washington high school.

Yet, Obama’s attempt has been met with fiery opposition — a fire started and stoked by the conservative media.

The president’s visit was announced weeks ago, but it was only on Wednesday morning, when right-wing sites and talk show hosts began berating the visit, that the fervent resistance ensued.  

Mark Steyn, a political commentator and Canadian author, compared Obama to Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il on the Rush Limbaugh show on Wednesday, according to The New York Times.

Chris Stigall, the host of radio’s KCMO Morning Show, said, “”I wouldn’t let my next-door neighbor talk to my kid alone; I’m sure as hell not letting Barack Obama talk to him alone.””

According to The Wall Street Journal, 21st century technology may be partially to blame for the furor surrounding Obama’s visit. With talk shows and virtually infinite blog opportunities online, protestors’ outcries are easily heard and extremely accessible.

But poor wording is at fault as well. Originally Obama intended on suggesting to students to write letters to themselves about ways the students could “”help the president.””

A few misunderstandings and exaggerations later, some conservatives decided that such an assignment was an attempt to make their children political — God forbid.

With their complaints in mind, the suggestion was altered to encouraging them to write letters to themselves on how to “”achieve their short-term and long-term education goals.”” 

Despite the revision, there continues to be controversy across the nation, including Arizona.

According to The Arizona Republic, school districts across the state have been ambushed with distressed and passionate calls in opposition as well as in support of the broadcast.

According to The Arizona Republic, Arizona’s largest district, Mesa Public Schools is allowing parents to excuse their children from school if they contact the school first.

Many districts in Arizona will be following Mesa’s example. In the Scottsdale Unified School District, students were sent home with opt-out forms so that parents could decide what they felt was appropriate.

Tempe School District, on the other hand, requires that all students watch the speech with no choice of opt-out forms.

Meanwhile, Prescott Unified School District will not have any students watch the broadcast.

Though the Obama administration insists that watching the speech is merely voluntary, the question remains whether the lesson being taught by parents excusing their children from school is really an acceptable one.

With each opt-out form turned in, one student is learning that they don’t need to understand and listen to opinions they don’t agree with — or their parents don’t agree with. They are not learning to listen to others and form their own informed opinions. Sadly, this shines some light on the issues with which this country relentlessly struggles.

Debates about health care reform and the war on terrorism rage on, bereft of solutions because people on each side of the issue refuse to listen. One can’t learn or expect to be heard if they don’t listen.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a generally conservative paper, some conservatives worry that the tumult initiated by fellow right-wingers over Obama’s school visit may discredit their efforts in other, perhaps more pertinent, topics.

Frank Luntz, a one-time strategist for Republican candidates, suggests that people should try to relax.

Luntz says that conservative critics should “”pick (their) battles,”” or “”at some point the public will stop listening.””

It is pretty absurd that people feel the need to tell their children they shouldn’t listen to the democratically elected person in charge of the country.

Perhaps they should learn to control their misplaced anger and teach themselves, as well as their children, that listening, no matter what side the speaker is on, can only be of benefit in shaping a more informed opinion.

— Rachel Leavitt is a creative

writing junior. She can be reached

at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu

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