Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Problem with Obama's Speech to Kids: It's Bland

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Problem with Obama's Speech to Kids: It's Bland

Article excerpt

Here's a quick quiz in preparation for President Obama's speech to America's students today. To succeed in school and in life, you should:

a. work hard

b. set goals for yourself

c. take responsibility for your own actions

d. all of the above

The correct answer is "d," of course. But every American kid knows that already.

And that's the real problem with the president's message, which will be broadcast live on the White House website and on C-SPAN: It's bland, neutral, and mind-numbingly obvious. You can't even imagine a cogent objection to it.

Of course, that hasn't stopped GOP firebrands from trying. In the blogosphere, especially, Republicans have charged that Mr. Obama's speech will indoctrinate students with his supposedly "socialist" views. Across the country, parents have demanded that schools obtain their permission before showing Obama's speech to their children; others have announced that they will simply keep their kids home today.

But there's nothing socialist - or even partisan - about Obama's speech. If you think otherwise, go online and read the text of the speech or the White House's suggested classroom activities to accompany it. One exercise asks children to make a poster of their goals; another instructs each student to "brainstorm" about what qualities promote personal success. Not a word about Obama's positions on healthcare, taxes, or anything else.

And that's precisely the problem here. To really learn, our kids need to confront the real dilemmas that grip our country. No one will learn anything new from yet another bromide about hard work and personal responsibility; instead, they'll tune out.

So how about using this week to teach our children something they don't know?

Consider our ongoing war in Afghanistan, which appears to be losing its support at home. Fewer than half of Americans now say they approve of Obama's handling of Afghanistan, where he has pledged to increase troop levels. Indeed, 41 percent say they want the troops to start coming home, up from 33 percent in April and 24 percent in February.

Are they right? I don't know, myself. …

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