It is appalling that Florida’s Broward County Public Schools, one of the largest school districts in the nation, located in one of the most liberal counties in Florida, is requiring all BCPS children to be in attendance to listen to the President's school address or the students will be punished! That is outrageous; it's ludicrous, and if there was a stronger word that I could think of, I'd use it. It’s using strong-arm tactics; it’s coercion. That's a strong accusation, but how else can you view it?
Broward County parents should have the right to say what their children should or should not listen to especially if it may be something that is in direct opposition to the belief system under which they are raising their children.
The US Secretary of Education has said the President’s speech is voluntary. But the Superintendent of BCPS has decided to force their students to be in attendance for the speech. Rather than offering an alternative educational experience for children during the time the speech is being presented for those whose parents have objections, the superintendent threatens to punish the students who are not in attendance. In my opinion, this is a simplistic representation (though an isolated case) of how if you don't do what the government dictates, you will be punished through whatever means they can use. (Schools are an arm of the government, you know, since they control education in the US.) In this instance, it is a blatant attempt of the BCPS to control an outcome, to usurp parental authority by threatening the children with punishment.
President Obama's speech hasn't actually occurred yet, of course, so I can't say exactly what is in it. If the reports hold true, it's about trying to create more volunteerism, cleaning up the environment, saving energy, becoming more neighborly. I believe they took out the part where the students were to “help President Obama” under pressure from the public. And, oh yeah, at the last I believe they more stronglypromoted the staying in school and getting a good education part. So, in my opinion, if Obama keeps himself out of the speech, the “how can you help the President Obama” part, then as I understand what will be covered, the uproar should subside. But as responsible parents, we should be teaching our children to want to be good citizens anyway -- regardless of who is in office, not because of who is in office.
However, in regards to this article, the content of President Obama’s School Speech is not what is at issue. What is at issue is the concept of forcing students, especially students of very impressionable ages, to view a presentation which may contain objectionable content. This issue is similar to requiring children to participate in the pledge of allegiance to the flag. Children are not required to participate in classrooms where this is practiced. So, it begs the question why they should they be forced to participate in the President's school speech and any activities that come from the suggested curriculum if the parents disagree.
Obviously, children should never be forced to participate in something that is in opposition to their parent’s personal beliefs or face punishment -- or endure any reprisal. I must, therefore, side with the parents that believe they should have the say as to what their children participate in whether at school or elsewhere in the community. But more importantly, a parent should have the right to temporarily remove their child from the classroom if they so choose without the child receiving punishment. In fact, many do for various reasons with the understanding that the child will make up any class work that they miss or do some other project that is acceptable.
It would have been much wiser and made much more sense if the Broward County Public Schools had devised an alternative to sitting through the speech to accomplish similar educational goals, if the students were allowed to have some other educational activity, possibly a discussion on how to be a better citizen, how to conserve energy, how to volunteer, etc., or some kind of program that inspires them to think about these subjects, to share ideas, and perhaps even have the students create their own action plans for implementing some of their own ideas. That makes a lot more sense than alienating parents and punishing children, doesn't it?
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(Side note: Everything seems to come back to the hot topic of healthcare these days. So, would the philosophy of punishment for non-compliance hold true if you don't buy into the government-sponsored insurance coverage? If you don't accept the government's plan? You betcha. It’s in the HR 3200!)