My Fair School District

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September 5, 2009| Comments

My Dear School District:

Well, you certainly played me when I called your office yesterday, didn’t you? It actually didn’t hit me until after we hung up. After 30 minutes on the phone with you, I was no better informed than I had been a half hour earlier when I dialed the phone.

Allow me to remind you how it went. I called to see how you, dear school district, would be handling the President’s address to the nation’s schoolchildren, set for Tuesday, September 8th. You acted as though you weren’t quite sure what I was talking about. I patiently told you about the speech, when it was scheduled, that it was to be a “welcome-back-and-stay-in-school” message to the kids from their leader, and that there was some controversy surrounding it. Yes, I played along, but you knew all that already, didn’t you? You knew full well that this event was being met with such words as “indoctrination,” and “inappropriate” from parents suspicious of the motives behind it.

Nonetheless, as you will recall, I told you that it was not so much the President’s speech that concerned me, but the original “lesson plan” that was distributed to the nation’s schools by the U.S. Department of Education to accompany the speech. Included within this original material, I explained, was an instruction to kids – grades pre-K through 6 – to write letters to themselves about what they might do to help the president. First you had heard of this, apparently (again, just playing along).

Then, suddenly, you had the paperwork in front of you. Remember that? The very Department of Education material we had just been discussing. You scanned it, and, wouldn’t you know, you saw no mention of schoolkids being directed to help the president. I reminded you that it was the original lesson plan to which I was referring, and thus the original intent of this speech. In the wake of parental controversy the content had been revised. You continued to feign innocence. You asked if this original material I quoted appeared on official Department of Education letterhead. Nice touch.

In the midst of this, you implied I was the only person who had called your office, the only individual in our entire community who had inquired about this. Oh, but wait. Yes, there were other calls. Now you remembered. Your office had actually heard from quite a few parents earlier in the day. You then insinuated that perhaps I, and those others, perhaps we are simply confused and not properly informed. You were even rather specific in less than the most complimentary terms, about where we probably got our information.

You seemed surprised to hear that my information actually came from original source material – original source material that still, even after the White House revision that deleted the “help the president” directive, includes suggestions that students study the lives of the Presidents (preferably the current President, the only one referred to by name), that they reflect on what the President wants them to do, and that they ponder why it is important for them to listen to politicians. Well, Barbara Bush once spoke to schoolkids, you added (and, yes, I know, so did her husband and Ronald Reagan), but the difference, I responded, was that her talk did not include a lesson plan designed to help her husband, the president. You conceded I was right. Remember?

The bottom line is that I was simply seeking information, knowing that school officials nationwide have been setting district-wide policies in response, again, not to the speech, necessarily, but to the accompanying, unprecedented lesson plan. Given my fact-finding experience, my district apparently chose to remain vague and confusing: “most of the kids will probably be at lunch anyway….school just started so there is a lot going on….everyone has so much to do.”

When finally I accepted that there was no official policy, no concrete information to be had, I bade you farewell and said I’ll just have to see what happens. You, gratefully I think, followed my lead. But you sounded tired. Sad, even. I don’t know what that meant. It just wasn’t really what I expected.

You may be interested to know that after our conversation, I decided to tune in to left-wing radio and see how the situation was playing there. I was greeted immediately by a raspy rant that now to appease the “trailer trash,” the White House was being forced to release the content of the speech on Monday. As “trailer trash” representative, let me say I’m glad to hear it. Oh and just so you know….that comment was exactly what I expected.

Thanks for your time.

Betsy Siino | Comments