Franklin (MA) School Committee Blog

The pieces below represent the views of the individual authors, not the committee as a whole.

President’s address to students

Posted by Jeffrey Roy on September 7, 2009

At noon on Tuesday, September 8th, President Barack Obama will be welcoming America’s students back to school. The President has spoken often about the responsibility parents have for their children and their education, but in this message he’ll urge students to take personal responsibility for their own education, to set goals, and to not only stay in school but make the most of it.

To help make sure as many school districts, classrooms, and students are able to get this message the President has launched a resources page where you can find out almost anything you’d want to know. You can view the resources page by clicking here. There’s information on how you can watch it on TV or on the internet, classroom activities that teachers can engage their students in around the speech, even the satellite coordinates for school districts that want to access the feed.

The President’s address has certainly generated a lot of buzz in the nation and in Franklin. A number of calls and e-mails have been received relative to the President’s address over the last several days. Indeed, you may have read about the controversy in today’s Milford Daily News (click here). Here is how the matter is being handled in the Franklin Public Schools:

  • Grades K-5 — Principals have told teachers they have discretion to view on computers. If teachers plan to use the speech in class, they need to inform parents and offer an opt out.
  • Grades 6-8 — At this time they are all planning to use the speech as an opportunity to work with students to establish expectations and set goals. The Principals will inform parents thru Connect Ed and offer an opt out.
  • Grades 9-12 — Teacher discretion and offer an opt out.

From a pure policy perspective guest speakers are governed by School Committee policy IJOB, which reads as follows: “Resource persons are those individuals or groups who are invited into the schools to present supplementary information and ideas to the classroom course of study. These experiences afford students the opportunity to benefit from community viewpoints. Care should be taken in selecting these speakers so that they are individuals who respect diversity in thinking and varying views and who are not attempting to inappropriately influence points of view.” Some of the other policies of interest to this discussion include the following (click on the link to view the full text of the policy):

The process being followed in the Franklin Public Schools relative to the President’s speech on Tuesday is clearly in line with these policies.

This is not the first time that a President has directly addressed school students. You can view Ronald Reagan’s address to students from 1988 by clicking here. You can view the text of George H.W. Bush’s speech to students in 1991 by clicking here.

From a purely personal standpoint, I am delighted to see that the President is reaching out to students in such a meaningful way. While I am not generally in favor of too much federal involvement in local school districts (see my post on that topic by clicking here), I believe that giving students a meaningful opportunity to hear from a President who is great speaker and leader, is laudable. I can recall being inspired as a youth by a speech of President John F. Kennedy and his call for public service. It’s something I remember to this day, and it is my hope that President Obama will touch students in a similar fashion. It may even spark greater interest in government and public service, and re-stoke the flame of liberty. To that end, let’s encourage our youth to listen in on Tuesday, or during the replays which will no doubt be available on-line.

You can view an advance copy of the text of the speech by clicking here.

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