Pres. Obama’s address to schoolkids

I’m mortified that the school district where I grew up has opted not to show the President’s speech (transcript). So I wrote an angry letter to the Superintendent and our local paper:

Dr. Theron J. Schutte,

As a graduate of BHS, a student School Board representative (’85), and News Editor of the Growl (’86), I was shocked to hear that the Bettendorf Community School District would not be showing the President’s speech during class time.

It is deeply embarrassing to me that BCSD would buy into the idea that somehow President Obama’s speech is controversial. The outcry is rooted solely in right-wing paranoia and the ravings of TV pundits/lunatics. BCSD, by limiting Obama’s address, gives credence to outlandish partisan fears that the speech will “indoctrinate” our youth. This would be comically laughable, except that it shows what little faith the district has in Bettendorf’s students, teachers, and the quality of education that you provide.

Regardless of what the actual content of the President’s speech is, it provides teachers with a rare opportunity to engage students in a lesson in civics. Did BCSD refuse to show former President Bush’s address to school children in 1991?

In my opinion, restricting ANY Presidential address seems anathema to providing a quality education. If the District is kowtowing to “concerned” parents with regressive (read: racist) political views, then you have stewarded BCSD onto a slippery slope. Will the District in the future stop teaching that the world is round based on parental pressure? Will you move the District away from teaching about evolution? Is future BCSD curricula to be decided by mob rule?

BCSD, like any school district, is charged with educating students by encouraging the free exchange of ideas and information. If you and the rest of the District’s decision makers are unable to stand up to base political pressure from a vocal and cynical minority, then I would strongly encourage you to consider retirement.

Superintendent Schutte emailed me this reply today:

A couple things played into my decision to leave the viewing and/or use of the President’s message up to the discretion of the Buildings and/or teachers. One was that for some reason, we received very late notice, in comparison to other schools, that this event was taking place. The first we heard of it was this Thursday though other Districts received email notification 3-4 weeks ago. I did not feel it was appropriate to direct a mandatory viewing and have each building and/or classroom adjust their schedules, on such short notice, for this purpose. I felt comfortable with that position, given the nature of the presentation, that it could be used at any time, especially in the near future, and would have its desired impact. I also felt that with one message geared to Kindegarten thru College Prep students that it may be deemed more appropriate to use certain portions of the message with particular age groups and/or classes vs. showing the whole message. I appreciate your input.

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  1. Mary Pat Jones

    Thank You for coming forward. It’s unclear to me as to how the decision to withold the live broadcast of the presidents speech unfolded. Was this a school board decision or was it made by an administrative group? Regardless it’s disconcerting that obviously this school districts threshold for controversy is so limited that it would forsake it’s responsibility to lead parents and the community regarding the importance of developing the ability to hold multiple perspectives, especially opposing ones.
    Their apparent blindness under pressure to grasp this as an opportunity to assist students in using the tension around this speech to advance the concept of critical thinking skills sadly calls into question the depth of their collective skill.

  2. Dr. Kenneth Tennant

    Bettendorf School Board is less than honest. They have a policy that deprives students of their right to be faced by their accuser or to have witnesses on their behalf. BMS dean of students Mark Sade lied on my 6th grader and was supported by Linda Goff. They suspended our son and Barry Anderson refused to hear us. These people are frauds and put their interests first. Shame on BMS administration.