We claim that we want students to be engaged citizens. We claim we want interdisciplinary thinkers. We claim we want lifelong learners that challenge ideas, work collaboratively to solve problems, and communicate effectively.
YET, we don’t want our students exploring the idea of education simply because the President is the person starting the conversation and we fear the controversy.
Over the last few days, I have become increasingly “fired up” about the ridiculous and rampant hysteria over the upcoming speech President Obama that is intended for school age students. I am cobbling together the thoughts I have been sharing on my Facebook page in recent days to share my thoughts on this issue.
What I Believe
While I do not agree with many of President Obama’s policies (and did not vote for him) nor those of Arne Duncan, I DO believe in intellectual freedom. I am disturbed by the nationwide hysteria that is resulting in subversive forms of censorship. How can we say we want to raise a generation of critical thinkers when we don’t allow access to all viewpoints and ideas in our schools? Freedom of ideas and liberty must be permitted for all perspectives, not just those that fit the agendas or political views of one certain group. I totally respect a student’s right to “opt out”, but do we require this kind of opt-out paperwork that is sewing forth from hundreds of school districts for other guest speakers or special broadcasts? Do we deny access to all viewpoints that may differ from our own whether the medium be books, the Internet, or other vehicles for information? No! This is what information literacy and freedom are about people—having access to as much information and varied viewpoints as possible and letting individuals come to their conclusions.
Remember also that for many children, the speech may be the only encouragement they get to follow their dreams and to achieve those dreams through hard work and education–not all children grow up in nurturing homes with responsible parents, and you might be surprised to see how many there are in your own neighborhood.
Why are people so threatened, fearful, and insecure? We devote what amounts to DAYS to mindless standardized test prep, yet we can’t give a few minutes to our Commander in Chief to encourage students to see education as the path to fulfilling life? Our country was founded on the principles of the free exchange of ideas even when those ideas may conflict with our personal beliefs.
I am also disturbed at how people are relying upon obviously biased information sources to argue their opposition. I have yet to see any concrete or reliable evidence that the president intends to do anything other than a deliver an encouraging message to young people. The misinformation that has been fueled by reliance upon opinion-oriented sources only reinforce my belief that information literacy is an essential literacy and more important than ever.
What Others Are Saying
There are others who have articulated opinions and arguments that reflect my own feelings much more eloquently than I ever could. Here are some suggested readings: