On Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009, the President of these United States spoke to school-aged children across the nation via a television address. I was confident my children, in attendance at a public elementary school in the Harrison County school district, would be viewing and listening to this address. It was directed, after all, to them.
As it turns out, I was being naïve. As far as I know, neither my children nor any other Harrison County children saw the speech during its original airing. Apparently, the concerns of a few outweigh the civil liberties of the majority. If I understand things correctly, teachers were given word they would be allowed to air the speech at its designated time for students on whom parental permission had been obtained. Permission? To hear their President? I believe some of the surrounding districts (i.e., Scott, Bourbon, Fayette) aired the speech to all students, allowing those who chose not to view the address to “opt out.” No permission was required.
I believe school staff and students now have access to a DVD which may be viewed at any time, or used for instructional purposes. Will teachers again be asked to obtain parental permission for this post-facto viewing? Odds are, instead, it will be much easier to remain non-controversial and not include the Presidential address in any form in the classroom.
If it was determined written parental permission would be required for students to view their President at the intended time, it would have been appropriate to inform parents. I received no communication regarding this matter from the school or district. While we cannot return to the recent past, if I were able to, I would personally ensure my children had the opportunity to view their President, on the intended day, at the intended time. I would reiterate, however, I was not aware I would be required to go to such lengths (i.e., taking time off work, taking them out of school) for my children, who attend a public school, to have access to the leader of their nation.
While it is true that I am a supporter of our current president, I would like to make clear my issue is not politically motivated. I was not generally in agreement with the previous administration, but I would have fully expected my children to hear a speech directed toward them, and I would have been disappointed had they not received that opportunity.
My children were able to view this inspirational, nonpartisan speech thanks to youtube. While it is not the greatest speech I have ever heard, it certainly didn’t harm my children to hear it, and I think exposure to their government will help them be better informed and involved citizens. If your children missed the speech, consider taking a minute and viewing it with them.
Mark D. Sims