41 Responses to Redistributing Grades

  • Ladies and Gentlemen… I present the future of America. * shudder *

  • Hmmm, they are not too willing to share yet they fail to see the comparison. Troubling…

  • Grades are like money in that you have to work hard to get them. Other than that, the analogy breaks down. People who have poor grades aren’t prevented from eating. The need for money as opposed to the need for grades is dramatically different.

    Moreover, at some point money actually becomes excessive, particularly for those trying to live a life of gospel poverty. It’s hard to think of a reason that grades are excessive.

    So the students are right; this is a very poor analogy.

  • How hard does Paris Hilton work for her money again?

  • Other than that, the analogy breaks down.

    The analogy is good because these kids don’t have any money yet, so they are all for redistributing it. What they do have is good grades, so “keep your greedy mitts off it” is their attitude.

  • Though good grades frequently move you along to better schools thus to better long-term earnings. Giving up part of your grade to another (who is often only slightly less adept academically than the one getting a 4.0) can help even the financial field in the long-term. Thus acting in part like redistribution but from a non-financial basis.

    It also reflects in part the affirmative action programs of the 70’s and 80’s where students of lower abilities were admitted to better schools in this interest. (Though it was often justified on the basis of “diversity.”)

    Don’t see why the analogy completely fails though, as noted and as is true for all analogies, it is not perfect.

  • “The analogy is good because these kids don’t have any money yet, so they are all for redistributing it. What they do have is good grades, so “keep your greedy mitts off it” is their attitude.”


    “People who have poor grades aren’t prevented from eating.”

    Neither are people without money. See food stamps.

    Having gotten rather good grades throughout my academic career, I would note that I have had to work far harder for the money that I have earned since I graduated from law school, than I ever did for the grades I earned in the past.

    A good follow up would be to ask A students in favor of wealth redistribution, after they have graduated, if they would be willing to have positions they qualify for due to their grades given to students with poorer marks. (Congrats on landing that prestigious clerkship with Justice Blank. How about, in the name of equity, changing positions with that newly hired Public Defender who snoozed through Constitutional Law?)

  • “It also reflects in part the affirmative action programs of the 70?s and 80?s where students of lower abilities were admitted to better schools in this interest. (Though it was often justified on the basis of “diversity.”)”

    Phillip, just so you know, this is still going on. Certainly it’s a big part of the law school admissions process. If I were an underrepresented minority (URM), then I’d be in at Harvard Law or at the very least Columbia with my LSAT/GPA. Thousands of students this year will be displaced from their schools of choice by people who worked/studied less in the interest of “diversity.” Luckily, I worked hard enough to be admitted to the school of my choice with enough cushion so my Euro heritage didn’t hold me back.

    My curmudgeonly/Aristotelian talking point on the matter is this: supposing diversity is a good thing in a law school setting. Well, what sort of diversity? A law school is an intellectual setting. Therefore, intellectual diversity is the sort of diversity that is a conceivable good in a law school. Ergo, affirmative action for conservatives. 🙂

  • “Well, what sort of diversity?”

    If an institution is looking for diversity it does little good to forcus only on sex and skin pigmentation while the vast majority of the people admitted hold approximately the same political-cultural-religious views.

  • Yes, that’s precisely my point.

  • I recall Francis that when I was in law school, 79-82, some of my colleagues telling me that I was the first conservative they had ever known. Some said that in a friendly manner and some in a less than friendly manner!

    (Of course my class also voted me most likely to sentence someone to death for illegal parking!)

  • The students can claim that a lot of wealth is unearned (e.g., inherited). Of course, IQ is inherited too but you still need to work to make use of it. So this got me thinking… what if instead of an estate tax, estates are automatically placed in a trust and paid out as a dollar-for-dollar match to the heir’s own earnings? That more closely resembles the effect of genetic intelligence.

  • Why don’t we just have a national sales tax and get rid of income taxes. Then the government won’t keep records on what everyone earns and use it to divide everyone up by classes to pit against each other. It is really no one’s business how much anyone else makes or how they distribute that money to their heirs. We all have different talents and opportunities that lead to higher incomes. Is this fair? Of course not. It’s not fair that some people are attractive, good dancers, or charming while others are ugly clumsy clods. But that’s the way the world is. As Christians we should encourage everyone to give to the less fortunate among us willingly and not try to forcibly create equality where it doesn’t exist.

  • America’s gravest problem is moral not pecuniary.

    The chaste, the honest, the hard-working, the sober wage-earner or “A” student is not the bad guy.

    Tearing down the virtuous does not build up the vicious.

    Once upon a time, the family was the base of society. Now, its base hordes of envious, hateful dependents viciously clawing at each other when they aren’t assailing the virtuous.

    End the Class War!

  • “It’s not fair that some people are attractive, good dancers, or charming while others are ugly clumsy clods.”

    And its not easy being so attractive and charming! 🙂

  • MZ,
    About as hard as my old college roommate who knocked out straight A’s without ever cracking a book.
    No analogy is perfect, and nor are most corrolations. But the analogy here is pretty good, precisely because the corrolations between between work and grades as well as work and income are pretty good.
    This is not to say that other factors are unimportant. Natural talent as well as demographic luck are extremely important. But if you want poorer outcomes generally, weaken the link between work and those outcomes.

  • A book published about 10 years ago, “The Millionaire Next Door,” examined wealth in the US and found the overwhelming majority of millionaires were and are self-made small businessmen and women who live quite modestly in terms of their financial worth. The book also made the point that the old saying “Shirt-sleeves to shirt-sleeves in 3 generations” is still operative. There’s a distinct pattern here: the founder of the family fortune might be content, and indeed might feel more comfortable, living in a run-of-the-mill house in a non-ritzy neighborhood and driving a used car – but normally, he wants his offspring to have all the advantages he didn’t have – fancy private schools, piano lessons, summer camp etc. However, the further one gets away from the source of wealth, the greater the temptation to take it for granted and fritter it away. By the third generation, it is frequently gone.

    Of course, the massive fortunes of people like the Rockefellers belong in their own category and last much longer than the fortunes of Joe Schomo who owns 4 or 5 successful auto body repair shops in Des Moines. Still the book points out that wealth in the US is far more complex than just “the rich get richer.” In reality, some rich get richer, some go from poor or middle class to rich and some sink from the ranks of the rich or middle class into poverty. It’s not a constant.

    I read an article in the WSJ a while back about young unemployed college grads, mostly with humanities degrees, using food stamps to buy gourmet food at Whole Foods – organic rabbit, imported cheese, etc. None of them had any sense of shame or embarrassment about using food stamps and none of them appeared to consider or care that working people who can’t afford WH imported cheese themselves were the ones paying for their meals. No, they were entitled to the best and heck it was Magic Money from Uncle Sugar anyway. I have the feeling that those kids are on the escalator headed down.

  • The reason the analogy is close to perfect is the response of the students, not because a GPA is exactly like money or wealth. In some ways their grades are more earned than wealth, and so bringing up an inheritor of wealth like Paris Hilton probably reinforces the point being made. Better still to bring up the late Sen. Ted Kennedy who had inherited his wealth and was all for redistributive measures which mostly affect income earners.

  • Donna V.,

    The Millionaire Next Door, excellent book.

    It’s amazing that just living simply and within your means reflects the Christian virtue of prudence.

    Then comes along a self-hating American who wants to destroy this by “redistributing” the wealth.

    This video is a perfect analogy of what’s wrong with most progressive/liberal thinking.

  • The Millionaire Next Door was interested in Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth. They found people making hundreds of thousands per year who became millionaires to not be particularly exceptional. PAWs were exceptional.

    As for grades and income, you are dealing with Zero Sum Game theory. If one rejects ZSG for both groups, then the analogy is more palatable. The lack of resonance occurs because people do not believe grades are a ZSG but believe income and wealth are. Perhaps they are wrong in that belief, but this analogy will hardly convince them of it. Like many things on the Internet, it is a backstroking gesture.

  • The Church teaches the principle of the Universal Destination of Goods, and that the right to private property is not absolute.

    Jesus teaches that the rich are in danger of worshiping mammon rather than the Father, and that the path to heaven for the rich is the path of renunciation and generosity.

  • Here’s an excellent piece on the universal destination of goods and private property rights.

  • I liked this quote from the article you posted Pauli, “A fair wage for the work done is therefore “the concrete path by which most men arrive at those goods destined for common use” (LE 19).” Couldn’t agree more. I’ve often thought that the Catholic doctrine of a ‘just-wage’ is the solution to much of our society’s problems.

    A little thought experiment on the minimum-wage: you raise it to say, $20/hr. Millions of jobs are lost. That, to me, is a very interesting fact. Millions of jobs exist which are . . . economically useless . . . in that they do not make enough money to support families. Perhaps the problem with a minimum-wage is not the wage itself, but the work itself. If work cannot produce enough profit to live a decent human life (the very definition of a just-wage), then there is something suspect with that kind of work.

    In other words, if McDonald’s could not survive paying its employees a just-wage, then there is something fundamentally wrong with McDonald’s. Yes, human beings are probably not meant to make change and fry potatoes all day long. Human beings are not machines.

    The ‘correction’ our economy needs may very well require the loss of tens of millions of jobs. Perhaps these tens of millions can be given work that means something: say, intensive non-industrial farming. Just sayin’ . . .

  • Minimum wage jobs are not economically useless. Many people holding them are high-school kids who live at home and do not need to support a family. They are transitional, or they are part-time jobs which old people like who have SS checks coming in. Raising minimum wage jobs hurts these groups most. People who are trying to raise families just need to get better jobs, that’s all. Many groups—public and private—exist to help these people obtain the proper training.

    Perhaps we should lower the working age rather than raise the minimum wage.

  • say, intensive non-industrial farming. Just sayin’ . . .

    Intensive non-industrial farming does not generally result in income greater than $20/hr. People who do make more than $40k/yr farming generally do so by using industrial methods, working far more than 40hrs per week, or employing a number of very low wage workers during work intensive parts of the year.

  • “People who do make more than $40k/yr farming generally do so by using industrial methods, working far more than 40hrs per week, or employing a number of very low wage workers during work intensive parts of the year.”

    You need a lot of land in Central Illinois to make farming pay: at least 600 to a 1000 acres depending upon the fertility of the land. Those farmers farming less than that usually have a regular job in town and farm on the side.

  • Well… what if you own the farm? Then you can make some real money. Wait—that’s business ownership and requires individual initiative and risk! Never mind….

  • If you own the farm, and you use farming methods which a lot of “sustainable agriculture” folks consider “industrial”, you can indeed do really well. If you use “sustainable” techniques, but are able to round out your labor force by taking on low wage workers part of the year, (or more commonly by taking on a bunch of free “interns” who are learning about sustainable agriculture techniques and feeling close to nature) you can sometimes make that work as well. Though even so you might end up putting in so many hours that it wouldn’t work out to more than $20/hr if you were really rigorous with your labor accounting.

    At root, I think the problem here is that many of these “back to the earth” ideas of how just wages and good work would look actually involve a proposal that everyone be much poorer than is now the case — but people don’t understand that when they don’t understand that wages value are, among other things, only worth their ability to buy the products of others’ labor. So, for instance, you can talk about raising the minimum wage to $20/hr, eliminating all the jobs that don’t “make sense” in that world, and then having those people go back to the land, but in reality it wouldn’t work out remotely that way.

  • I agree with everything you said, DarwinCatholic. It’s extremely obvious, and that’s why the main reason I engage people on this topic is for amusement value. Which reminds me, I am paid $0.00/hour to comment on this blog. How am I going to feed a family of 7 on that??

  • “those people go back to the land”

    Almost all “back to the land” movements have been brought about by urban ideologues who are completely clueless about rural life and farming as a means of making a living. The misery brought about by such idiocy is a wonder to behold.

  • Maybe part of the reason I feel so critical of this tendency is that I do share a certain romanticization of farming — but it’s a romanticization laced with a tragic sense, such as Victor Davis Hanson gets across in Fields Without Dreams. I think there is something worth admiring about it all, but it’s important to be clear that while farming may be more “real” in some senses, that’s mostly because that life harder, poorer and more capricious than “wage slavery”. At a civilizational level, you really have to see that fact that very few people are engaged in food growing as being a sign of progress, not loss of touch.

  • “Maybe part of the reason I feel so critical of this tendency is that I do share a certain romanticization of farming”

    Any inklings I had in that way were cured by my first day baling hay as a teenager. Much of farm work is still very arduous, and people who do it regularly often are on the lookout for an easier way to earn a living. Fields Without Dreams is a great study of the black comedy that trying to earn a living from farming often is.

  • Not being a farmer myself, I can’t say much beyond that I trust in the message of farmers Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin–that civilization must be and can be founded upon agriculture. This doesn’t mean everyone is a farmer, but it means many more farmers than we now have, farming in a way that is both profitable and sustainable. If you haven’t read either Berry or Salatin, I highly encourage you to check them out at the library.

    I’ve spent a lot of my work doing manual labor–some of it easy, some of it quite hard. I had a ranger buddy of mine who would always complain before putting on our 100-pound rucksacks, getting ready for a night-jump, followed by a hard march, followed by an assault. I always reminded him, “Yeah, but dude, we’ll feel awesome when it’s over.” And that’s always how it is with hard work that engages both body and mind. Too often, what passes for ‘work’ in our society engages neither!

  • Berry is vaguely on the to-read list for one of these days, but I’ve read a fair amount about what Salatin does on Polyface Farms.

    As far as developing sustainable techniques, I think he’s been pretty brilliant — but I think one has to be very clear when reading about what he’s doing that it’s not a model for how all agriculture could work unless one was willing to settle for a much poorer society. His food costs 2-4x what comparable “industrial” food would cost, and that’s despite the fact that he has a lot of work done by interns/apprentices who work for nothing but room, board and $100/month.

    Not to mention that not many people combine his abilities as farmer, inventor, and marketer which make an operation like his possible — and are willing to forgo the significantly higher wages they could make if they took those skills elsewhere.

    There’s a lot to admire in Salatin’s philosophy on interacting with nature, but his lifestyle is not a route to “just wages” for the many, as if most things were made through that kind of farming (and the analogous craftsman approaches to making various goods) even the “just wages” proposed would go much less far than now. If a $4 hamburger which is premised on $9/hr labor seems unjust — we don’t necessarily find ourselves better off when the hamburger costs $15 and wages are $20/hr.

  • Nine dollars an hour is not an unjust wage for a high-school kid. If you have to support a family, you have no business flipping burgers.

  • Darwin, I think you’re right to point out that an agrarian lifestyle would be “poorer” in terms of material goods. We would not have so many computers or automobiles or even books. But there would be a lot more work for people to do, and lot more food for those workers to eat. What do we really need beyond room and board and friendship and community?

    Wendell Berry is published in Communio quite often (a very good and orthodox Catholic journal!). A recent essay of his is “Inverting the Economic Order”, where he writes “From an economic point of view, a society in which every school child “needs” a computer, and every sixteen-year-old “needs” an automobile, and every eighteen-year-old “needs” to go to college is already delusional and is well on its way to being broke.”

  • “This doesn’t mean everyone is a farmer, but it means many more farmers than we now have”

    Actually we have too many farmers as indicated by the fact that many of them cannot make a primary living farming. The only way for more people to make a living farming would be for food prices to skyrocket, something which is bad for society in a whole host of ways. Farming of course has not been the bedrock of this country’s economy or society for well over a century. In regard to society that might be a bad thing, but in regard to the economy I think that has been a very good thing if one of the purposes of an economy is to lift the general prosperity.

  • I think you’re right to point out that an agrarian lifestyle would be “poorer” in terms of material goods. We would not have so many computers or automobiles or even books. But there would be a lot more work for people to do, and lot more food for those workers to eat. What do we really need beyond room and board and friendship and community?

    It sounds like we’re in agreement that far, then. I guess what I’m less clear on, in that case, is: Why the necessity of raising wages to some arbitrary “just” level and eliminating a bunch of jobs based on that? If room and board and friendship and community is all that’s needed, people would works at McDonald’s and Barnes and Noble, be satisfied with the $8-9/hr wages, and live simply together in groups just like they could on sustainable farms. (Or they could ditch urban life for farms, if they prefer harder manual work and no air conditioning.)

    I guess I’m unclear how justice is served by having people be forced out of current employment patterns (obviously, if they want to all go work on sustainable farms, that would be fine too) if we’re okay with the idea of people being as poor or poorer than now.

  • Darwin, can I just pay you a compliment: it is nice to be able to disagree with you without worrying about it getting personal! Thanks!

    I’m not really proposing a huge minimum-wage increase, but was just fascinated by the thought experiment. I don’t really know what the solution is.

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Obama and the Kiddies

Thursday, September 3, AD 2009

Obama on September 8 is going to have a large audience for one of his speeches.  This in itself is unusual in view of the declining TV ratings of his speeches.  Even more unusual is the audience: most of the elementary public school kids in the nation.  Why is he doing this?  The US Department of Education has  thoughtfully prepared a study guide for teachers here.  It is untrue that it comes bound in a little red book.

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40 Responses to Obama and the Kiddies

  • Reason 455,543,154 to home school.

  • I think a lot depends here on the content of the speech. If it’s about how you should stay in school, do your homework, etc., then I don’t see the problem (indeed it could be beneficial). If it’s about how kids should be good Democrats, then that would be an issue. Given that these kids won’t be of age to vote for Obama ever, it’s not implausible that the speech will be of the former type.

  • I think the worry is that the message will be it is right and moral to support x, y, and z. (all of which are Democratic party ideals). Therefore, our dear and illustrious leader and his cohorts like Pelosi and Reid become champions of morality and good governance and those who oppose them are the immoral enemies of all that is good.

    Indoctrination is alive and well in the public schools, and it’s nothing new. It’s been more direct the last 20 years, but as Chesterton pointed out nearly a hundred years ago in England, you can impart an ideology just by the selection of books you have a child read.

  • Parents send their kids to public schools to be educated not to receive drippy messages from every fool politician who happens to occupy the oval office. I talked to the superintendant of the school system my kids attend, and he told me they will probably just burn the videos of his Obamaness on to DVDs and any kids who want to can have access to the DVDs. I think this is the proper response rather than to waste valuable class time hearing, at best, a rah, rah speech from the President.

  • Indoctrination is alive and well in the public schools, and it’s nothing new.

    Indoctrination is just a pejorative word for education, so I would hope there was some of it going on in the public schools.

    When the 9/11 attacks happened President Bush was reading a book to school children (My Pet Goat, I believe). He was criticized for a lot of things, but I don’t think anyone criticized him for being there in the first place. Had he been reading Heather Has Two Mommies, it would have been a different story. As I said before, it all depends on the content of the speech.

  • Yeah, I’m not too worked up about this, especially if the purpose of the speech is a generic encouragement of kids towards service.

    It becomes problematic if the message becomes one of encouraging kids towards a particular policy preference or outcome. But – and perhaps I’m giving the Obama team too much credit here – surely they’re not so hamfisted as to do something that stupid.

    All in all, I really have no objection, per se, to schoolchildren hearing a message from the President of the United States.

  • Blackadder,

    I’d disagree that indoctrination is *just* a pejorative word for education. It may be used as such, but if the idea of education is to impart knowledge in an attempt to foster and enhance understanding, thinking, and reason, then indoctrination may be something entirely different. Still we’re not in much disagreement, since I cited with approval what Chesterton said about the matter.

  • Jay and BA

    I am glad you are at least waiting to see what is said before judging the action. So many people think they know and pre-judge — but the problem is, I do remember in my youth being put in front of the tv for Ronald Reagan, so it is not a new thing per se, and Presidents can say much which is good for kids, if appropriate things are said. Encouragement is good. As long as it remains non-political (or controversial politics at least).

  • Actually, there may have been more than “school is good” in the speech:

    “The Obama administration is rethinking its course recommendations for students ahead of President Obama’s address to the the nation’s schoolchildren next week, rewriting its suggestions to teachers for student assignments on how to “help the president.”

    White House aides said the language was supposed to be an inspirational, pro-education message to America’s youths, but its unintended consequences were evident.

    Among the activities initially suggested for pre-K to 6th grade students was to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.”

    Another assignment for students after hearing the speech was to discuss what “the president wants us to do.”

    The suggestion about writing letters has since been changed to: “Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.”

    White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the changes to the language are intended to make the lesson plans clearer. He added that the speech is not a policy speech, but is intended to encourage kids to work hard and commit to school.

    The speech is “about the value of education and the importance of staying in school as part of his effort to dramatically cut the dropout rate,” Vietor said.

    The Washington Times was first to report. Thursday that the plan was being reconsidered. Presidential aides also acknowledged to the newspaper that they helped the U.S. Education Department write the suggested assignments, which stirred criticism by many who say Obama is trying to indoctrinate the education system.”

  • in?doc?tri?nate
    –verb (used with object), -nat?ed, -nat?ing.
    1. to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., esp. to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.
    2. to teach or inculcate.
    3. to imbue with learning.
    1620–30; in- 2 + ML doctr?n?tus ptp. of doctr?n?re to teach; see doctrine, -ate 1

  • As noted above, perhaps definition 1 was in the mind of the White House.

  • I fail to see how the posted definition of indoctrinate differs from what I said.

  • Wow, who writes some of these articles.

    It is one thing to be properly skeptical about politicians, but this is so obviously a politically slanted take on the matter. Every president who gets out in front of the camera often walks a very fine line between being communicative and being overbearing. President Bush, in my opinion, was too secretive and rarely gave press conferences and almost all of his speeches were at the WH or on military bases.

    Obama can be criticized for being too much in the media, but that is the 24-hour news cycle and the Twitter-filled world we live in. He has been about as out spoken as he can be against lazy parenting and dead beat dads in the African American community and yet there are some who only seem to imagine the worst.

    Again it is necessary to be skeptical of politicians, but Erin Manning’s blog is just dismissive and sophomoric, not “cogent.” Did she criticize Bush’s private school education the way she criticizes Obama’s?

    Anyone who assumes that President Obama is going to be ideological seems to be fishing for controversy and has basically ignored the fact that his speeches tend to be overly down the middle and pragmatic. Portraying Obama as Hitler/Stalin/Mao (“little red book”) is simply snarky propaganda and indoctrination at its worst.

    I am heartened that others here remember that other presidents have talked to school kids without destroying the fabric of civilization, so maybe Rick, you can wait before you judge. If Obama tries to turn Sally and Johnny into soldiers of liberalism by describing the differences between supply-side and demand-side economic theory and that they should all marry within their same gender, then I’d be the first to voice my outrage!

  • That’s fine, but given the state of most public schools, its not beyond the pale to believe that the class assignment on “how to help the President” could easily become a partisan assignment. Even the White House recognized it was vague. Thus they changed it.
    Though its unclear why the White House is writing lesson plans for the speech to begin with.

  • MacGregor,

    Please read my initial post carefully, you will see that I made no judgment and that I was stating what I believe the fear of critics to be. Personally, I think the speech will be fairly innocuous. Though I do find the initial proposed exercises inappropriate. I also stated that I thought the degree of indoctrination (in the partisan sense) has been more direct the last 20 years. That encompasses all the Bush years too, dontcha know.

    Even at that, I didn’t have in mind presidential visits in mind. I was thinking more along the lines of sex education, “different” lifestyle choices, environmental doom-and-gloom hysteria, etc.

  • Ah yes, it was a bit intemperate.

  • Phillip: The White House isn’t writing lesson plans for the speech, the Dept. of Education did or at least may have. Not a lot of real facts yet. The Dept. of Ed. does that sort of thing, then schools and teachers decide if they want to use the curriculum. The schools are run by local districts who are in no way obligated to do anything. That’s how schools work.

    Rick: I am glad you didn’t jump to the conspiracy theories that others have. I agree that the first PROPOSED SUGGESTION for a paper was reworded. As a teacher and a curriculum developer you write things many way and test things out before actually doing a lesson – whether in a private, public or home-school situation (and I’ve taught in all three!). So one draft lesson plan from a Dept. of Education curriculum writer is hardly a vast liberal agenda against the minds of America’s youth.

    Your description of “champions of morality and good governance and those who oppose them are the immoral enemies of all that is good” is one that fits the previous administration far more than the current one.

    It is my reading of history however I’m not sure what you mean by indoctrination being more “direct” in the last 20 years. I think schools did a very direct job of indoctrinating kids in the 1920’s in the South regarding the separateness of African Americans and in the 1950’s regarding the communist threat. Indoctrination, socialization, citizenship, education – these all have been a part of creating a national sense of identity and a regional/cultural sense of identity and with private Catholic schools, a religious/sacred sense of identity.

    Read John Dewey to find out how important a strong, public educational system was important for a democracy the size of the United States.

    It is important to make sure there is a healthy blend of national/regional/familial identity in any educational system. Unfortunately some of the most aberrant sociopathic situations occur in private, secretive, cultish situations.

  • Actually the Dept of Education admits that the White House had a hand in writing the lesson plans with them.

  • I’d pull my kids out simply because it is Obama speaking. He has nothing worthy to offer my kids (if I had any).

    No matter how some say the speech is not being indoctrination, it’s reason # 455,543,154 enough to home school.

    I agree with Rick Lugari.

  • MacGregor,

    So one draft lesson plan from a Dept. of Education curriculum writer is hardly a vast liberal agenda against the minds of America’s youth.

    Read John Dewey to find out how important a strong, public educational system was important for a democracy the size of the United States.

    You just proved my point. Dewey was a leading proponent of the vast liberal agenda you are espousing here.

  • All things considered, I find this alarming…..

    There is a WORLD of difference between doing the classic “go in and read a cute little story to the kids” involvement with school and pushing a political agenda into the curriculum. I know it’s highly popular in some zones, but it’s a really bad idea… not just because folks don’t learn how to think, just what.

  • Even if the speech is a completely innocuous pep talk or call to service, it’s going to be less than beneficial. The last thing most kids need cluttering up their school day is another pep talk or lecture on how nice it is to do things for others. What they need is to be actually learning in class (or maybe rendering actual service.) Other than that, I’m not getting my undies in a rumple about it. Some kids will doubtless be impressed that the prez is talking to them, and will go home to parents who are equally impressed. Others will come from households where the prez is not worshipped as a minor diety, and will not be especially interested. It’s unlikely one more lackluster speech is going to win over the previously unwon youth of America even if that was the ploy, and if it does most of them won’t be voting age when he runs again anyway.

    Somebody up there mentioned seeing Reagan on TV in school. I remember seeing a moon landing or two in school, but no presidents (of course, we didn’t have TVs in every classroom back then.) I also don’t recall any previous president organizing a stunt involving a direct address to a large segment of the nation’s schoolchildren. It’s really not in the presidential job description: it’s a timewaster and serves no useful purpose. That underlies the suspicion that’s been generated.

  • A minor point, but this address is a Webcast, NOT a televised speech. I think a lot of parents picture TV sets being rolled into the classrooms and everyone watching it at an appointed hour with rapt attention like we did in our youth with space missions, presidential inaugurations, etc. That does not seem to be what is happening here. Anything broadcast online can be saved or downloaded for viewing when and if one chooses. Apparently many teachers are going to do just that — save it for later in case anyone WANTS to see it.

    The suggested activities are also nothing new either; if I remember correctly, NASA prepared similar materials for the ill-fated Challenger mission that included Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space. It is up to each teacher or school to decide what to do with them.

  • MacGregor,
    this blog is actually the Republican American Catholic. They are very suspicious
    of everything Obama does. No love for him here. I was not a fan of George Bush,
    but I never once told my kids that he wasn’t to be respected. I think kids should be encouraged to respect authority of all stripes: parents,teachers, policemen,
    priests, and yes, even the president.

  • Anything broadcast online can be saved or downloaded for viewing when and if one chooses.

    Depends if it’s streamed viewing or downloaded. (Yes, I know you can technically capture a stream, but they are generally designed to be watched without being designed to be easily stored for later use.)

    Also depends on if they officially allow the speech to be saved and redistributed– it’ll happen if they will it or no, but their reaction is going to be important.

    The suggested activities are also nothing new either; if I remember correctly, NASA prepared similar materials for the ill-fated Challenger mission that included Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher in space.

    There’s a world of difference between “send a teacher to space so kiddies learn about Space Stuff, here’s what we’ll be doing” and “the leader of the executive branch wants direct access to children in public education for a speech, here’s a lesson plan.”
    (I still want to know what tin-eared idiot wrote the instruction for kids to write about how they can help Obama.)

  • It’s interesting to me, that the same liberals who find that anything the government at any level (or even students in government schools) does to endorse religion, or limit abortion is “coercive” but on the other hand this action is somehow innocuous.

  • master c-
    Exactly where are we telling kids to disrespect the office of the President?

    Same way that just because I respect cops doesn’t mean I am going to give a flying fig about their choices in fabric for home decorating, if an authority figure steps outside of their area of authority they are not to be treated as an authority in the new area.

    Obama is the head of one of three branches of gov’t; he is not a teacher, and injecting politics into school is both far too common and a bad thing.

  • Foxfier, what politics is being injected into schools?!?!? Where? The text of the speech will be released on Monday so that you and parents and teachers and school boards can review it first. If there is any politics in the speech, I would agree with you and condemn the idea. My understanding is that it is about staying in school, yadda yadda.

    Pretty innocuous as Rick now admits. However if you are from a minority group in which education is seen as a luxury or as as waste of time, this may be pretty impactful for you. I think most on this forum don’t remember how important this election and presidency has been. I certainly remember hearing about how important John Kennedy’s election was to Catholic Americans and I know that he was on TV’s in many Catholic schools several times.

    Again, I don’t think many in this forum even have a clue with how schools work. Teachers, schools and entire school districts are not required to do anything, show anything. You may like to believe that we live in a dictatorship to make you feel better about disliking the current president, but it isn’t accurate. As a teacher at all levels, I can tell you just keeping kids on task for a few minutes can be challenging – no amount of TV speeches would be tolerated or in the least bit effective in indoctrinating anyone. Maybe some of you need a reality check. It takes years of religious classes for many of us in Catholic schools to be ready for confirmation and even then I suspect not everyone fully was on board when we all received the sacrament. That’s just reality.

    Matt, you have some serious issues to think that Dewey was particularly radical. Maybe take a class or something because you’ve sufficiently proven your ignorance. Before Dewey schools in America were largely medieval institutions and run like the factories that were dominating the nations economic landscape. Dewey reasoned that a democracy could only be effective if people had the knowledge to vote intelligently and wisely and that meant critical thinking and philosophy and all of the things you don’t seem to be expressing yourself. By the way I have no problem with students having religious clubs and expressing their opinions to limit abortion and in fact in the real world, plenty of schools allow exactly that. There is a BIG difference between a school endorsing a religion and Obama saying to kids who may look up to him, “school is important.” One goes against the establishment clause in the Constitution, the other does not, can you guess which one?

    Tito, the fact that you would pull your hypothetical kids out of school because of a 5-minute speech by the president shows a few things:

    1. You think your own statement is more important than anything your hypothetical kids might learn that day. Fine, but then you have wasted more time for learning than the speech would waste and you’ve lost the opportunity to actually talk to your kids about what they thought. That is the point of education beyond simply learning facts, education and school is about giving your kids the experience of talking among themselves and with adults about ideas and important issues in a safe way so that when they are adults they have the tools to discuss and make choices. That is what a liberal education is (see John Dewey above), not about liberal political views. Thus most small Catholic colleges are intentionally called “liberal arts” universities.

    2. You obviously distrust ANYTHING to do with public education and that is up to you as well of course, but it seem to me to be a very narrow viewpoint and it is when people hold on to narrow-minded points of view that democracy has it most difficult times. I have many friends who homeschool and they do very well, but they don’t have to demonize public schools.

    Phillip, yes I agree that the WH had a hand in suggestions for the Dept. of Education and I agree that the first wording was problematic and I actually also agree that it might reveal an over-enthusiasm on the part of WH staff to put the President in too prominent a position. But again, it was a draft and I doubt Obama would have known about it and it looks like they changed it early on anyway, so guess what kids, the system works.

    At some point if you are anti-Obama for philosophical or political reasons, I certainly have no problem with that. I don’t agree with everything he says or does and I also had an initial skeptical response to an address to students, but my Catholic education did a good job in instilling intellectual honesty and critical thinking skills before jumping to judgement too quickly.

    Fear, anger, ignorance and hubris are the four worst mental states for honest discussions and for making good choices. I see these demonstrated on the far left and the far right and at times on this blog. Why not use this debate and the President’s speech to teach our kids and each other what democracy is all about?

  • MacGregor –
    From the lesson plans put out– two different forms, now– it’s pretty clear he is not giving a nice little PSA to “stay in school, kids!”

    You may want to do a bit of research before talking about others being ignorant, by the way. (ditto on the hubris part)
    It is not a “5-minute speech by the president”– it is a 15 to 20 minute lecture by the president, with lesson plans (written by Obama’s folks) before and after, and by looking at the adjusted lesson plans we know the topics are going to be “citizenship, personal responsibility, and civic duty.”

    All this is given a few days before the 11th.

    Without parents being there, even if they are now going to release the text ahead of time.

    Oh, and they had to adjust the prior lesson plans, because “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president” was a bit too openly creepy.

  • foxfier, it would have been helpful if you had shown your sources for the lesson plans but since you are more interested in being snarky than being helpful, I’ll put them out there. I’ll even give FOXNews props for making the the links to the lesson plans easily available, though I can’t tell if this is the final version or the first version. Here they are:


    First, I can see that using the president’s name is kind of creepy from the point of view that he has already been criticized as having a cult of personality. I admit if Reagan had done the same thing (which he kind of did, but lesson plans were not made as quickly now and the internet was not up and running to get stuff out there) I would be skeptical about this.

    However I know that especially with young kids you can’t just use abstract words like the “president” or the “principal” – it is customary to use proper names so kids can identify with the person. That’s why you learn about President Washington, etc.

    The phrase “Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?” is an example of a question that makes sense to ask a kindergartener, but not so much for a 6th grader, in my opinion. It can seem creepy in some contexts, but pretty unremarkable in others.

    This goes to what I feel is just not well written lesson plans rather than from an indoctrination program. As a matter of fact, these are really suggestions for teacher who may not have used speeches as a context in class before and are not really much of a lesson plan as such.

    The suggestions for 7th grade and above to me seem to be centered about critical thinking and learning techniques like concept webs for analyzing and interpreting how a person speaks to a topic. This should encourage teachers and students to be critical of the speech with both negative and positive analysis. That is what a good teacher would get from this. That is the point of especially high school education – students learning skills and practicing being adults. The lesson plan ideas also seem to encourage teachers to talk about the speeches of other presidents and I would hope they get videos with Bush, Clinton and Reagan as well. This part of curriculum development, though, you’ll never see on CNN or FOX, but this is what teachers spend most of their time doing, if they are worth their salt.

    Nowhere is ANYONE required to see or show the president and no teacher is forced to do anything from the lesson plan suggestions.

    For those of you who don’t really know how schools work nowadays and how basically impossible it is for any president to infect students with any ideology, this article may be a reality check: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-obama-schoolkids5-2009sep05,0,2023699.story
    Even a republican school board trustee isn’t too worried about it.

    So, foxfier, many you got me. The speech is more than 5 minutes long and it isn’t just a lame “stay in school, kids” PSA. It actually will have some content to it. Now tell me what problem you have with students studying “citizenship, personal responsibility and civic duty.” As a science teacher they were not always a part of my lesson plans, but after 9/11 all teachers were encouraged to add these to their curriculum and Bush’s speeches were made available for this.

    I’m a little more creeped out that you find it creepy that this is happening so close to 9/11. This is the beginning of the school year and schools do many activities regarding recent history and civics on the anniversary of the attacks. For high schoolers this goes to the current wars and conflicts with terrorists. Again, how is this suddenly so weird for you. Did you not know this happens in schools every year since 2001?

    You also think students need parents there to learn about and discuss citizenship? Wow, first you would need to be in school with your kids on a weekly basis to make sure you control everything you kids discuss. Second, older students (not to mention teachers) wouldn’t get anything done if they knew their parents would be in the room every time they were asked controversial questions. They need to be able to express themselves at some point.

    For those of you who homeschool, you can of course ignore it or use it in what ever way you like (I repeat that I like homeschooling and have helped with it many times), however eventually your kids need to deal with others and need to learn how to discuss things with people that don’t agree with them, so this might be a good example to do this.

    It is good to be skeptical of this speech, but I think it is ignorant to go over the top in thinking that a 15-minute speech on citizenship is really overstepping the bounds of government or even good taste – even if it was G. W. Bush doing it.

  • MacGregor –
    There is someone here interested in “snark” and personal attacks, but it’s not me.

    Perhaps if you bothered to read the objections here, and respond in good faith, you’d know that.

  • I think each of us should think about this:

    If this were President McCain talking about citizenship in a post 9/11 world would we have the same opinion about it being seen in schools? Would we think it government intrusion?

    If you say “yes” then I admire your consistency, but I might question your view of how students get introduced civics in anyway that is not from a boring book.

    If you say “no” then you might be biased in your views – and that would go for liberals as well as conservatives.

    And just to get back to the original article that started this thread, why does the author have such a giddy view of Karl Rove? I guess the politics of lies (just ask McCain) and deception fit in with this persons view of Catholic morality.

  • foxfier, I have responded in good faith and I have given you what I feel are the issues and facts as I see them. You used the terms “ignorant” and “hubris” pretty much aimed at me. I only used them in very general terms and definitely and obviously not at you.

    I find Tito and Matt particularly obvious in their disdain for anyone who does not agree with them, but I didn’t say that about you.

    I have read your objections and I believe respectfully answered them. If you would give me specifics I would appreciate it. I know I ramble in my posts, but usually people here ignore the dozen or so most important issues and pick one little thing to pick on, like you did as to the whether the speech was going to be 5 or 15 minutes.

  • By the way, CNN (yeah, I know CNN is run by godless communists) just showed clips of Reagan, George H. Bush and George W. Bush, all three speaking on camera to students in classrooms.

    Just trying to find facts amid the rhetoric.

  • “why does the author have such a giddy view of Karl Rove? I guess the politics of lies (just ask McCain) and deception fit in with this persons view of Catholic morality.”

    One warning MacGregor. Engage in a personal attack against me again and you will be banned from posting on my threads. Anyone reading my post will realize that I mentioned a Rove mole because I view this nation-wide address to students to be such a foolish move on the part of the Obama administration.

  • “and George W. Bush, all three speaking on camera to students in classrooms. Just trying to find facts amid the rhetoric. ”

    I saw the same report, and it was a masterpiece of rhetorical misdirection. As to the 43rd President, Bush II was simply filmed while speaking to students in a particular class room. He never made a speech to all students generally, like the current President is proposing.

    Oh, and it was the 9/11 reading to the elementary students footage, which is apropos of nothing, except to take a cheap shot at Bush II.

    That said, I don’t have any problem with what President Obama is proposing, so long as there is no politicking whatsoever.

  • You used the terms “ignorant” and “hubris” pretty much aimed at me.

    Hm, why would I have done that…. oh, because of this:
    Fear, anger, ignorance and hubris are the four worst mental states for honest discussions and for making good choices. I see these demonstrated on … this blog.

    Perhaps you should not so readily demonstrate the things you criticize if you are going to throw stones.

  • Donald, thanks for clarifying your purpose in using Rove as an example of the level of “foolishness” that you feel the characterizes the entire speech idea. I guess the imagery and phraseology of Hitler Youth and “little red books” might have clouded my view of your intent.

    Thank you also for standing up for your thread. It is difficult for me to tell who authors which threads on this site since there are no attributions. It seems sort of like the editorial page of a newspaper. My attack was snarky and meant to cause a reaction, but was not directed toward anyone as a personal attack because I didn’t see anyone in particular as the author. I am sorry. As usual such statements simply take focus away from real issues.

    Dale, I was not referring to the CNN report on “My Pet Goat.” That was not a televised address to students, just a televised photo op on a very bad day. I was referring to the fact that the Bush’s speech after 9/11 was shown to many schools (mostly high schools because the speech was too graphic and abstract for younger children) and it was given with curriculum ideas that were emailed from the Dept. of Ed. Obviously these were not pre-planned at the time, and I don’t have copies of them anymore, but a list of curricula and lesson plans based upon 9/11 and asking students to discuss issues and what they feel they can do to help can be found on this site:


    It is current education theory to always ask students to brainstorm things that they can do as a means of empowering themselves so as not to feel they are powerless. This may seem weird, but apathy is seen as one result of students not being asked to engage and express a respected opinion.

    The Bush 41 clip that I remembered was simultcasted on a semi-national education network and back then depended upon dedicated hardware at the school building level. I don’t know if the CNN piece that you saw got into that much detail.

    foxfier, I guess you admit you aimed those terms at me, but still I didn’t throw stones at you. I do not have fear or anger in my posts and I admit to ignorance when I am corrected and I try to give the facts and resources as I see them. As for hubris, that is a difficult nuance to filter or discern on a blog thread, but I think I have indicated that I don’t know everything, that I believe in being skeptical and thanked others for showing my mistakes.

    I still believe that those are four difficult mental states to overcome and that the video clip at embedded in the article (I don’t know if you produced it Donald) seems to take a black humor (an effective and admirable technique of propaganda) to impart fear and anger in its viewers. Am I wrong? It takes relatively benign questions from the lesson plans and contorts them into commands “dictated by our president.” Turning ideas about “sticky notes” and videos on the importance of education are then juxtaposed to a mesmerizing pattern on a screen with the word “obey” on it. Funny to be sure, but of course it is an example of the exact kind of propaganda that it pretends to be against. A common enough technique – “Let me show you how manipulative Mr. A is by manipulating you even more!”

    If you would like to add to the discussion by actually bringing up a particular fact or issue that either I made or that you have, that would be great. Dale actually took a topic and enlightened me on an example pertaining to something brought up in this discussion and he did so very well – not that he needs or wants my approval.

    For example do you think parents should be in the classroom when they see a speech by or discuss the words of any president?

    Do you think asking students to write about the importance of education is a liberal-biased topic? I don’t think they are being asked to say public education is best or necessary and I’m sure few teachers will bring up John Dewey.

    Would you have the same concerns with a President McCain or Bush? As I indicated Obama definitely has to be more careful about coming across as a cult of personality figure, so that is an appropriate issue.

    Is this really about Obama or is this as much about the immediacy of the Twitter age and perhaps students seeing the first president who actually used to text message as much as they do might be one who could relate to them about basic things like civics and responsibility?

    Is it really a step toward fascism or is it mostly a politically dumb thing to do as Donald wrote?

  • I’ve posted way too much the last few days, but I thought this was an interesting exchange.


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