How one high school's dealing with Obama's ed speech

On Wednesday, when the principal of a Douglas County school sent an e-mail to parents letting them know their kids could opt out of watching President Barack Obama's speech about education on Tuesday, most administrators hadn't begun grappling with the brewing controversy. But now, with the subject reaching full-blown distraction status on talk radio and the Internet, virtually every school is being forced to develop a plan about how to deal with guardians certain Obama is trying to turn their offspring into mindless zombies incapable of doing anything other than phoning their legislators to demand a public healthcare option.

Example: Yesterday afternoon, I received a robocall voiced by Bernard Hohman, principal at Chatfield Senior High School, where my twin daughters are juniors. He said the decision about whether to offer the opportunity to watch the speech would be made by teachers on a class-by-class basis following a staff meeting. Those who want to share the address will be telling students in their classes today. (That way, presumably, parents will have the weekend to decide whether this is a positive development or a horrific usurpation of their right not to expose their kids to any political thought likely to earn the disapproval of Rush Limbaugh.) He added that if parents choose to opt out, "that's not a problem" -- their students can spend time in the school's common area or study in the library. (Yeah, sure.) If, on the other hand, a student would like to see the speech live and he or she isn't in a class that's showing it that hour, Hohman said they'd be allowed to check into another class that is -- if parents are okay with that, of course. He concluded by noting, in the most carefully phrased portion of the announcement, that "any content of the speech to be discussed in class should be directly related to district curriculum." Which means, I guess, that talking about how to force all Republicans to watch Obama's acceptance speech on tape loop until they recant is strictly verboten.

For the record, I have no problem with my daughters watching Obama's speech, just as I would have had no problem with them watching a speech by George W. Bush or any other president. My wife and I have always encouraged them to think for themselves, and at this point, they're very good at it -- and we couldn't be prouder. Hope that doesn't make us bad parents....

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts