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Lee schools nix live broadcast of president’s speech

By Staff | Sep 5, 2009

Political debate over President Barack Obama’s planned address to students has reached Lee County schools where it won’t be broadcast live.
Obama’s back-to-school speech, to be delivered online and on C-SPAN, was meant to be broadcast in a majority of classrooms nationwide, but conservative critics have came out against the address, stating that it is a way for the administration to indoctrinate youths with socialist ideals.
The Lee County School District released a statement on Thursday that the president’s speech will be taped on Sept. 8 but students won’t watch it as telecast. Later, the speech will be reviewed using the state’s Sunshine Standards and may later be used as a supplement to instruction, but it won’t be replayed on a large scale.
Joe Donzelli, spokesperson for the school district, said the district has received phone calls from concerned parents.
“We are getting calls on both sides of the issue,” he said.
At the heart of the controversy is that staffers from Obama’s administration released a series of classroom activities to accompany the speech which critics viewed as a “bully pulpit.”
Some activities included “reading books about presidents and Barack Obama,” and they asked “what specific job is he asking me to do?”
Another activity asks students “how Obama’s speech inspires them?”
Donzelli said he doesn’t know if district officials have examined the classroom activities for objectivity, but added it may happen in the future if the speech is placed into school libraries.
Supporters of the president’s speech point to a similar school address given by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Former President Bush discussed academic progress and told students, “Every time you walk through that classroom door, make it your mission to get a good education.”
A statement from The Center for Education Reform said the address is the right idea, but the wrong message. Jeanne Allen, CER president, said a mistake was made by asking teachers to focus on Obama the man and not on the nation’s education crisis.
“That crisis should be the focus of the president’s message. Tell them, Mr. President, that you recognize the obstacles they face in getting a great education, and that you and others from all political ideologies are working on substantive reforms that they can help achieve,” said Allen.
The Sept. 2 announcement of the president’s address stated that Obama will talk “to students on the importance of taking responsibility for their success in school.”