School Districts Across Country Debate Airing Obama's Speech

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Controversy surrounding President Barack Obama's upcoming back-to-school address has school districts across the country questioning whether to show the speech to their students.

The president is set to deliver the speech Tuesday at 9 a.m. PST from Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va. The speech will be broadcast live on C-SPAN and on the White House's Web site.

According to Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan, the district supports the speech and will allow it to be broadcast to students.

However, viewing will be optional due solely to technological constraints. Coplan said the address will be rebroadcast at a Wednesday assembly at Berkeley High School.

Though the White House has called the speech a "national address to the students of America," critics say the speech is an attempt to politically indoctrinate young students.

Many conservatives expressed outrage at lesson plans issued by the U.S. Department of Education in conjunction with the speech that asked students to write letters "about what they can do to help the president."

The language of the lesson plans has since been altered. They now ask pupils to write letters "about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."

Following an outcry from concerned parents, some school districts in states such as Texas, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri have elected not to show the broadcast. Many other districts are letting parents decide if their children will watch it or not.

Mark van Krieken, president of the Berkeley High Parent Teacher Student Association, said he believes parents should be able to stop their children from watching the speech, but does not feel the occasion warrants the concern.

"I think the whole thing is very silly," he said. "It's all politically motivated from the far right. It's an attempt to damage (the president's) image and standing but I don't think there's anything behind it."

The text of the speech, released Monday by the White House, emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility in education.

"We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems," the speech states. "If you don't do that-if you quit on school-you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country."


Contact Chris Carrassi at [email protected]

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