Saturday, September 5, 2009

Don't waste a crisis-the Obama Speech

With the start of the school year upon us, I have spent the bulk of my time getting things ready for my teachers and students. The mundane duties of resetting passwords, getting our new students and teachers up to speed on how to use the network and SIS have prevented me from keeping up to date on day to day issues in the news.

Now I've heard inklings about Obama's speech here and there but I have been amazed as to how heated discussions have become. That said, the extended labor day weekend has given me the opportunity to play catch up. So while reviewing my tweets, I came across Will Richardson's latest blog post The Obama Speech. He states, "It would seem to me that there should be no better place for my children to watch that speech (or any other, for that matter) than in a place where ideas are encouraged, where critical thinking about those ideas is a natural part of the conversation, and where appropriate response and debate can flourish."

Well that passage from his latest blog post tugged at me while making pancakes this morning and it prompted me to head to my netbook and start writing. I agree with Will 100%. What better place to scrutinize, discuss, and debate than in schools.

But I would like to take it to the next level. I want teachers to act on it, to reach out beyond their classrooms and expose their students to a variety of perspectives. Utilize your personal learning network(PLN) to discuss and debate with students from across the states or abroad. Expose your students to regional perceptions from across the the USA but don't stop there. The global community is clearly interested in what President Obama has to say, so why not ask interntational members of your PLN to contribute too.

Clearly, there is much more to gain from President Obama's speech than lose. Take advantage of the teachable moment. Start an etherpad doc, a voicethread, write a blog post, do a podcast or video editorial just do something but don't waste a good "crisis".


Sharon said...


You know I agree with your post and have sent along similar thoughts in the ISED-L listserv for independent schools.

A few weeks ago, I had the rare and incredible privilege of visiting the Obama homestead in Kenya while I was leading a team of ICT teachers with Teachers Without Borders. Imagine our surprise and pleasure to meet Obama's grandmother! We were almost too flabbergasted to ask questions of her, but we did. I can tell you that she is a woman of dignity and possesses a keen sense of humour.

I am a Canadian, but I can tell you how admired he is in my country as well as South Africa and Kenya.

Here is my response to the issue, as I posted in the ISED-L listserv:

I cannot but help but reply as a Canadian and as a team member with Teachers Without Borders (Canada) who recently spent a second stint in Africa in the past number of weeks.

The world watches. I have been in contact with African educators who admire Obama and the democratic nation of the United States. The Americans have the rich opportunity to watch their nation's leader (indeed, perhaps the most powerful man on the globe) address their students. Education is an empowering force. How many other nations' leaders have so earmarked their time to do so? And yet there is such resistance to this attempt at so many levels.

This is an important event in history. To deny students the opportunity to witness this address is a blow to education itself, regardless of one's stance on American politics.

Much more is at stake here than just 20 minutes of our students' class time. Let's let our American students know that their responses are important, not just for their own cultural generation, but for the millions of us who are not Americans, who cannot vote in America, and yet who are affected by the decisions and lifestyle choices of Americans.

Most sincerely,

Sharon Peters

ICT Team Leader TWB-C to Africa (South Africa and Kenya)

Director of Technology, Hebrew Academy, Montreal
NAIS Teacher of the Future 2009

A response from the international community to this issue would be very interesting and I welcome other responses.

Dan said...

Thats a beautiful observation Sharon.
What the heck of this 'to allow or not to air the “Obamaspeech” to schools about? Denial of basic freedoms like those of listening and participation only plays reverse psychology Some parents or teachers need schooling in this .

Some food for thought, rules are not valid because the senate passed them, or because heroes played by them, or because God pronounced them through Moses or Mohammed; they are valid only if and when players freely play by them. There are no rules that require us to obey rules.. if there were, there would have to be a rule for those rules, and so on. Everyone wins something in an infinite game. There are no losers! But some people win more than others. For those who doubt this, look out for the checkmate.

With all that technology and those forms of media plus word of mouth, this is something you can’t stop, just by making rules about it! We in Africa envy Americans and will not waste time trying to stop the Obamaspeech getting to our schools when we can, via television ( for those schools that have them),or even our homes ( for the fortunate ones ).Now if you think this can only happen in school ,you are deluded.

The philosopher Hegel, once postulated that,” truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in the emergent synthesis which reconciles the two”. Dante also once observed that" the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral debate maintain their neutrality "A few premises here; Obama has children, doesn’t he? He is a great father isn’t he? A wonderful husband, with his fair share of shortcomings(not so Michelle?).He is affectionate (His PDA's show).What we don’t know is what he is going to tell the school kids! We know he told Americans "yes we can" and they did it.But why should that worry some parents and schools anyway.

For the protagonist republicans, you don’t have to forgive Obama for running away with the victory. Forgive yourselves for not making some important right choices for 8 good years. You gain nothing but scorn by taking it to him. Children are neither republicans nor democrats. They need inspiration to stay in school, and stay meaningfully in school by using their time well. At least, that we know of the upcoming speech.

I am in Africa, Kenya for that matter and have been watching with keen interest saga unfolding around the Obamaspeech cannot but help feeling that the united states is undergoing an active Second Red Scare McCarthyism of intense proportions .America is experiencing a widespread social and cultural upheaval affecting all levels of its society (schools included)resulting in a great deal of debate and conflict .just like Herbert Block (aka Herblock)I "will also throw in a set of free dishes and a case of soap"!

Wm Chamberlain said...

I was on your blog reading your post while you were commenting on mine. How weird is that...