Friday, September 4, 2009

Access Denied

On Tuesday, President Obama is speaking at a high school right down the road from us. That happens to be the first day of school around here, and so today was the last day of our pre-service week. At our school, we kicked it off with, what else? A lengthy meeting. Although gathering as a staff is necessary, two-and-a-half hours seems like it may be overdoing it. I slipped into a seat at 8:33, just in time to hear the principal say that she was starting with an item that was not on the agenda.

Before I could roll my eyes, she told us that she'd been struggling with the issue of the president's speech. Some around me were confused because they had been unaware of the plans for his visit, but even though I was ahead of them on that particular 4-1-1, my brow was furrowed just the same. I listened as she continued, telling us that she had decided that no students at our school will be permitted to view the speech live on that day. At first, it was my assumption that such an activity might be too disruptive on the first day of school, but that was not her reasoning at all. She went on to say that there was a lot of controversy surrounding the address; in fact several parents had already called the school to say that they did not want their children to view it, and since we could not arrange for information letters with opt-out pieces, we weren't exposing any students to the telecast.

Go back in time with me twenty-four hours, or so... pretend that you haven't read or heard of the furor that is being raised over the president's plan to address the school children of our nation. All you know is that the President of the United States is coming to a high school in your district to make a televised speech for kids. Can you imagine how irrational the principal's decision seemed? What an over-reaction it appeared to be? That's where I was this morning, unaware that partisan politics have become so divisive in our time that there are citizens of this country who will not allow their children to hear the remarks of a democratically-elected president carried by a free press. And tonight, I'm wondering where our trust in democracy is.

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