There's been such a fuss over President Obama's speech to schoolchildren later today that I'm hesitant to wade in but... oh what the heck.
The problem I have with the speech is that it's window dressing: hey! look! the President wants you to stay in school!
This window dressing comes at lunchtime here on the Eastern Coast. So, the President wants to interrupt what might be the last good meal kids get until the following morning? And if older students aren't at lunch, they're probably in the middle of their first day of school - another good time to break into the flow of things. Few classrooms have cable access to C-SPAN, and I'm really doubtful that the White House servers can handle the flow of all that streaming video. So let's interrupt everything, herd kids into an auditorium, get them quiet, watch the speech and then get them to what remains of their next class (a process that will take at least as long as the speech itself).
And the kids that started school weeks ago? It's clearly more important to hear the President than it is to continue actually, you know, learning.
The thing is, it's not an important speech. Think about it: today, the President tells you to stay in school - to strive - to want to be something. And tomorrow? Next week? June? Who is going to tell you that? If you're in an environment where school is not valued, where the teachers don't care (and there are plenty of them, believe you me), where the school is failing, what good is the President's speech going to do you???
A second-grader in Detroit may be all puffed up because that guy in the White House actually looks like him. The speech is inspiring and he works his little second grade heart out. But to the HS junior in danger of dropping out? Not so much. One speech is not going to change that life.
I'm not suggesting that this isn't a case of good intentions. It is. Same with Reagan and Bush pere when they gave their Back to School speeches. And I'm not suggesting that it's "indoctrination" or "socialism". It's not. But the execution and timing and lack of follow-through at the micro, school/family level is criminal.
Before we Drop Everything And Listen, let's fix our schools. Let's give those in danger of failing some measure of support and hope.