PHOENIX, AZ -- Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, the top education official in Arizona, believes the back-to-school speech President Barack Obama plans to broadcast and the U.S. Department of Education materials sent to schools to facilitate discussion afterward are really a Machievellian attempt to promote worship-like reverence of Obama.
Next Tuesday, in a speech that will be broadcast to many schools across America, Obama will address school children as they return to school. According to the U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is encouraging schools to tune in, the speech is intended to be inspirational rather than political, and the stated goal is to reduce the dropout rate.
According to Duncan, "The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their own learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens."
The U.S. Department of Education has sent lesson plans and discussion worksheets to teachers across the country to help facilitate discussion after the speech, but Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is not satisfied with these materials, "There is nothing in these White House materials about approaching the speech critically, or engaging in any critical thinking whatsoever, but only adopting a reverent approach to everything they are being told."
Horne is particularly unhappy with two components of the discussion materials sent by the U.S. Department of Education to the schools. Specifically, he says, the questions, "What inspired you the most?" and "How can you help the President?" are "not balanced" and "do not foster critical thinking."
"An important part of educating students is to teach them to read and listen critically. The White House materials call for a worshipful, rather than critical approach to this speech," says Horne, "We like to encourage critical thinking of our students, seeing both sides of an issue, being able to argue both sides of an issue, being able to analyze. And instead what we have are materials that have phrases like how will he inspire us, what are the most inspiring things he said, write them in big letters on the black board, how can we help him, that kind of thing."
The planned speech is controversial across the home state of Obama's former political rival. Queen Creek schools are considering not broadcasting the speech. Schools in Mesa, Tempe, and Scottsdale will have alternate lessons prepared for children whose parents do not want them to watch the speech or participate in post-speech discussion sessions. Deer Valley Schools will only show the speech to high school students enrolled in American Government or American History.
In response to complaints from parents and school officials, the U.S. Department of Education removed the question, "How can you help the President?" from the materials.
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