Well, here in bucolic Joshua, Texas, things are not good. Even after the text of Obama’s school speech was released to the media, more than half the school districts in Texas, and probably all in Johnson County, decided not to offer the president’s “stay in school, take responsibility for yourself” address. Unfreaking unbelievable. More unbelievable was that our own Joshua school district was among those cowed by the loud voices of fear.
I spent the Labor Day weekend–or a little of it, anyway–trying to call my Madeleina’s school to make certain they were going to show the address. The phone lines did not answer, so I couldn’t even leave a voicemail. Unusual, to say the least.
When Madeleina came home from school yesterday I asked her if she’d seen the speech. She said no, that the school was afraid there would be fights among the students and “my president is better than your president” arguments between Dubya fans and Obama fans, so they just junked the whole thing.
I wrote a letter to the school principal asking him to explain how he’d come to the decision not to have the pres address the kids. He responded honestly that “As you may know, there was a tremendous outcry from certain quarters to have students stay home from school that day so that they did not hear the speech. There were many other parents who wanted the opportunity to view the speech before their children viewed the speech. There were some parents who wanted their children to have an alternative assignment and not view the speech at all. So, in weighing all of the options and in discussing this with our social studies teachers, I made the decision to
have our media specialist record the speech. In that way, any social studies teacher who wishes to show the speech could do so for every class rather than just the classes that were in session during the live
airing which did not fit our bell schedule.”
I thanked him for his honesty–what he was saying was he’d have been shit-canned if he played it and was not going to lose his job over this–and asked him to make certain that Madeleina got to see it today while it was still a fresh thing, rather than in a couple of weeks when it will be yesterday’s news.
He wrote back to say that he was sorry but that the school recording equipment broke down this morning and the speech could not be recorded. But, he added, he’d have the school’s media person take Madeleina out of class and have her watch it privately on the internet.
I’m just flabbergasted. I would be vaklempt but I’ve been vaklempt too often lately for my own good, so I’m flabbergasted this time. The school recording equipment broke down just when the school media person was going to record the speech? Not impossible but not damned likely either. So now what? The school is going to make the internet available so kids can see a four inch video of the president? That is not really okay. They should have seen the president on a large screen, working his oratory magic on them. They should have seen the president being presidential, not a youtube figure.
But then this is Texas and this is bucolic Joshua. I still like the principal, but he’s got less guts than I would have given him. And this county sucks in a lot of ways.
What I think is if the good principal had had the courage to buck the tide and show the film, he would have been fired from Joahua’s ISD. But there might have been 1000 other schools around the country which would have called him because they need a leader. And I’m sorry he didn’t take that chance.
And I wonder how many educators are going to wake up this week knowing they betrayed their trust, their vow to educate, from fear of the mindless mob. I hope they realize that they don’t need to be afraid of the mob. They need to be true to their principles and if they are that, they are golden.

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  1. Maybe he was staying true to his principles. If there was a majority negative or questioning response in Joshua, then his responsibility is to the community, not Obama. There is no federal mandate for the schools to show the speech, and schools reflect their community.

    After all, if you don’t have a DVR, certainly the speech is available somewhere.