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EDITORIAL: President's speech on education draws unnecessary criticism

It appears we've reached a point in America where some people feel the President of the United States should not be addressing our children on the topic of education. If this latest anti-Obama uproar is an indication of what's ahead, we're heading down a dangerous path.

The political division we're currently seeing in this country is certainly nothing new. What is new is a ridiculous trend where a section of the population is politically attacking the president at every opportunity and front. Latest is the president's announcement last week he would address American students this past Tuesday - the first day of school for many across the country.

Opponents and Obama-bashers screamed at the ridiculous notion that the president would want to address our students and talk education. They were convinced, prior to any of the prepared speech's text being released, that President Obama was going to use the opportunity to push his political agenda.

The political concerns are understandable to a point. Presidents and other politicians have a long history of using opportunities like these to push party politics. That wasn't the case here, though. The White House was clear early on this was going to be a pep-talk on education, encouraging students to take education seriously and there is no room for excuses.

"I've talked a lot about your government's responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren't working where students aren't getting the opportunities they deserve," Obama said in his speech. "But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world - and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed."

Parents actually threatened to keep their children home Tuesday if their school planned to show the speech. What kind of message does that send to our children? We elected our president in a free and democratic election, but we don't want him to encourage our students on taking responsibility for their education.

This is just another example of fear-based politics showing its ugly face. Most schools, including New York Mills, took the easy route in dealing with this controversial back-to-school issue by not showing the speech to the entire school. Elementary teachers did not show the speech, but have the option to replay it at a later date after sending a note home with parents. The high school left showing the speech up to individual teachers.

Unfortunately in this case, and certainly more to come, the most vocal and radical voices were heard, at the expense of students missing an opportunity to listen to the president's message. Schools should have shown the speech live to as many students as possible and dealt with the phone calls and emails later.

Politics shouldn't have had the opportunity to get in the way of our elected president's educational pep-talk to the students.

(This editorial was written by Herald editor Kevin Cederstrom, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of all staff.)