Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Wade into the Fray

Lots of people who are way smarter than me and write way better have been writing about whether to keep your children home from public school on September 8th, so as to avoid them hearing President Obama's speech to schoolchildren. If you want to read their (better written) opinions on the subject, you can go here, here, here, and here. But if you want to stick around and read mine: be my guest, by all means.

The boys will be at school on the 8th, primarily because the last thing they need is another day off, just three weeks into the school year and after a three day weekend. They have work to do, and presumably President Obama will not be taking up their entire day. Therefore, they will be at school for the math and the reading the the science - and incidentally for the speech. However, I do plan on recording it and watching it myself, and then the boys and I can have a discussion about what we each thought about the whole thing.

I am pretty clear about my political leanings: in public, here on this blog, and at home with the boys. But that doesn't mean I want to teach them that (1) we run away from people whose views differ from our own, (2) I insist they share my political opinions without question, or (3) we can be disrespectful to our President (and our teachers) by skipping school and doing as we please all day. So I'm not threatened by the President's speech; I trust that my abilities as a parent are up to any task it may present.

I also trust in the natural suspicion and tendency to boredom inherent in all small boys. Neither of the boys has a problem obeying authority, but nor do they have a problem questioning it. If Obama demands the swear their allegiance to him in this speech (and I seriously doubt that's what he will do!) they will not blindly stand up and give it. I know this: I'm the one who has been arguing with them to "obey mommy all the time!" since birth, and it's still not working out very well. Second, they want to get their work done. They want to get on with the day. They have a fairly low opinion of anyone who disturbs them from those tasks. Being asked to listen to a short speech - fair enough. Being asked to meditate on it and write about it? Now you're trying their patience - now you're boring them to tears. I also know this well: every time I bloviate for more than five minutes on something they interrupt and ask me if I have some more legal work to get finished, and don't I want to go back to my computer?

So while I'm not in love with the idea of a "dear leader" speech given to children by any politician, I prefer to use this opportunity to teach my boys respect and discernment rather than partisanship. Class, you are dismissed.


Htown Jenny said...

You know, Tari, if it weren't for you and Missy, I wouldn't even know some of this stuff is going on!

PS: I agree with the boredom/suspicion argument. Remember back in the days before cable, how PO'd everyone would be when President Carter would be on TV in the evenings interrupting all our "shows"?

Htown Jenny said...

I just realized that from the above comment it looks like I would be worried about my children hearing a speech by the president, were it not for the suspicion and boredom factor.

Quite the contrary. I appreciate the way he reaches out to all segments of our society in advocating for his positions. It's a very modern, and smart, way of conducting the presidency. (Which, now that I think of it, is sure to enrage his opponents.)

It's unfortunate that some people use their fear of the president as an excuse for disengagement in civics. Conservatism is a honorable tradition with a lot to offer right now, but its most vocal proponents aren't doing it any favors, IMHO.

Tari said...

Convervatism is unfortunately short of good leaders right now who can articulate something other than (in essence) "he's not my president". Which is rich because that's what they hated the ultra-liberals for saying about President Bush.

Makes no sense to me. Both sides of the political spectrum need to be civil, stay in the national conversation, and stay on the issues. Pushing each other out of the debate or running away from it - neither of those tactics do anything to help the country.

Steve Vierra said...

Tari- This is a great post and I completely agree. We should all watch and discuss it with our children. Shielding them from things that we might politically disagree with will not help them make their own decisions in the future. I think it's a great opportunity to be a parent!

As a parent, I believe a fundamental part of our job is teaching kids to make good decisions when we are not standing next to them them... You have to give them the decision making tools when they are young and the cost of poor decision making is relatively inexpensive. Sometimes, I wold settle for good decisions when I AM standing next to them (stop hitting your sister!) :-)