Opportunity Lost

I have been thinking about how to address this because, as a Canadian, it doesn’t impact upon me directly.  However, we can’t ignore the leadership that the United States takes in education and in a globally connected world, we need to to be aware of everything that’s happening in education.

The issue is around the speech that United States President Obama plans to make on education on September 8.  Advance word is that the speech will contain an encouraging message to the youth of the United States to study hard and stay in school.  A read here will indication how a speech became propaganda.  The big issue here is that some school districts will allow students to watch the speech in school and some will ban it.  As we get closer to September 8, expect the conversation to pick up and get even more brutal than it is now.  You can follow the discussion on Twitter here.

I don’t have a politician’s lens.  I don’t see liberal or conservative, republican or democrat when I take a first look at these things.  Instead, I tend to look at it as an educator.  I can’t help but think of the educational opportunities that this would afford classrooms.  I would anticipate that the President and his speech writers would tailor the content to the potential audience.  I would hope that the backdrop would be in a school where viewers could see the message in context.  I would hope that the Department of Education would provide background and materials to analyse the content.

In the classroom, I could see all kinds of activities.

  • Brainstorm the message after the speech to see what the students heard and if they could synthesize the message;
  • Create writing, podcasting, and video responses to the speech;
  • Identify issues and have the students research and debate them;
  • Create a Wordle to create a tag cloud based upon the text to see what points are specifically identified;
  • Have students and teachers create a gap analysis between the message and a look around their classroom/school to see what needs to be done to meet these goals;
  • A research lesson to identify why some students drop out of school;
  • Use the message to collaboratively set expectations for classroom success and homework;
  • Playing the speech to parents’ groups to show how a school aligns with these ideals;
  • the list goes on and on…

Instead, some students will hear the message and some won’t.  It’s foolish to think that a single message will change the attitudes of an entire nation of students.  But, by denying some the opportunity, they’ll never hear it at all.

Or will they?  Maybe the message will be repackaged for delivery through YouTube?  I’d hazard the guess that the same schools that would block the showing the speech would also block access to the video sharing service.  Maybe they’ll watch it at home?  Yeah, right.  Another opportunity for self-motivation and listening/learning to a message without context.

Blogger Will Richardson dug into the topic this morning on his blog this morning.  Will thinks deeply about issues in education and ties it to his own kids where possible.  His entry is a great read and the legions that follow him are weighing in with their thoughts.  If you’re looking for comments from around the nation, pay close attention to the replies.

For me, I think that for the many who are not able to watch the speech, teacher and student alike, it’s a huge opportunity lost.

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