Lots of comments regarding my Facebook and Blogger postings of a couple of days back regarding my deep concern over the plans to show all students a speech by the President this Tuesday. I even saw a comment that led me to believe some may believe me to be a racist over all this. Can I first say that I could care less if our President is purple, green, or blue? I look at substance.
And thus the reason for this post. For those of you who think this is a knee-jerk reaction on my part, I present to you a history lesson.
----From the moment I stepped foot into Longdale Elementary School in August, 1997 to meet my son's Kindergarten teacher, I have been very, very involved in my childrens' education. I've been proud to be a Co-Class Mom, a Class Mom, then eventually a Vice-President and two-time President of the school's PTA and one-term President as the school's PTO. I loved every minute I spent at school with my kids, their friends, their teachers and the rest of the staff. My FAVORITE part would be when kids would see me in the hallway and greet me with either "Hi Robbie's Dad!" or "Hi Rachel's Dad!". That was THE BEST. :)
Let me take you back several years to my two years as PTA President at Longdale. Upon doing much studying and observing of the PTA on a local, state, and national level, I became extremely uncomfortable with the tenets of that organization. Though some of the "reasons" given for their hearty lobbying efforts "on behalf of education" seemed innocuous enough, further review revealed a definite bias toward one political ideology over another.
Whenever you begin to involve yourself in politics, you immediately, as an Association, should go under the microscope to be scrutinized as to what said group does with their dues, donations, etc. And, too many times, PTA monies, mostly on the National level, were being used in ways where it was abundantly clear who the PTA was comfortable associating with politically, and who did clearly did not care for.
This led me to study the then-growing movement of schools nationwide leaving the PTA in favor of PTO's, which are "Parent-Teacher Organizations", and concentrate their efforts on the local school. Period. If they choose to partner with other schools in their district, or county, or across the country, they could, but they were not forced to do so, as is done via the National PTA with mandatory dues.
Each year, Longdale families were giving more than $1,000 to the National and State PTA and essentially getting nothing in return except the "privilege" of calling themselves a PTA. Want "leadership training"? That's more $$ and a trip out of town for a weekend. I always wondered why a non-profit group would pay good money to send willing "leaders" to a "leadership conference". Isn't that something that could be done on the local or area level for free, thanks to the expertise of all the volunteers in said local or area group?
Somehow, I never thought their members magazine was worth the $1,000 plus dollars.
Well, the year I was NOT part of the PTA Executive Board, the wheels were put in motion to leave the PTA and re-form our parent group as a PTO.
What did the PTA do?
Per bylaws, we had a meeting where they sent a representative to speak to the membership to implore them not to leave, which was perfectly fine. Per bylaws, if we voted to leave, any monies that were raised as a PTA would go......to the State and National PTA.
And not to the children.
You would think the PTA people would want the money to go to help the children of the school, but I digress......
Long story short, we left the PTA for the non-political PTO, which is, by the way, NOT an "National" organization. There is no such thing as a "National PTO". Any dues you collect as a PTO stay at the school. Heck, you don't even have to CHARGE for membership, if you don't want to!
THE PTA RESPONSE:
1) They always paint PTO's and other type groups that are not associated with them "fundraising groups for schools". This is their "slime tactic" against anyone not aligned with them. Remember, for each school that there is no PTA, that's hundreds of kids and thousands of adults that do not receive their money (dues), hear their politically slanted message and less numbers they can add to their "total membership" tout of clout at State Capitals and on Capitol Hill.
Truth be told, even though the PTA's say they have a "3 to 1 ratio rule" of projects to fundraisers, you don't get flyers and handouts the first week of school about the latest PTA projects. You get hit with a huge fundraiser. PTO's can do as many projects as they want and as many or few fundraisers as necessary, all based on what's best for the school and THE KIDS. Gee, what a novel concept.
2) We were the first school in Henrico County to leave the PTA. The rest of the PTA's then, in essence, shunned us. How hard would it be for a County body to change their name from "County Council of PTAs" to "County Council of PTAs and PTOs"? That didn't happen. Nor were we included at the beginning in any activities. Our school's voice was silenced....by them, not us.
3) In 2004, when Longdale families constituted a majority of new parents and students at the then-new Greenwood Elementary School, we simply asked the new principal that, since groups from three different schools were coming together to start the new school, that both the PTA and PTO option be presented to the parents and let them decide how to organize the group at Greenwood.
The PTAers hated that idea. We had a meeting, though. The PTA representative attempted to grandstand and take the entire alloted hour of speaking, knowing the hall was being used by another group later and that we'd have to vacate. My wife had to go find the principal, who had left the room, to come back in and basically shut him up.
The parents voted to form a PTO. At the first meeting of parents interested in wanting to form it, a group of PTA supporters came and effectively staged a coup d'etat. How did they eventually win?
A formation committee packed with Pro-PTA'ers botched up (on purpose, I suspect?) the formation process to the point where they then later came back and convinced enough people that the ONLY way to get the group going was to form as a PTA so the PTA could help them.
For example, they said it would cost thousands to lawyers to form the PTO. Lie. We did it at Longdale for free.
It went on and on and on. For months.
Almost AN ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR went by, and these people were perfectly content to waste all this time where THE STUDENTS could be benefiting, simply to get their way.
When people are motivated by politics, it's amazing how many of them make decisions and do things which actually go against what they claim their core beliefs are. For example, if you are "only looking out for the children", why spend so much money that could be used in the classroom strengthening an association whose existence has already been proven to be not necessary?
Did you know around 3 out of every 4 "parent-teacher" groups in America are NOT PTA's?
No wonder they're going nuts! Where will they get the money to "promote their cause"? Dry up the dues and you're in trouble.
Why did I and do I support PTOs? One big reason is that they are NON-POLITICAL.
Public school classrooms, the students, and their lesson plans should never be used for any political purpose. Period. On either side.
And that brings us to President Obama's speech on Tuesday.
The fact that he wants to speak to the nation's schoolchildren is not the big issue here.
The big issue is THE PLANS SURROUNDING AND FOLLOWING UP THE SPEECH. You know, the ones I highlighted on this blog the other day. The ones which want students to focus on "what the President wants" throughout the entire school year. The ones which didn't focus on children achieving their best in educational endeavors or on what we can do to be better citizens and help our country and our neighbors......
Obama's speech will be very innocuous, I'm sure. Even moreso now that people like me have blown the whistle on all this.
Friends, all politicians present their messages through a uniquely defined political prism. This goes against my "non-political" stance of what life should be like in the Pre-K through 12 classrooms of this nation. They can't help it, whether from the right or the left.
POINTS TO PONDER:
1) How can the same Administration, who cannot even pay car dealerships for their "clunkers" in the Cash For Clunkers program even after tripling their workforce to get the paperwork processed, somehow masterfully pull off sending lesson plans for a year-long project to every classroom in some 100,000 schools with nary a whisper to the public who pays for those schools? When an Administration can administer some things better than others, one begins to wonder what priorities cause the success and failure....
2) WHY has the White House now spent MORE taxpayer money to REVISE the lesson plans to take the focus more away from the President??? Was it just an "oversight" of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his gang, just thinking that citizens would assume "following a President" meant "following a nation"? Heh. Think again. We caught them red-handed. If these lesson plans were so innocuous, THEY WOULDN'T BE REVISING THEM, now would they?
3) Guilt by association. In its short history, the Obama Administration has placed itself in a position by which doing this very exercise guaranteed the grassroots response.
--Appointing more "czars" with no Congressional oversight than any other President
--Trying to ram through Health Care Reform before August, before there could be discussion.
--The stimulus package that HAD to go through or we would be in a Depression.
Once a group plays "ramrod" with the American people for awhile, the people awaken and say enough. And thus, they begin to question everything they do. Why? Because past history indicates questioning is a GOOD thing to do.
The latest indication? Van Jones, the President's "Green Jobs" czar. According to Van's own words, I'm a white polluter, an "a**hole" (even though I'm an independent and NOT a Republican) and I live in a country where the last Presidential Administration colluded to kill 3,000 Americans eight years ago on 9/11.
I rest my case.
1) I want no publicly elected official having the control of speaking to all of the nation's children without first announcing such intentions to the entire nation. Schools are for LEARNING. Learning about politics in schools belongs in Social Studies, US History, and US Government classes. I wouldn't want kindergarteners asking themselves "What Would Reagan Do?" any more than "What Would Obama Do?" I should have found out about this speech from news reports straight from the White House and not from the Drudge Report and radio talkers.
2) What would liberals be saying today if George W. Bush had created "lesson plans" to give to the nation's children so they could wonder "What does George W. Bush want me to do today"? Remember just a couple of years ago when some liberals were demanding that President Bush's pictures be taken down from public school walls?
3) Our society is in grave danger due to stupidity. You read me right. You can't read a chyron graphic on CNN, Fox, or another news or sports channel these days without seeing MULTIPLE misspellings. Adults can't name the 50 states, their Senators, or how many Justices are on the Supreme Court. How many kids don't know their times tables, 0X0 through 12X12, by heart? How many kids have to learn the Gettysburg Address by heart?
May the President's speech be short and full of direction sending all American children to their textbooks, so we can get back to reading, writing, and arithmetic.
As opposed to "What does (insert any political leader name here) want me to do??"