Obama’s back-to-school address draws mixed opinions from students, teachers

On September 8,schools throughout the nation aired Presidential Obama’s back-to-schooladdress. Ames High School was no exception. Setting aside time at theend of 4 th period, the speech was shown in nearly everyclassroom in order to give students the opportunity to hear thepresident’s words. In simplest terms, Obama used his speech as a meansof relating to students and motivating hard work in the coming schoolyear. Despite the lucid, seemingly non-partisan nature of the address,controversy stirred on national and local levels regarding Obama’sspeech. Some factions questioned the intent and necessity of thespeech, while others defended the presidential address and itsnon-partisan nature. At Ames High, the speech aroused differences inopinion in both the student and teacher constituents. Althoughmost students at Ames High elected to watch the president speak, theywere given the alternative of gathering in student services if theyfelt disinclined about viewing the president’s address. Some studentstook advantage of this opportunity in protest of Obama’s policy. “Ididn’t watch the speech because I didn’t want to support Obama,”freshman Meredith Farrell said. “My uncle is in the military, andObama hasn’t done good things with the military.” Others refused to view the address simply out of apathy. “I just don’t care,” sophomore Alex Hostetter said. “I don’t think Obama’s forcing his beliefs on other people, I just don’t really care about the speech.” Others shared Hostetter’s sentiment. As sophomore Keaton Green put it, “It’s more entertaining being in [student services] than watching the speech.” Freshman Tristan Brothers declined to watch for a more practical reason. “I had some homework to do, and Obama’s going to be making speeches for four more years.” “I don’t necessarily know about his policies, so it’s not about that,” he said. “I just don’t care to watch. I’m not saying he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Many students who chose to watch the speech had different opinions. “It wasn’t at all what the conservative right made it out to be. A lot of them said, ‘Oh my God, he’s going to indoctrinate our children!’ In reality, all he did was attempt to motivate students and let them know that their performance in school would affect their own futures and the future of our nation,” senior Spencer Babcock said. Senior Jeffrey Yang agreed. “It shouldn’t have been such a big deal. Obama’s just saying the same old stuff everyone else has said. The only difference is he’s a more inspiring individual than most.” Yang said. A few students even took the school day off so as to avoid having to view the speech. “Taking the day off is going way too far. The parents should just man-up and tell their kid not to watch it,” Brothers said. Despite all the controversy, most Ames High students seemed in consensus about the non-partisan nature of the speech. “I agree that [the speech] is non-partisan, but by watching it, you’re supporting Obama’s policy,” Farrell said. With all the various stigma and media coverage surrounding just the idea of viewing of the Obama address, it is hard to say whether the speech met its mark. “I thought the speech was very effective,” Babcock said. “My aunt works at an inner-city school in Oakland, and the students there love Obama. For them to have a high ranking official to look up to and tell them positive things is great.” While most teachers agreed that the content of the speech was nonpartisan and motivational to students, there were mixed opinions on whether it warranted eschewing 20 minutes of the school day to watch. “I don’t care who’s in the White House. Just because it’s the president doesn’t mean we should miss school to watch it,” English teacher Steve Hosch said. In such a technology-driven society, students had multiple venues for accessing the speech, including the official YouTube videos posted by the White House and C-Span. There was a lot a material to cover, he said, and every minute of instructional time was valuable. However, Spanish teacher Kay Billings believes that the address carried an important message for students to hear. “Those who didn’t watch it missed out on a really great speech,” she said. Some of the controversy resulted from the fact that teachers weren’t notified until right before Labor Day weekend that the speech would be shown, Spanish teacher Jordan Niedergeres said, who agreed with showing the video during school but thought preparations to make room for it were rushed. Regardless, most teachers thought that labeling the speech as “partisan” was inappropriate and inaccurate. “It’s unfortunate that it was an issue,” Billings said. Hosch agreed. “It was blown way out of proportion. Those people that called it a partisan speech went out of their way,” he said.