September 6th, 2009
04:24 PM ET
2 years ago

Duncan: 'Silly' to keep kids home to avoid Obama speech

ALT TEXT

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, pictured here in a February file photo during a visit to a D.C. charter school with the first couple, said Sunday it would be 'silly' for parents to keep their kids home from school on Tuesday when the president is set to address the nation's schoolchildren.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

(CNN) - Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Sunday that parents threatening to keep their children home Tuesday to avoid President Barack Obama's planned nationwide speech to school students were being "silly."

Appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Duncan said the 18-minute speech would be posted Monday on the White House Web site so people can read it before its scheduled Internet broadcast to schoolchildren on Tuesday.

Duncan emphasized it is up to school officials whether to include the speech in the day's activities, and that the message of the speech was to encourage children to finish school.

"That's just silly," he said of anyone planning to have their kids stay home because of the speech. "They can go to school. They can not watch."

The speech is about "the president challenging young people," Duncan said in response to protests by conservatives that it would be used to force the president's political agenda on students.

Last week, conservative parents and some Republicans reacted harshly to news of the speech.

"Thinking about my kids in school having to listen to that just really upsets me," suburban Colorado mother Shanneen Barron told CNN Denver affiliate KMGH. "I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now."

Some school administrators have decided to show the president's speech, while others will not.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible contender for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination, said Sunday that Obama's speech would disrupt an already-hectic first day of school for many students.

"I think there's concerns about the disruption," he said on CNN's "State of the Union," calling the scheduling of the speech a "little ham-fisted" by the White House. "There is also concerns about is this going to be done in an appropriate manner. I trust and hope that the White House will have a content that is not political and they're not using the public school infrastructure for that purpose."

Duncan, however, noted Obama's speech is not unprecedented. President George H.W. Bush delivered a nationally televised speech to students from a Washington D.C., school in the fall of 1991, encouraging them to say no to drugs and work hard.

Some of the controversy involved a proposed lesson plan created by the Education Department to accompany the address. An initial version of the plan recommended that students draft letters to themselves discussing "what they can do to help the president."

The letters "would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals," the plan stated.

After pressure from conservatives, the White House distributed a revised version encouraging students to write letters about how they can "achieve their short-term and long-term education goals."

Duncan said Sunday that the passage was poorly worded.

At least one conservative backed the idea for a presidential speech to students.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told "FOX News Sunday" that Obama's speech is a good idea if the message is a positive one about completing school. Gingrich said people would be able to see for themselves by reading it on the White House Web site on Monday.

"If that's what it is, then it is good to have the president of the United States say to young people across America, 'Stay in school, study, and do your homework,'" Gingrich said.

–CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand contributed to this story.

Updated: 4:24 p.m.


Filed under: Education • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. Peoples Voice

    It's not silly if you are a Republican, southern white moron who is only interested in seeing this country go down in flames.

    Good God. I had almost forgot how many stupid Americans we have in this country.

    September 6, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  2. mandy

    Republicans have become nothing but "silly".

    September 6, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  3. DAVID

    The GOP is doing what they know best, promote hate and violence. It's their only hope.

    September 6, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  4. Vivian

    The Republicans have become baseless and nonproductive.

    September 6, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  5. Shellie

    What have we all become? A sad day in America when our children are learning to be "divided".

    September 6, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  6. SLM

    If I had kids they wouldn't be there to listen to Obamas early brainwashing. Obama is so arrogant to think his words are stronger than his actions.

    September 6, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  7. Chipster

    Silly? I'd use stronger words: ignorant, racist, fanatical. The kindest words I can think of would be: misguided, politically motivated, irrational.

    Bill O'Reilly wrote that our children can learn a lot from this President about the power of education to lift yourself up, even if you have stumbled in the past, and achieve your goals.

    I guess these folks don't want their children to hear that message but it will be valuable to those who do. If it inspires one child to recognize that education is the key to a bright future, I'll call it a success.

    September 6, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. Rick

    For starters I'm a white guy and not known to be the most racially sensitive. But this crap about not wanting "their" children to listen to a speach from the President smacks of racism plane and simple. Just like the ignorant chants of "we want our country back". Back from what, a black president is what I fear the answer is. Then there I this crap about working with Repubs. When what they really mean is do what they want, news flash they lost the election so suck it up and stop being obstructionists.

    September 6, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  9. eolufemi

    Hopefully the independents are paying attention to how stupid and petty republicans are being.

    September 6, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  10. Sandra M.

    Silly is it? Since I can't hardly stand one thing the administration is saying or doing how is it I should have my children listen to the president. I'll raise my own children thank you, and certainly not to be liberal.

    September 6, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. Linell Winter Park, FL

    "I'm an American. They are Americans, and I don't feel that's OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now."

    WOW–I'm an American, and I am horrified at the example parents are setting for their children about respecting the office of the president. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his policies or whether or not you voted for him, he is the President of the United States. What is going on here? It is embarrassing that such a vocal minority is creating this firestorm over a message ecouraging students to stay in school and work hard. What better example of that message than this president?

    September 6, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  12. Charlotte

    The opposers of President Obama's address to students in America IMO is being used by far-right Republicans to further show disrespect and unacceptance of his office. They are bringing their hate into the vision of their most important thing in their lives, their children. The children in turn will start arguments with their classmates over this ridiculous new reason they have for distrust and havoc. Very low, but intirely engineered on purpose. Go President Obama there are more thinking and honest parents out here and we'll be listening to you. Very good adivice to students, as we have read what you'll be saying.

    September 6, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. Chipster

    And this from the people who used 9/11 images in their first 2004 campaign advertising. Does Pawlenty think it was appropriate to raise the threat level a few days before the 2004 election when Tom Ridge admits that his department saw no evidence to support it?

    Please, John DiIulio didn't call them "Mayberry Machievellis for nothing. The former Bush official accused them of basing every decision on politics.

    September 6, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  14. Farrell in Houston

    Yes it's not only silly to keep children home and defeats the whole purpose of keeping our children in school.

    September 6, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. John

    Glenn Beck, FOX News, and the GOP, are advocating keeping kids at home, rather than view President Obama's speech on successin education, and staying in school.

    Silly?

    Don;t you see what's going on? It's brilliant. How better to increase the ranks of the right. More poorly educated supporters for the cause. Don't succeed in school. Don't stay in school. Don't listen to anything someone says, if they don't agree with you. This president (Obama) is one of ours, so we shouldn't have to listen to anything he says.

    What better way to increase the numbers of the conservative right, FOX News viewers, and members of the GOP. More poorly educated, angry, white people. Brilliant.

    September 6, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. John

    Glenn Beck, FOX News, and the GOP, are advocating keeping kids at home, rather than view President Obama's speech on success in education, and staying in school.

    Silly?

    Don't you see what's going on? It's brilliant. How better to increase the ranks of the right. More poorly educated supporters for the cause. Don't succeed in school. Don't stay in school. Don't listen to anything someone says, if they don't agree with you. This president (Obama) isn't one of ours, so we shouldn't have to listen to anything he says.

    What better way to increase the numbers of the conservative right, FOX News viewers, and members of the GOP. More poorly educated, angry, white people. Brilliant.

    September 6, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. LAW

    Memo to fellow leftists:

    Flood the boards with comments supporting Dear Leader. Continue to blame Bush for anything and everything. Even though we have righteous hatred for conservatives–especially those who pray for us–turn it around to make it look like they are the ones consumed with hatred...rather than them being deeply concerned about where this country is headed. Make the readers think that our (Obama's) way of thinking is the norm. Keep racial strife on the front burner. You know the drill, keep it up.

    September 6, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. Free & Thinking in Las Vegas

    I have a question that I presenting in all serious.

    Has there been years and years of inbreeding going on in the republican party that makes them act the way that they do?

    September 6, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. katiec

    "It is better to be thought a fool than speak out and remove all doubts"
    The republicans and those supporting boycotting the presidents speech to students have removed all doubt concerning their stupidity.
    Who better to speak about what education, hard work and goals can accomplish?
    Who better to let our future adults know they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to?
    It is an honor for the president of the United States to speak directly to our children.
    Those who oppose it have lost all credibility as to what America is all about.

    September 6, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Wise Latina

    Okay, you loony libs who have no other argument than to say that Beck is a lying and distorting kookjob. Just how is that so, when all of the evidence presented was Jones' OWN WORDS as captured on numerous videos! Yes, you can try to convict the messenger, but it was JONES himself that put his neck into a noose. Good job by Beck and others to show the TRUTH and not the propaganda smoke screen.

    September 6, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  21. Perusing-through

    WORST THAN SILLY, , , ITS STUPID, IDIOTIC, AND IT IS BORNE OUT OF PURE HATE!
    The USA has watched its lead in national education slide from the top while countries like Canada, Japan, Great Britain, Taiwan, Germany, etc. leap frog ahead. When the President tries to do as preceding Presidents and motivate students to strive harder; the hateful and stupid rightwing nuts go into a psychotic convulsion and shut the schools down statewide (e.g. Virginia State Public School System).

    September 6, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  22. Jim

    I am touched and honored that President Obama is taking time to encourage our students to study hard and achieve goals in life. He is a living example of his message. A President's job includes inspiring our young generation. Many other presidents have done similar things, as I remember from my own youth.

    I am actually glad GOP conservatives, such as Gov. Pawlenty, have chosen to object to our Presdent's speech, because their silly protests draw more attention to Obama's positive message!

    September 6, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  23. w.c smith

    do you think that the right wing conservatives would have an issue if Bush had wanted to speak to school kids? Me thinks not!!

    September 6, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. vic nashville , Tn

    GOP is dividing the country

    If parents tell the kids not to watch president speech ok for me

    but Reason gave by conservatives bother me if that so then what Fox and Rush are doing

    Still we are in 19th century

    September 6, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. Ken, Arizona

    This reaction by conservatives will ensure another generation of closed-minded idiots. It's apparent that they do not value education; Just look at some of their most prominent standard-bearers (Rush, Beck, Palin, Joe the plumber, etc.).

    September 6, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
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