(updated)No School-Wide Showings of Obama’s Video Address to Students at Irvine High Schools

I’m a little old fashioned in some respects.  When my wife is home on time and we’re all gathered at the dinner table, the TV is off and there are no reading materials at the table and my family and I talk to each other about our day.  Since today marks one week after the start of school in Irvine, I asked both of my kids at dinner last night how they liked President Obama’s video message to students.  I was shocked to discover that neither of them had seen it.

I had invested considerable time in advance of the school year to find out what the district’s policy would be on this.  They had screened the video and found the content to be fine, but left it to each school on airing things. 

In the case of my daughter, a fifth grader at Canyon View Elementary (a terrific Blue Ribbon school), the principal did tell each class about times and locations of the video; but the process eluded my girl who waited for her teacher to take her to see the video and she also remarked that she didn’t have a pass for the library.  On one hand, I’m pleased my daughter adheres to the rules the school has for students but on the other hand, she didn’t understand that she could just go and watch it. 

I met with the principal this morning who planned to hold another airing to make it very clear to the students who want to see the video could.  So I’m confident I will get my daughter’s reaction to the video over dinner tonight. She was more than receptive to my concerns and is doing her best to accommodate everyone, including several of my neighbors who would opposite viewpoints that I do.

My son is a senior at Northwood High School.  I emailed the principal last night.  This morning, I received a reply. 

“IUSD was not in school on the day the speech aired (ed note: No kidding).  Some teachers have been using it for various things in their classrooms or TA’s (Irvine-speak for homeroom).  We do not plan to do a school wide viewing at this time.”

Huh?!?

This prompted a call to the district. And to be fair, I’m waiting for a call back from Dr. Gwen Gross to discuss this.  But what I learned was that no high school in Irvine had planned a school wide viewing of the video.  And making it worse, the decision to air the video was a teacher-by-teacher decision compared to the school-by-school decision for elementary schools.  When did Irvine Unified adopt policies of Huntington Beach? When I called last week, I had asked if there were any “old timers” around who remembered how the district handled President Reagan’s highly conservative and partisan answers to student questions, especially the supply-side economics disc ussion that has been debunked by just about every respected economist.  No one could remember how they handled that. This blows.

Access to this video is not an issue.  I can call it up on YouTube, and watch it with my kids anytime.  The impact of the message comes from the shared experience of hearing it and seeing it with your peers and talking about it afterwards.  Each classroom at Northwood has a TV networked into a school A/V control room, so technology isn’t a problem.

I did briefly get the argument I’ve heard before — things like the Obama video take away from limited class instruction time.  So do pep rallies, but I recognize their value as part of the high school experience.  So why are pep rallies OK and a video message from the president not OK?

And why is it that an address to students by the President of the United States is even subject to a optional activity is wholly disheartening. Now I certainly understand there are conservative parents in Irvine who don’t like this president and don’t want their kids to be influenced by him and be infected by all that charisma.  These are the same sort of parents who don’t want their kids taking a sex ed class in school either.

Fine. 

Opt your kid out of hearing the message, which frankly is the same one my kids have been hearing from my wife and I since they set foot in school.  Do an alternative activity. 

As I wait for Dr. Gross to contact me, I’m emailing like minded friends with kids at Northwood.  I want them to know what the school’s policy was here. I want them to know what happened.

Irvine parents who care about education know full well about the hidden education tax we pay to have kids n IUSD schools.  It comes in the form of supporting the multiple fundraisers each school has to help shore up our underfunded district (way to go Chuck DeVore).  It easily totals a couple thousand dollars each year depending on how many kids you have in school.  Based on the reaction to my questions from CanyonView, I will continue supporting that school’s fundraisers financially. 

An Update: About four second safter I posted this, I received this email from Leslie Roach, the principal at Northwood High.  I fee a little better, but not by much.

Quite honestly, the beginning of the year has been such a whirlwind, that we have not had much time to discuss it as an admin team.  There are so many things at this time of year with getting kids in classes and orienting new kids that our calendar has been quite packed.  We will very likely be putting it up on our websites so that TA’s can show their kids if they would like.  Next week’s schedule it packed with Back to School night and crazy late starts.  This way advisors will have the chance to show it to their kids when it fits in their plans.  It was a great speech and a good way to kick off school.  Parents can also view it with their kids at home off our website.  We will be working on that.

To me, it still seems like a pep rally for the football team got more time and attention from school officials than a video message from the president of the United States did.

  1 comment for “(updated)No School-Wide Showings of Obama’s Video Address to Students at Irvine High Schools

  1. duplojohn
    September 17, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    What???

    That was last week bro.

    Have dinner EVERYNIGHT with your family.

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