UPDATE: President Barack Obama’s back-to-school speech will not be shown to students in Harford County Public Schools this year, according to Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for HCPS. Individual teachers may use the speech as it relates to their curriculum, but there are no system-wide plans to show the speech or offer related lessons. The President’s 2009 back-to-school message was shown to nearly the entire student population.
HCPS provided parents with the following information about the President’s 2010 speech, which was broadcast live from the White House on September 14, 2010, a day when schools were closed in Maryland due to the primary election:
All Harford County public schools and offices will be CLOSED tomorrow, Tuesday, September 14th for Primary Election Day. In addition, President Barack Obama will deliver his second annual Back to School address to students regarding the importance of education. The nationwide address will air at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow via the www.WhiteHouse.gov website. With schools closed tomorrow, parents have the opportunity to view the address with their children.
To view the address, log onto either of the following websites at 1:00 p.m. tomorrow: www.whitehouse.gov/back-to-school or www.whitehouse.gov/live.
For those who wish to borrow a DVD copy of the address, you may request a copy of the DVD from your school library. Copies will be made available after Friday, September 17th.
For your convenience, HCPS has provided possible discussion topics for talking with your child about the address.
President Barack Obama is planning another back-to-school broadcast to the nation’s school children, this year on September 14, 2010. If that date sounds familiar, it’s because September 14 is also primary election day in Maryland, where schools are used as polling places and closed to students as a result.
Not all states are holding primaries on September 14 and many states do not use schools as polling places, according to Harford Elections Director Jim Massey. But in Maryland schools at least, a live broadcast of the President’s speech appears to be out to the question.
That will probably suit Harford County Public School officials just fine. In 2009, President Obama’s live speech spawned a public backlash after HCPS issued a press release saying that the school system’s instructional guidelines prohibited the live broadcast, and school officials would decide whether to show the speech at all, after an evaluation of the speech’s “ appropriateness and direct instructional value”.
Supporters of the speech saw the hesitation as an affront to Obama, culminating in charges of racism leveled against the school system by the Harford County Board of Education’s own vice-president, Dr. Leonard Wheeler.
The protests erupted during the first school days under the new administration of Harford Schools Superintendent Robert M. Tomback, and resulted in what School Board President Mark Wolkow called a “black eye” for the school system.
In the end, HCPS did show the speech but did not show it live, citing a lack of technical capabilities and the need for time to develop meaningful lesson plans. Despite the earlier press release, Superintendent Tomback later said that HCPS never planned to censor the speech.
Support for the speech was not universal. Among those in opposition were Bel Air Tea Party organizer Tony Passaro and Delegate Rick Impallaria, who saw the live speech as potential indoctrination. The view had some traction nationally after the U.S. Department of Education reportedly suggested, and later withdrew, lesson plans that included asking students how they could help the new President.
HCPS allowed parents to opt out, but very few did. When all was said and done, over 99% of Harford County’s nearly 39,000 students saw the 2009 speech.
So what’s the plan for 2010? HCPS Spokesperson Teri Kranefeld tells The Dagger that information regarding the September 14 speech is coming soon.
Below is the initial press release from HCPS on the 2009 Obama speech, followed by the White House announcement on the President’s planned speech for 2010:
We have received many inquiries from parents, students, staff and community as to whether Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) will provide access to view President Barack Obama’s national address to students, which will be broadcast live on the White House website, as well as C-SPAN, at noon, Tuesday, September 8.
HCPS instructional guidelines prevent us from streaming the live broadcast of the presidential address in schools. The guidelines establish that all videos and broadcasts must be previewed for instructional and curricular value. In addition, the viewing must include pre-viewing, during viewing, and post-viewing activities. Due to the live nature of this address, there is insufficient time for instructional preparation.
We recognize that there are students and families interested in viewing this event. We are providing the links for your convenience in order to allow parents to engage in meaningful dialogue with their children.
With respect to potential future classroom use of the address, a determination regarding the appropriateness and direct instructional value will be made as a result of a collaborative effort among the teacher, the principal, and the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
From The White House:
August 25, 2010
President Obama to Deliver Back to School Speech September 14
WASHINGTON, D.C. – As students begin their school year, President Barack Obama will deliver his second annual Back to School speech on Tuesday, September 14. The President’s Back to School Speech is an opportunity to speak directly to students across the country. Last year, President Obama encouraged students to study hard, stay in school, and take responsibility for their education.
“Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide,”President Obama said to students last year.
President Obama’s Back to School remarks will be broadcast in schools and online nationwide. More details on the President’s speech will be announced soon.