The Opt Out

Today The Goon Squad’s school is celebrating Patriotic Day.  They are encouraged to wear red, white and blue and they will be watching President Obama’s back to school speech.

Or I guess, most of the kids in the school will be watching it. This came home in the backpacks yesterday.


You’ve probably already seen these if you have school aged children, but I hadn’t.

I am 100% in favor of the freedom to opt out of things that you think are bad for your children, but what kind of parent signs this?

This is a speech about doing homework, responsibility and education. It was given to a group of students in Arlington. It isn’t a political diatribe. I thought the last administration was awful and the former President said a lot of things that I found personally offensive, but I would never think of  stopping my children from seeing George W. Bush speak just because I disagreed with him.

One of the great things about The United States of America is freedom of speech.

Just because you disagree with your leader doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to stick your fingers in your ears, close you eyes and say LA LA LA LA LA every time he or she comes on the television. It is important that we listen to ideas that are different from our own. How else does a person make an informed decision?

And how does a child learn to think for himself?


Hate President Obama all you want, but let your child listen and then when he or she gets home you can discuss it. You can even tell your kids why you disagree, but the man is our President and the office should hold some weight. Even if you didn’t vote for him, if you live here, he is your President too.

I believe that as a parent one of my most important jobs is teaching my children how to think critically. I think that in order to do that effectively I need make sure they get enough information to form their own opinions.

I’m not crazy, I’m not going to let them watch porn or “Saw” when they are five years old, but I want them to watch that speech today. How often does The President of The United States of America address school aged children? He was talking to them.

If you signed that form what were you thinking?

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  1. I can kind of, almost, understand wanting to opt out if the speech was being broadcast live in your school and you were worried about the message. This speech was made 3 days ago. It has proven just about everywhere to be a total non-issue as far as partisan politics go. There is nothing political about the message “stay in school and work hard.”

    Even better, it’s available online and parents can watch it for themselves and if they disagree with something they hear, they can have that discussion with their children before their children even see the speech! That would be a smart proactive parenting move. Signing that form is not.

    (However, if someone has been brain-washed hard enough by insane right-wing pundits and still thinks the speech is subverting their kids, by all means opt out. I’d like for your kid to drop out of school and become a failure. I think that would be just desserts.)

  2. I KNEW you were a political mom! 😉 (Which for me is basically a common sense mom!)

  3. Frank Sucks says:

    Well said kid.

  4. You lie!

  5. My kids’ school sent home a letter saying that the president’s speech will not be broadcast at school, because they feel it’s important to watch it with their family, so we should watch it together as a re-run or on the web. What a cop-out.

  6. Well said, Sarah. At least your district is showing the speech. As far as I know, my daughter’s middle school (here in liberal Los Angeles) hasn’t made the effort. (The live speech was given the day before school started here, but still — they could do what your district is doing and show it later.)

  7. Yeah, you have to wait on porn or “Saw” until they’re 8. It’s in the manual.

  8. i was pissed off that tax-payer dollars were spent to print off a full sheet opt-out when only 8 kids at our school chose not to watch…well, their parents chose to not have them watch it, at least. i was impressed that the principal had a great alternative which was to read “oh, the places you’ll go” and discuss goals with the kids.

  9. The county I live in didn’t even show the speech. unbelievable. When I was in grade school back in the 1900’s, we HAD to sit and listen to Reagan, because he was PRESIDENT. It was thought to be respectful and polite.

    These are crazy times.

  10. Well, with the seperation fo Church and State, and all, we have decided to NOT allow ANY promotion of ANY “Superior Being”, so, Obama will NOT be publicized to our school children.

    Besides, this is a violation of law, and federal Department of Education rules, since Obama didn’t clear it with them, first!

    Sorry, kids, and parents, it is totally outside the curriculum!

  11. This whole issue has been festering inside of me since it was announced. Not from what was going to be said, but because of the polarized reactions from people who choose to let others tell them what to think instead of taking the time to be informed. It someone has looked into an issue and is still against then that’s fine; that I can respect. That is their right grated by our freedom.

    However, if that same someone allows political pundits and talking heads to be the sole source in influencing their beliefs then that is apathy, apathy that their children will notice.

    We would’ve let our children watch the speech had no matter which party was in office because at least it would have been a jumping off point for teaching them how to think for themselves. Sadly, our school never gave our kids that opportunity choosing to leave it in the teacher’s hands to choose all of whom decided not to. Rather than letting parents and students make the decision, the school took away that freedom.

    But this is Texas so what do you expect.

  12. absolutely! freaking well said.

  13. Well said. I completely agree with you.

  14. Please tell me that the Univiction person isn’t serious.

    I don’t have kids, but I found the whole thing ridiculous. What person would actually think that Obama would have gone on TV to give a political message to students. He has small children. He is also not an idiot!

    I am shocked that anyone opted out. He is the President and he demands respect. From school kids and CONGRESSMEN.

  15. I think you answered your own question. The kind of parent who signs this is the kind who wants to keep their child from thinking for themselves at all costs.

  16. When my high school-er got home, I asked him if he’d heard the Prez today. He informed me they didn’t show it. THEY DID NOT SHOW IT! No opting out, no choice for us, they just chose not to. I’m in the midst of a writing a strongly worded letter to my Board of Ed.

  17. Our district avoided the entire issue by saying the first week of school was just too busy to fit in anything else, and that teachers of upper grades who felt it fit in with their curriculum could use it at their discretion.


    I’ve already made my peace with the idea that choosing public school means that I, as a parent, will have to add back into my kids’ education what’s been taken out by lack of funding and the overvaluing of political correctness.

    Thanks for writing about this; I’m dumbfounded that it was necessary to say what you did, but here we are…

  18. great, now i have to feel like a shitty parent for letting my kid watch Saw.

    kidding. about the feeling shitty part.

  19. I just asked my son about it (he’s in 7th grade) and they didn’t show it either!!! WTF??????????????????

  20. As much as I loathed, I mean LOATHED W, had he offered a first-day-of-school speech, I would not have prohibited my kids from seeing it if their school had chosen to show it to them.

    Furthermore, had I ever been in the same room with W, as I once was for a speech by Reagan, whom I also disliked but in retrospect not as fiercely as W, I would have sat quietly and politely, stood when required, applauded when required, and never shouted epithets at the President of the United States.

  21. The past week for me has basically been exploding head moment after another. Last week, my husband told me that one of his students would be pulled from his class for the speech. Then, the text of the speech was available online BEFORE THE VIEWING OF THE SPEECH. The student was still removed from the classroom. I’m guessing the parents didn’t bother to read it. I’m guessing the parents are proud of the message that they’re sending to their child. The message that our leaders don’t deserve respect. The message that we can just choose to opt out of things we don’t agree with. If those parents think that there won’t be a trickle down effect from that message, those parents are sorely mistaken.

  22. I have been trying hard to understand this issue, and cannot make any sense of the opposition. None. It does make me glad to be Canadian though.

  23. Preach it, sista.

  24. I have to say that I don’t agree with much our President has to say. I held off on signing the form for my 5th grader until I saw the speech myself. I would have done that no matter who the president was.I choose not to let him watch anything that I consider inappropriate. Yes our President deserves respect but some things are better dealt with at home. Please have more respect than to wish that a child would drop out of school. My baby might invent the next i-phone wether he watched the speech or not.

  25. As a teacher (although not k-12) it disturbed me to read a comment from another teacher who said that she was not going to share her political opinions with her students, however, she was given the choice whether or not to show it in her classroom and she declined.

    As I took a deep breath and indicated to her, this was showing her political beliefs to her students, which is unconscionable given our responsibility to encourage critical thinking and to leave our own issues off the table. The office of the President is not partisan. We live in a very strange time, and it sickens me. When George Bush stood up on 9/11 I applauded him as I did NOT when he failed New Orleans. When Barack Obama asks to give our kids a back to school encouragement I applaud him, because a lot of them – including the ones who were not allowed to listen to him – do not get that at home, and I get them in college, totally unprepared for life and employment. People need to learn to think beyond their own doorsteps. This generation desperately needs our encouragement.

    Sorry, Sarah. I’m still really pissed off about this. I’m glad most of you know what you’re doing with your children, and I can tell you from the mobs I see every semester, teaching them to think for themselves with some guidance from you is the way to go.

  26. Really…this is the post you chose for the 8th anniversary of 9/11? Speaks volumes.

  27. hear, hear. I’ve already ranted and ranted and ranted about this since the hoopla started. My brain hurts from trying to explode out my ears.

  28. “Parent Signature Required” Is forgery now an issue in kindergarten? I had no idea!

    My own post about this insanity will be up on Monday, but you know, since we discussed this at length the other day, I am of the same mindset as you.

    Opting out was offered at our school too. I was floored when the note came home. utterly floored.

  29. I think I love De in DC even more than I already did.

  30. I think this is a perfect post for the 8th anniversary of 9/11. In remembering those who died, we should come together as a community…united under the President. If we could stand united under former President Bush, no matter if we are democrat or republican, why not President Obama?
    Funny how respect is preached when a republican is in office, but neglected when a democrat is.

  31. I had a moment where I was looking for the LIKE button to respond to your post. ha! Funny story about the speech — our friend’s 5 year old came home from school and said, “Dad, we saw President Obama speak today and you know what? He said a bad word!” When asked what the President had said, the kid whispers, “Obama said Stupid!” That cracked me up.

  32. Sarah, you are right on the money here. Our kids need critical thinking skills, to apply in their education and in their lives adult lives. Like another commenter, I see the results of this failure, but I see it when people land in criminal court. Our kids need help, and especially they need it in our giving them the encouragement they need to move forward, which is what I wrote about. Thank you for being a voice of reason!

  33. Most of the brouhaha about it amounts to racism, clothed in political hysteria. It makes me want to barf.

  34. My son’s school didn’t even show the speech. I was pissed but not really surprised. We live in a fairly conservative (close minded) area.

    We watched the speech together at home and when it was done he said he really liked it and wished it had been shown at school. I told him some people didn’t want their kids seeing the speech and asked him if he could think of any reason why. He thought for a moment and then slowly said “Because they’re …. stupid?” He can get away saying that because he’s nine and I don’t think I could have put it any better.

    And the comment above that says “some things are better dealt with at home”? Please. So no one but you is allowed to talk to your kids about such controversial issues as trying hard in school and washing your hands?

  35. Lots of heated debates on either side. Sometimes it seems that we’re getting further from good dialogue than closer.
    Thank you for posting this really good topic to reflect upon!

  36. Amen.

    Also, with one comma, your final question comes closer to the target:

    What, were you thinking?

  37. I could not agree with you more. I just don’t get what the objection could possibly be, to hearing the leader of the country speak about the importance of studying hard, sticking with educational goals, and taking responsibility.

  38. I agree with the comment from Mac&Cheese: here in Canada, we just don’t understand why this speech became such an issue. Paranoid much??

    Then again, what do I know: after all, I have to keep in mind that the fact that every single person in my country has guaranted health care makes me some batshit Socialist.

  39. Part of the mystique of the US (for me, a Cdn) is the solidarity Americans seemed to show in their respect for the man in office. In Canada, a PM has never garnered the respect from Cdns to the extent that a President has garnered respect from Americans.

    Perhaps this perception of a high degree of respect was always a facade and only now is revealed to be so given the media enviro we live in where info is everywhere. Or, maybe the respect has been slowly eroding ever since 98 with the Clinton Lewinsky thing, and then with W how everyone acted like he was as smart as a 5 yr old. At any rate, I wonder if the lack of respect shown to the office Obama holds will erode the power of the US president’s opinion around the world on issues that actually matter.

    There is a sentiment – espoused by Americans, and agreed with by many around the world – that there is something special about America, that is like a shining city on a hill, that it’s been commissioned by history to be a model to the world.

    This complete lack of respect for the office of the president is so beneath you, and it fails kids not just in that they don’t get to hear a message about school from their president.

    By all means, hold Obama accountable on his healthcare plan – force the man to come up with some real numbers and explanations. But the comparisons of him to Nazism, and sending home permission slips before letting kids hear him speak just seems really unpatriotic and unAmerican – and not at all in the best interest of the country.

  40. What cracks me up about this topic, and even the commenters here are being hyporcritical, is the fact that parents were givien a choice. If they chose for their kids not to watch the speech arent they excercising the exact same freedom of speech that people are now criticizing them for? Why judge the parents for excercising their rights as a parent?

  41. I respectfully disagree.

    Speech would be saying why they disagree with what was said.

    This is more like censorship with a blatant disrespect for the office of the President.

  42. The negative reaction to something so simple and well-intended was ridiculous and overblown. The best part was the “man-on-the-street” interviews I saw on CNN in which one woman actually got teary-eyed at the thought of her child being exposed to a pre-recorded speech by the President of the United States. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like her kid has WAY more to fear from her paranoia and hysteria than from any speech.

    I am glad that Obama went ahead with the speech and it’s my hope (probably in vain) that some of these paranoid parents read or saw the speech and perhaps realized how absurd their initial reactions were. I am extremely disappointed that the media and school districts around the country fed into this “controversy” because it helped lend an air of credence to something completely without merit.

    I have four children ages 15 to 21 and teaching them to think for themselves has been my all-consuming goal as a parent. The only responsible way to encourage that is to be sure they have access to a wide variety of information.

  43. My students watched it. I even made them miss recess to see it live. Out of about 100 fourth graders, only one couldn’t see it. Of course, we didn’t send anything home asking permission.

    My kids watched it as well. When I asked Eric about it, he said it was great. I asked what he liked about it, he said when his teacher wasn’t looking he could read!

  44. First: Amen, Sarah.

    Second: My kids’ school showed it live — though they did send a slip home stating that they were showing it and said that they did understand that there may be some parents who didn’t want their children to see it, and if this was the case to please put it in writing and send it to school with your child. I was so offended that they even sent the note home, I circled the line stating that they understood that there were parents who didn’t want their children to see it and wrote “only the lunatics”, signed my name and sent it back.

    I watched Ronald Reagan address the children of the nation when I was in school and nobody shit their pants about it — even though my family respectfully disagreed with him on MANY issues. He was the President! But, like many other commenters, my family believed in being informed and cultivating critical thinking skills in their children.

    I asked both my kids if they saw the speech when they got off the bus that afternoon. They both said that they did. When I asked what they learned from it, they both said “To be responsible and work hard.” Ooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!! The Horror!!!!!!!!

    Third: I might love “Lindsay”.

  45. This was a well written post on this Sarah. Truly one of the better ones I read.

    There is a woman who made a stink about it at my girls school. She pulled her kids that day. This week though, I guess she told a friend of mine, that she’d never even paid attention to what the speech was about. She just doesn’t like Obama. I just hope next time she thinks before she acts. Following what others say and do, without questioning why, is never a great thing, no matter what you believe. I voted for the man and I’ve let my children hear many speeches of his on TV. I never would have signed that form. However, I also read the speech before hand. I told my girls what it was about and why people might not be there that day.

  46. To all those in AMERICA:

    My deepest feelings is that if you aren’t happy here in AMERICA… go and move to someplece else.. quit soiling our soil !

    This is our President (I didn’t vote for him), but he is OUR President. And as such, I’m behind him… OH I’M WATCHING HIM… but I’m behind him!

    Could it possibly be… because he’s a black man… and you are afraid it’ll rub off on your precious kiddos??? You would not have thought a second time if the newly elected president Bush or Carter or Reagan were giving a speech to the kids… MANY of our presidents did… and nothing was said about it…

    So many just want to fight and argue and complain… they are the ones that would complain if they got hung with a new rope!

    ENOUGH fighting… where’s the love?!

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