Monday, September 7, 2009

White House Releases Obama's Speech for September 8 Back to School Event

as promised. It's on the White House website.

After reading it, what I don't quite understand is:

  1. What's the point of the speech? He is supposed to be speaking to toddlers still in kindergartens all the way up to surly high school seniors. For kindergartners the speech would mostly be gibberish, and probably the same for the high school seniors who would be bored to death.
  2. Why does the Department of Education need such a detailed lesson plan for a mundane speech like this?
Let's look at the point 1 above. WHO IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?

Kindergartners (and probably high school seniors) do not have an attention span of 20 minutes. They would either not understand the speech or couldn't care less about the speech (high schoolers). So who is the president speaking to? Who's left?

It's elementary school and middle school students. That could be inferred from his reference to the author of Harry Potter series, quite popular with, guess who?: elementary school kids and middle school kids. They would understand the level of English the president would be using, and they are also malleable enough to listen to their teachers and follow instructions.

Equally mystifying to me is the point 2: Why elaborate lesson plan for a plain enough speech? It almost looks like the lesson plan is the main purpose, rather than the speech itself.

Sure, after her lesson plan (created by the "Teaching Ambassador Fellows" at DOE) drew much criticism, the Secretary of Education Duncan changed part of the plan on Sunday:

"On Sunday, the secretary acknowledged that a section about writing to the president on how students can help him meet education goals was poorly worded. It has been changed.

""We just clarified that to say write a letter about your own goals and what you're going to do to achieve those goals," Duncan said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

I'm looking for the actual revised text of the lesson plan, and I'll post it if I find one. I have already posted the old plan, and I suspect the revision is more semantic.

After looking at the speech itself and the lesson plan, my conclusion is that this is an exercise in branding - just like a ad firm on Madison Avenue would do - to sell this particular brand of "President of the United States" in the person of Barak Obama.

Other nitpicking:
  • He mentions Apple's iPhone. But he is a Blackberry addict.
  • He also mentions XBox. That's Microsoft. Is he doing the product/brand placement?
  • Whoever wrote the speech clearly decided to completely ignore his white grandparents who raised him. Rather, Obama is depicted as having a childhood in poverty being raised by a single mother on food stamps.
  • His mother's second husband was a well-to-do Indonesian. To say he couldn't go to the school that American kids went because his mother didn't have money doesn't ring true. Besides, his mother's extra lessons were likely to have been English language, as his first school (St. Francis of Assisi school, a private Catholic school in Jakarta's up-scale Menteng district) was taught in Bahasa Indonesia.
  • The career choices he offers in the speech are rather uninspiring, wouldn't you say? Writer (book or newspaper articles), inventor (who could invent things like iPhone), doctor, teacher, police officer, nurse, architect, lawyer, member of the military.
  • Google, Twitter, Facebook. Three more brand placements.
Lastly, why education is important, according to the president:

"You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy."

Cure disease like cancer and AIDS (health care)
Develop new energy technology (climate policy)
Protect our environment (climate policy)
Fight poverty and homelessness, crime, discrimination (wealth redistribution)
Make our nation more fair and more free (whatever that means)
Build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy. (economic policy)

Except for the last one, these are this administration's agendas.

The last one would be tough to do with ever-increasing government oversight, intervention, and tax burden (both corporate and individual) set to increase even more. How about stop spending borrowed money so that you don't take away capital from the private sector that actually create jobs, Mr. President?


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