09/08/09 — Wayne students allowed to watch address

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Wayne students allowed to watch address

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 8, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County teachers were the arbitrators of which students saw President Barack Obama's televised speech today to the nation's school children.

"We are leaving it up to the individual classrooms teachers to decide if it is a legitimate part of their curriculum and relative to the subject matter being taught," said Ken Derksen, public information officer for the Wayne County Public Schools.

Parents or guardians who objected to their children seeing the televised speech could send a note to the child's teacher requesting that the child take part in alternative activities.

The information had been posted on the school system's Web site, and principals had received letters alerting them that the speech was an optional activity, he said.

Derkson said he was not sure which schools would participate in showing the speech. Nor did he have any specific information regarding whether the county had received complaints about televising the speech.

Derkson, who was not with the school system in the early 1990s, did not know how the system at that time handled a speech by then President George Bush Sr.

Obama's speech has drawn fire from conservatives who view it as pushing a political agenda and who have urged school systems to boycott it.

Some have taken exception to an accompanying lesson plan in which students were asked to write letters on how they could help the president reach his education goals.

White House officials have labeled the allegations as "silly."

However, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has agreed that the letter section was poorly worded and has been changed.

The speech, that was posted Monday on the White House Web site, was given by Obama at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., a Washington suburb, and broadcast live on C-SPAN and on the White House Web site.

In his speech Obama told students to take responsibility for their education.

"We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems," Obama said. "If you don't do that -- if you quit on school -- you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country," he said in his prepared remarks.

All of the work of parents, educators and others won't matter, "unless you show up to those schools, pay attention to those teachers," the president said.

There is no reference in his prepared remarks to the controversy surrounding his speech. Nor does he make an appeal for support for political causes such as his health care plan.

"At the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents and the best schools in the world," Obama said. "And none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities... ."

"I expect great things from each of you. So don't let us down -- don't let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.