Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First Grade is a Dictatorship, not a Democracy

Mimi writes:
I talked to my class today about Barack Obama and why today was such an important day in America. One little girl, with a huffy breath, said he is the bad President. I told her that as you treat your parents and your teachers with respect, you will treat your new president as well.

Some people in this household think that I am inhibiting her freedom of speech. What do you think?
I think respect is a virtue that is undervalued by our culture, and I wish more first grade teachers, like you, and parents would try to instill it in their students.

It is one thing to disagree with someone's politics, it is another to call him a bad person, or a bad president (before he's even had a chance to do the job!).

If you had duct taped her mouth shut (don't laugh, it has happened in schools, yikes!), or if you had given her a detention for disagreeing with you, that would be inhibiting her freedom of speech. She can give her opinion, as is her right, but it is well within your rights as the teacher, and your responsibilities as a leader, to require that she do so respectfully.

Kids are in bed, Mimi, call me if you want...


B.J. said...

I think Mimi has to honestly ask herself if she has or would have said the same thing to a student that said George Bush is/was a bad president. If the answer is yes, then I think she is fair in instilling respect for people or the Office of the President of the United States. If the answer is no, then at best it is hypocrisy and at worse it's political censorship demonstrated for children.

I know there are many readers of this blog that are saying as they read this "But Bush was a bad president". That's debatable and to at least some extent opinion, though I'm not necessarily disagreeing with it.

Another way to have handled the situation would have been to ask them to support their assertion that Obama was a bad president and encouraging them to think critically about their arguments - okay, at bit advanced for the age level we're talking about here. But perhaps a better way would have been to point out that the student was entitled to their opinion, which is one of the greatest things about this country along with the peaceful transition of power, and, oh hey look, we're back on topic and there's a jumping off point to a teachable lesson.

Anonymous said...

How can Obama be a bad president if he hasn't been in office long enough to do anything? (Was that comment an assessment of his dancing skills?)

Erin said...

Well said, BJ. :)

I'd say to define good and bad. Most likely the child was parroting something he or she may have heard at home and not really understand what he or she is saying.

I agree that Obama hasn't been in office long enough to be "good" or "bad". I do know what some of his policies are and I don't agree with them at all. But that just means I disagree with him, not that I think he's a bad president. I'm not sure that a 6 year old would know how to articulate the difference.