Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Children Sing Obama Songs in School: Inspiration or Indoctrination?

I found an interesting opinion blog at The Griot. The author reflects on whether the video showing young grade-school age children singing about President Obama is a way to indoctrinate those young minds, or inspire them. The author, Charisse Carney-Nunes, was a guest at the New Jersey school when the students performed the song. She contends that the song was simply a form of "civic expression," something lacking in American schools. She argues, "It is a widely accepted notion that instruction related to democratic citizenship has declined in our schools in recent years. Educators pressured by such issues as budget woes, the requirements of No Child Left Behind and high stakes testing have understandably increased their instructional time in core subjects like math and reading. "Softer subjects" like civics, social studies and art have taken a back seat."

Her interview with Inside Edition provides some insight into her perspective.

Equally interesting were the comments at the bottom of the blog. Although some are outlandish and even racist, others are cogent. The second commenter, Chris, argues, "A citizenry that is fully informed does not allow its children to sing homage to a standing politician." Chris goes on the explain that politicians only deserve such praise after history has determined their long-term worth.

Glenn Beck, the controversial commentator from FoxNews, leads the charge claiming the performance of this song by small children is, in fact, indoctrination.

While I am willing to acknowledge that Glenn Beck may not be a likeable guy, he makes some interesting points.

As a social studies teacher, this situation has captured my attention. I feel obligated to inform my students about the political process, political controversy, and to let them make their own informed decisions. Perhaps as a result of my great efforts to remain unbiased as I present the information to my students, I often find myself agreeing with both sides and disagreeing with both sides. This is true for a lot of issues in the news recently: healthcare, Afghanistan, Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, etc.

I love that Charisse Carney-Nunes is championing more creativity, history, and civics education in our schools. This is truly a cause dear to my heart. However, I am also concerned that these young children may not have had the opportunity to form their own opinions of President Obama.

I'm curious about what you think about this Obama-song-situation. Especially those of you who work with a younger population.

Thanks in advance for your comments!