Obama criticised in education spat

Speech by US president comes amid criticism over lesson plan drafted by White House.

    Obama was careful to stay away from politics during his speech to Wakefield High students [EPA]

    The White House later made changes to the document, while saying that Obama was not trying to politically influence students through the education system.

    A small group of parents protesting over Obama's alleged politicisation of education greeted the presidential motorcade as it arrived at the high school.

    One person held a sign which said "Mr President, stay away from our kids."

    Lesson plan 'problematic'

    Highlighting the level of feeling over the dispute, some school districts did not provide students access to the speech at Wakefield High, which was available over the internet.

    "The problem that Republicans are running into is that the speech was entirely non-controversial, completely anodyne"

    Ryan Grim, senior congressional correspondent for The Huffington Post

    "Everything has been a huge political fight since Obama took office, so I supose we should not have been surprised when oppoentns attacked him for wanting to address school students," Ryan Grim, senior congressional correspondent for The Huffington Post, an online news service, told Al Jazeera.

    "The problem that Republicans are running into is that the speech was entirely non-controversial, completely anodyne. Ronald Reagan addressed students, George H W Bush addressed students, George Bush addressed students nationally.

    "So what is the difference between those presidents and this one? Obama is African-American, so [opponents of the speech] open themselves up to charges of racism."

    Arne Duncan, the US education secretary who accompanied Obama on his trip, acknowledged that some of the prepared guidance for school officials said that students could write essays on how they could help support the president.

    Duncan admitted that the suggestion had not been thought out correctly.

    Obama's choice of school to deliver the pep talk, Wakefield High, is the most economically and racially diverse school in Arlington County, data from the US department of education says.

    'No excuse'

    Nearly 40 per cent of graduating seniors pass an Advanced Placement test, more than double the national average.

    "There is no excuse for not trying," Obama said in the speech at the school.

    "Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it … The truth is, being successful is hard. You won't love every subject that you study. You won't click with every teacher that you have.

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

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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