Friday, September 04, 2009

The Power of Story

An interesting question:

Isn't the answer that the non-conservative media will simply blindly follow whatever conservative media decides to gun up? Don't media types privilege conservative mini-controversies and hissy fits? Isn't there literally no way they could lay off something like this? Isn't that the problem?
Why, yes, yes it is:

Some school districts in Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota are even refusing to show the president's address.
I wonder what's really going on. After all, the context of that ABC report is that people are "upset" that the President will be pushing a political agenda on school children (like they'd pay attention!). So I went looking, and this is what I found:

At least three Central Texas school districts — Georgetown, Wimberley and Leander — say they will not show a live webcast by President Barack Obama planned for next week.
And why not?

The Leander district late Wednesday announced that its schools will not show the webcast "due to the logistics of making a webcast available during that time of the school day."

But Leander Trustee Lisa Mallory in Web posts, to her Web site and on Twitter, wrote: "Leander ISD will NOT participate in the Obama broadcast to school children! Texans support LOCAL control of education!"

District spokesman Dick Ellis, when asked whether Leander was not showing the webcast because of political reasons, said, "Of course not." Ellis said he didn't know whether the speech would ever be shown in Leander classrooms.

In a statement, Georgetown district officials said that to preserve teaching time, the district wouldn't air the speech. "If parents would like their children to view the president's remarks, we would encourage families to record the speech and watch the event as a family," they said.
Logistics, not politics. I suspect those school districts, like the one I know locally, got no small number of phone calls about this, but I also doubt any school district is requiring teachers to re-jigger their lesson plans to require students to watch. Indeed, the 11:00 a.m. schedule means some students will already be going to lunch at my local schools, which guarantees not all of them could sit in rapt attention. Unless, of course, the school was willing to restructure its entire day for this "event."

There are various articles on the speech now. School districts in North Texas, for example, have varied responses, as this article notes toward the end. At my local school district, they didn't even know the speech was planned until parents started calling in to complain about it. That might seem to make Gov. Perry's question seem reasonable:

"Nobody seems to know what he's going to be talking about ... why didn't he spend more time talking to the local districts, superintendents?" he said.
Until you consider there are 1289 school districts in Texas alone. And, of course, the speech is VOLUNTARY! The President has no more power to compel the schools of America to carry his speech in classrooms than he has the power to compel networks and cable channels to carry his speeches. Which is where the matter becomes truly absurd, because most of the complaints are about the compulsory nature of the situation. Maybe we should use this as a "teachable moment" to consider how we educate our children?


I'd venture to guess that the school districts who have announced they won't show it, are doing so to quiet parents, not because they've decided it should be banned. Most of them probably had no district policy on it at all, but had to say something due to the brouhaha, not due to their feelings about the President. But in the context of the narrative now established by the "media"....

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