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As others see it: Undermining education

When President Barack Obama gave his address Tuesday to classroom teachers, classroom students should have been tuned in. The controversy regarding whether students should view an education speech by the president of the United States is more about a toxic political atmosphere than it is about schools and teaching.

The issue flared last year when the president's first education speech was politicized before it was known what he would say. His political opponents waged a campaign that made public school administrators so jumpy they made the speech optional. That's the tack they are taking this year. It's ridiculous.

This is the president speaking directly to teachers and students about public education. What he says is important, not only from a public policy standpoint but also from the perspective of an educational exercise. It matters not which president speaks to educators and students. What he says matters; what they learn from what he says matters. Political thuggery (and that's what it is) should not derail an opportunity for students to hear the president speak. And that means any president, whether George W. Bush on war in Iraq, Bill Clinton on "that woman," Ronald Reagan on Iran-Contra, Richard Nixon on Watergate or Barack Obama on education. It's a tradition that hearkens back to the 1930s and FDR's fireside chats.

But it won't happen that way. School administrators have lost the courage to stand up for education. Instead, they do what schools in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo are doing today: pretty much washing their hands of educational responsibility and tossing the hot political potato to teachers and parents. ...