AASL Standards May Be Useful to Apply to Obama Speech

I’ve been resisting the urge to post about this topic because I thought there had been enough blog posts, tweets, news stories, and conversations about the President of the United States’ speech to school children and its surrounding controversy. In my district and many others across the nation – the speech is NOT going to be broadcast live for a number of reasons – from first day of school and lunch time issues to appeasing parents who do not want their children to hear the speech and be “indoctrinated” by Obama’s political agenda.

But a lot of school districts are taping the speech “to be shown at a later date” by teachers who deem it appropriate for their curriculum. This whole idea of reviewing the President’s speech for appropriateness to the curriculum is nagging at me. Who will be the reviewers? Who will ultimately make the decision to show or not to show the tape? What happens when it is deemed appropriate but parents still don’t want their kids to view it? And what criteria will be used to judge “appropriateness” to the curriculum – in what subjects and for what grades? I think there is going to be another whole round of unintended consequences to this taping issue.

However, it occurred to me that – like it or not – the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) Standards for the 21st Century Learner may become an important player in this review process. These standards include skills, responsibilities, dispositions in action, and self-assessment strategies that span all grades (K – 12) and all curricular areas. As I re-read them, today, I thought several of these standards could be applied to the President’s speech and be used to judge it’s appropriateness to the curriculum, depending on the grade and class. Here are a few that stood out:

1.1.6 Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.

1.2.4 Maintain a critical stance by questioning the validity and accuracy of all information.

2.1.3 Use strategies to draw conclusions from information and apply knowledge to curricular areas, real-world situations, and further investigations.

2.1.6 Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.

2.3.1 Connect understanding to the real world.

2.4.1 Determine how to act on information (accept, reject, modify).

3.1.5 Connect learning to community issues.

3.3.2 Respect the differing interests and experiences of others, and seek a variety of viewpoints.

3.3.3 Use knowledge and information skills and dispositions to engage in public conversation and debate around issues of common concern.

3.3.6 Use information and knowledge in the service of democratic values.

3.3.7 Respect the principles of intellectual freedom.

4.1.5 Connect ideas to own interests and previous knowledge and experience.

4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.

Aren’t these skills and dispositions that all parents would want their children to be able to demonstrate? It seems to me that the President’s speech and the surrounding controversy is an amazingly authentic opportunity for students to practice these skills and dispositions. What do you think?


  1. “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students. And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.’ ” – Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), October 3, 1991

    Unfortunately, members of the opposition party are automatically predisposed to attack this sort of thing. Although in this case, I think it is the original lesson plan that sparked the controverrsy more than the actual content of the speech.

    Students in grades pre-K-6, for example, are encouraged to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.” – Critics Decry

    Apparently, that particular aspect of the plan was later canceled. But the damage was already done.

  2. A great, thoughtful blog post. Whatever your ideas and political affiliation may be, it is obvious using these standards that the speech could be a valuable educational tool. Thank you for this. I’ll be bookmarking this page for any concerned parties (I’m a public librarian), I know our schools are showing the speech.

  3. My school too is doing a tape delay. Surely an authority in the White House had to realize that for many this is the first week of school where it is critical teachers set routines, etc. Lunchtime is ALWAYS a nightmare the first few days of school. But to schedule something this BIG during ANY school’s lunchtime was just poor planning. Don’t any of President Obama’s advisors have school-aged children? You can tell they didn’t think this through–particularly the timing or the late release of speech. I just hope and pray I can find a portal to view live tomorrow. My district is allowing teachers to view live IF they do not have students. I am ashamed and embarrassed that we are not opening our arms wide to the live stream, but am celebrating that our president has decided kids need to hear from the White House. But ya now, no matter the context, there will be naysayers to everything that schools do, even if it is something like streaming a speech to students from the President of the United States live. Thanks for sharing the comparison to our standards.

  4. @Cathy Nelson – A quick comment about “lunchtime.” They really can’t win with that one, right? Even if we limit this to the continental U.S., you’re talking about four time zones of lunch time, with lunches typically spread out over 2-plus hours in most schools.

    First lunch at my school starts at 10:30 am and second lunch ends at about 12:05 pm. There are obviously schools with different lunch times in my time zone and, when you multiply that times four different time zones, there is basically no time they could schedule it that wouldn’t be lunchtime for somebody.

    @Deb – Excellent questions. As @jonbecker replied to one of my tweets talking about our opt-out policy, who determines what a “reasonable objection” is? Even more reason to embed AASL standards into our classrooms and walk through the process with our students, so they can help determine for themselves (with our scaffolding) how to analyze and interpret not only this speech, but all the different media they will come across in their lives.

  5. In the early 90s, I recall that it was the Democrats that came out against presidential addresses to schoolchildren. This is nothing special, just politics as usual.

  6. I have tried to find any “political agenda” but can’t seem to find it anywhere in the transcript for the speech. Is there anything wrong with encouraging students to stay in school, value teachers and education, and be responsible for our future?

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