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Obama to Students: Don't Quit On Yourself or Your Country


Okay, I can't help it. I tried to blog about something other than President Obama's speech to students today (see entry below). But now it's been given, and our big TV screen here in the newsroom had irresistible shots of kids standing up, applauding the president, taking pictures with their cellphones, appearing to listen intently, etc. So hey, the least I can do is link you to the prepared text of the speech and a video of the actual address.

The address was aimed at kids in kindergarten through high school, but the president hit the dropout note again and again. One of the quotes most likely to be repeated (for my money, anyway): "You can't drop out of school and just drop into a good job." (The point being that young people will need a good education for everything they want to do.)

Obama said he understood that life challenges can make it hard to focus on school, but that young people have to summon that focus anyway, set goals, and enlist adult support to meet them. He hit the deferred-gratification note a few times, too, noting that students won't excel at everything they try right away, and that it takes persistence, even in the face of failure, to succeed. He also sought to stir students' patriotism, saying that giving up on themselves is giving up on their country. "Don't let your family down... don't let your country down," Obama said. "Make us all proud."


I cannot blame Obama for his efforts in getting students to stay in school and do well, especially Black (and white) Males. His life coming from a middle class family is time and again as other nice middle class persons is reflected upon the rest of the nation. In the middle class backgrounds, Gardner's model of more or less fixed intelligences and "greater effort" from Galton, works those person. However, for students in other environments there is much need for cognitive tools to help approach at least some of the stability the middle student enjoys.

I so wish persons from nice middle class environments could have some good experience with working class environments over time. Then they would see with more open eyes the greater needs of those students. I know we cannot provide everyone with all of the mental/emotional/physcial/social/academic supports; however, we can help those students and their parents learn how to approach their lives more delicately to approximate the same lower average stress and "proper pace" necessary to enjoy learning and develop over time, the complex learning necessary to compete in the information age. Until we get away from simply more effort and better instruction and begin providing tools for working class students and adults, the nation will suffer less than adequate academics.

As a first generation daughter raised from in the US from immigrant Asian parents, I've received the lecture many times about how important college is. Neither of my parents went to college, let alone high school. They had to take care of their families by raising the younger siblings and cooking and cleaning the house.

I agree that college is key to a good job, though I think my parents have fared well for two immigrants who didn't know a lick of English upon their arrival. They had to work hard to get there though. If either of them had a college education, I think they wouldn't have had as much stress finding a job in the States.

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