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Lessons From the Inauguration

President Barack Obama’s historic inauguration on Tuesday served as inspiration for millions of people in America and abroad. Many teachers are excited that their students of color have a role model they can identify with, in one of the most powerful positions in the world. Robert Pondiscio of the Core Knowledge Blog worries, however, that the deeper significance of Obama’s historic inauguration speech was, perhaps ironically, lost on many of the students who heard it.

It’s bittersweet to consider that many students–indeed, many Americans–lack a full appreciation of the moment and their new President’s inaugural address. President Obama’s speech was rich in historical, literary, and biblical references, lending meaning, resonance and emotional weight to his words. Yet these allusions were almost certainly unfamiliar to many of those watching.
To have endured an education where history was a second-tier subject was to be left to wonder today: Who were these people Obama mentioned, who “toiled for us in sweatshops and settled the West?” Who were these people who “endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth?”

Pondiscio thinks Obama’s call for responsibility is particularly significant for teachers who must provide those foundational history lessons that the President referenced and so many audience members missed.

President Obama called upon us today to enter a “new era of responsibility.” It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. For educators, perhaps the noblest duty that we might accept ”not grudgingly but seize gladly” is to ensure that in the very near future our nation’s children are able to judge this President not by the color of his skin, or even the content of his character, but by the full weight of his words.
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