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  • First Lady's Teaching Moment

    The thought keeps coming to mind: First lady Michelle Obama is a natural to champion the 1,700  D.C. schoolchildren from low-income families whose tickets out of failing public schools –  scholarships to attend a school of their choice — are on the hit list of congressional Democrats. One reason is Mrs. Obama’s gift for inspiring young folks,  as when she recently welcomed dozens of  local kids to the White House.

    The scene:  the East Room.  The date: Feb. 18. The occasion:  a visit by 180 D.C. students.

    The first lady spoke after the students heard encouragement to apply themselves from Stephen W. Rochon, chief usher of the White House, a retired Coast Guard rear admiral  appointed to the post  by President George W. Bush in 2007.  Adm. Rochon is the first black to hold the job, which puts the New Orleans native in charge of  the residential staff and operations.

    This is part of what Mrs. Obama said, as reported by DeNeen L. Brown of The Washington Post:

     Like Barack and I, the admiral didn’t rise to his position because of wealth or because he had a lot of material resources. See, we were all very much kids like you guys. We just figured out one day that our fate was in our own hands. We made decisions to listen to our parents and to our teachers, and to work very, very hard for everything in life. And then we worked harder any time anybody doubted us.”

    The White House,  the first lady added,  should be a place of “learning and for sharing new and different ideas, sharing new forms of art and culture, and history and different perspectives.”

    Now that sounds like a mom who understands why other parents are so grateful for  ”new and different ideas”  such as school choice.  After all, private and charter schools — and vouchers such as those in the endangered D.C.  Opportunity Scholarship Program – allow for competition that  challenges the public schools, in the first lady’s words,  to ”work very, very hard” to achieve excellence.

    It’s difficult to picture Michelle Obama  — or Admiral Rochon, for that matter — standing idly by as union leaders and politicians overrule the parents and teachers to whom these kids listen.

    Posted in Education [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to First Lady's Teaching Moment

    1. Lee, Utah says:

      Anyone care to mention where the Obama kids are going to school?

    2. Barb -mn says:

      Who has risen to their position because of wealth? Those in the private sector, who earned it, who stole from no one? Or those in GOVERNMENT?

    3. April McNamara, Colo says:

      Barb-mm. The private sector's thievery is why we are in the economic turmoil that we currently face. AIG, Lehman Brothers, the auto industry, Madoff and Stanford with their ponzi schemes…ALL private sector.

      Your side complained during the campaign that President Obama wasn't experienced enough. He hadn't been in GOVERNMENT very long…

      I think that it's crazy when the HF tries to insinuate that the Obamas are neglecting black children.

    4. William McDavid says:

      April,

      We are way beyond blame. THe only thing you should try and understand at this point is that both your freedom , those children's and mine are being placed in jeopardy. Our founders never intended to create a federal government that would remove its citizens free will to make the best choice for their families. Grow up and please open your eyes instead of perpetuating this assault on American citizens everywhere.

      It is not black and white. It is an American issue.

    5. Chris Mathieu,Conne says:

      April,you forgot one little tidbit of information.Freddie Mac and Fannie May ( government entities)were very big contributors to the mortgage crisis,which was what started this whole debacle we are currently facing.The government put lots of pressure on banks to make loans to people with subpar credit to purchase homes,who under traditional credit guidelines would never have been approved for these loans.So to blame the private sector exclusively for this crisis is completely untrue.Chris Dodd and Barney Frank need to undergo intense scrutiny to help reveal their true involvement in this mess.But we know that under a Democratic controlled Congress,this will never come to fruition.

    6. helen, colorado spri says:

      What is such a joke is that both OBama's got scholarships – due to their minority status – not due to "hard work." Look up who backed Obama for his education!!

      Then consider that if she really wanted to help black kids, she would back the voucher that some kids get – rather than deny them the same opportunity she got. Without those scholarships, she would be another young woman working for a living – not a first lady in the White House.

      The Obama's talk a good game but don't produce!

    7. Lurch says:

      I don't know about "our side’s" complaints, but my complaint was that he was a socialist. For my part, being a career politician is more a draw-back than a plus. I want someone who is moral, believes in individual freedom and choice, and has accomplished, not hidden in the anonymity of bureaucracy.

      If politicians would resist the urge to "do something," whether helpful or not, and let the market discipline those who are naughty, it would take care of its self. Instead they impede or completely stop the forces of the market from cleansing its impurities. Instead they create laws that just increase the confusion and give the dishonest more places to hide in the system.

      But the First Lady is right, work hard to get what you want, and work harder when someone tries to stop you, no matter your color, gender, or income level. I just wish she would prove that she means that by her actions and convince her husband to adopt the same outlook.

    8. Truby, NM says:

      "Like Barack and I"…should be "Like Barack and me"!!! Basic glaring grammer error!

    9. kathy, Illinois says:

      The message that Michelle Obama gave to the children visiting the White House is the message that applies to everyone in America. It doesn't matter what color or ethnicity you are, her message has been true for a long time. Unfortunatly, many, many black children grow up believing that they can't make it from their own black leaders of this country. Just look at the percentage of black children that graduate from high school. It's too bad that more black leaders aren't speaking out like Bill Cosby has been trying to do, telling black people, especially, to quit blaming others for your problems. Get a good education, work hard, don't get pregnant(until you can afford to take care of your children), don't do drugs and you'll be successful.

    10. April McNamara, Colo says:

      Chris, The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was established to promote freedom and democracy. Some people were being turned down for loans because of the color of their skin or because they lived in a lower income area. The CRA was established to help those people who COULD afford to buy a home get a loan. It never was meant to allow people to buy homes that they could not afford. The problem has been in the deregulation of the banks. Banks and lending institutions have been allowed (in the name of "Free Market" practices) to not follow sound lending practices. Banks and lending institutions could sell loans to people that DID NOT qualify and then pass that bad risk off. I say that the bank that makes the loan should carry the risk. Instead, these bad loans have been pooled. Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae. This is a prime example of how the market, without governmental regulations, can create economic chaos. What a complicated mess! I love the comment by Lurch that we should allow the market to "cleanse the impurities." Wow.

      Regarding the school scholarships. I don't believe that families should receive tax dollar credits to send their children to charter schools. We face a real problem with curriculum de-standardization if this were to happen. Schools would spring up all over this country. I'm sure some of them would be great schools; but some may not. One of the major benefits of the public school system is the teaching of plurality. The idea essential to our very democracy…all people are created equal and allowed to vote. Do we really want schools that could possibly promote religious fundamentalist beliefs receiving money from the government? That would be a complete violation of our constitution.

      Everybody wants the public school system to be improved, but it won't happen by railing against the NEA. A lot of really great teachers are NOT teachers because they can't afford to live on that kind of salary. A thought…maybe teacher's pay is poor because it has traditionally been a "woman's" job.

      P.S. William McDavid…It would be best not to tell people to "grow up"…it's rude.

    11. FeFe, MD says:

      I think teachers pay is poor because they don't rely on merit for increases but gimmie gimmie from their union and pr from the liberal press when the local entity cries poor. Who is crying for the children? The parents who have no choice.

    12. Barb -mn says:

      April, if people were being singled out because of the color of their skin, there would be a whole lot of class action lawsuits. But there wasn't. It is an excuse! FOR SYMPATHY! If the process were done equally in accordance with the law. we wouldn't be in this mess. It is ALL GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION.

      What a disgrace (GOVERNMENT) public schools have become! Every year their minds come up with one answer to heal all… MORE MONEY!… one track minds are unqualified.

      April, trace back every crisis and you will see ALL is due to GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION!

    13. William McDavid says:

      April,

      First,

      Your right, I shouldn't have said grow up, Its just that I believe this is childish. Everyday, all the back and forth with the blame. I'm just sick of it to the point where the truth must be told. Both parties have failed us and continue to do so today. This is our reality to accept and get beyond. The question is, how can we get beyond it? Let me begin with education.

      I am a teacher and I didn't get into it for the money. I have no fear of capitalism and I feel school choice should be welcomed. Why should education be limited to plurality or what you really mean is singularity, one source.

      Competition has the potential to elevate the public school system. Competition is the motivation to get it right. The only teachers that are afraid of competition are the ones that can't teach. Sadly, they are what's wrong with the system, but there isn't anyone else standing in line to take their positions. Why is that?

      Discipline is a problem in the public school system. The policies in place do not hinder poor behavior. Students have very little respect for teachers and many educators especially new ones leave after 5 years because they have had enough.

      Where is the parental support? The parents are too busy working to be concerned. The truth is the public schools have become a place to send children at the government expense so that parents can go to work. Unfortunately, Our highschool graduates are not prepared for the real world at graduation time. After 12 years, they have gained some knowledge on numerous topics and have few skills to offer an employer.

      If we truly cared about these kids we would have stopped forcing them all down a collegiate path and provided other avenues for success . . . like trade schools. This is the problem with your plurality. It simply leaves the kids on the street with too few options.

    14. Guy, Massachusetts says:

      April, the CRA did indeed start out with good intentions. It wasn't until the 90s when the Clinton administration started pressuring banks through the CRA vehicle to expand home ownership in urban areas. The objective shifted from one of access to outcome. It wasn't that as you say banks were "allowed to not follow sound lending practices" but were actually pressured into reducing their standards to increase loan counts in urban areas especially. The hammer on the banks was an implied threat to withhold government approvals for branch openings and mergers. When bankers were leary they were assured that Fannie and Freddie stood ready to buy the risky loans from them. F&F of course had friends on the Hill (Barney, Todd and others) In fact in the short time Obama served in the Senate he became the second largest recipient of contributions from Fannie. The rest is history. Yes, clever MBAs thought the ride would never end in creating all the motgage based derivative paper and the government regulators looked the other way as AIG's portfolio was being corrupted yet still carried AAA status. Then, bang! Oil price surge, economy slows, real estate falters, leveraged paper explodes in everyone's face and our stalwart politicians began the blame and attack game. There are plenty of regulations but very few good regulators. There are still bad regs. on the books like the mark-to-market rule which is cripling the private credit market. It appears that the knee jerk reaction of government is to excoriate the bankers and Wall Street, create more regulations, and throw tons of money at institutions and individuals who failed to act prudently. I don't think we will like the results come 2012 and beyond.

    15. John Harper, Harvard says:

      How do you propose to deal with States that persistently refuse to report to the UN under the various treaties which they have ratified, or with UN member States who persistently refuse to ratify the human rights treaties?

      As my collegue Ana Nacvalovaite (human rights attorney, Oxford) put it:1. Human rights violations: externalities and / or direct action?

      The problem of implementation of human rights instruments at national level cannot be discussed without understanding the diverse sources of human rights violations. The reason for this is that depending on the perpetrator, the status of the state and its institutions in intervening differs.

      In the first instance, human rights violations can be inflicted by members of the polity on other citizens: trafficking of individuals, various forms of discriminatory action (e.g. in employment, health care, education etc.) may be perpetrated by individuals against other individuals or, alternatively, by institutions against certain groups within society. In this case, the role of the state is to act as a just and legally bound mediator, and more. The human right violation must be recognised by domestic legislation as such, individuals whose rights have been abused have to have an instance to complain against the deed and an institution has to be available to decide and enforce the punishment on grounds of the relevant piece of legislation. As a result, the state as mediator can act as such if it produces relevant legislation and ensures the functioning of relevant institutions and, at the same time, facilitates individuals’ access to the legal process that the punishment of human rights violations entails within national boundaries.

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