President Barack Obama gave a speech Tuesday that was delivered to schools across the country about the importance of education and setting goals. Moffat County High School played the speech to students throughout the day Wednesday in social studies classes and used the speech as part of the curriculum.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

President Barack Obama gave a speech Tuesday that was delivered to schools across the country about the importance of education and setting goals. Moffat County High School played the speech to students throughout the day Wednesday in social studies classes and used the speech as part of the curriculum.

President's speech part of curriculum at Moffat schools

Middle and elementary school parents could excuse students from watching speech

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Sharlena Hoffman watches and takes notes on President Obama's speech to students Wednesday during world history class at Moffat County High School. The speech was required viewing for high school students, while middle and elementary school students could be excused from the lesson if their parents chose.

President Barack Obama's education-themed speech didn't seem to hit home with many of the students in Joy Tegtman's third-period criminology class at Moffat County High School.

After viewing the recorded speech during Wednesday's class, Tegtman asked her students to share their opinions about the speech, which focused on the importance of education.

"He could have said more," said Sarah Gillespie, 17. "He could have given us more ideas. My mom could have told me that stuff."

Kelly Edinginton, also 17, said it was still important to listen.

"He's still the president," she said. "We should hear what he has to say."

Tegtman agreed with Gillespie, but many people across the U.S. did not.

High school students watched the speech as a part of social studies class Wednesday, a day after the speech aired. The delay was so school staff could record the speech and set up projectors in the classrooms.

With parental approval, middle and elementary school students will watch the speech once teachers and administrators work it into the curriculum.

The speech created controversy in the days leading up to it when some parents wrote and called their schools, saying it was inappropriate to show the speech to children.

Some said Obama would try to push a partisan agenda, and others did not want the president giving advice to their children.

Joe Petrone, Moffat County School District superintendent, said there were several parents who called in because they did not want Obama speaking to their students.

Petrone and administrators decided to send home permission slips with elementary and middle school students to allow parents to opt out of the lesson surrounding the speech and its contents.

He said he did not know how many parents had chosen to excuse their children from the speech.

"When I learned there were enough people that indicated they would prefer another option, it was simple for us to provide that," he said. "And that's what we did."

He said parental choice was important for issues like this one.

"I think parent choice is something parents feel strongly about, and it's that simple," he said. "I trust parents, and if they feel strongly about an issue : something like (Obama's speech) should not be mandated."

In the speech, the president urged students to invest in their future and take responsibility for their education.

He emphasized setting goals, staying in school and taking learning seriously.

At MCHS, principal Thom Schnellinger said watching the speech was required as part of the social studies curriculum.

Deborah Roberts, director of the social studies department, said the speech would be played and a lesson would be taught in the greater context of learning about public education.

"We're looking at it as just a part of the social studies curriculum," Roberts said. "The lesson plan will involve other speeches by (George) Bush Sr., and we'll talk about Thomas Jefferson and how education has been a part of the federal government and of our society for a long time."

Petrone said it was important to take the time to assess where the speech could best be used in a balanced lesson plan.

"I think we made this decision last Wednesday, when we decided we'd use the speech where it was instructive," Petrone said. "We wanted there to be curriculum relevance and have it be age appropriate."

Petrone said the School District offered a link to the speech on its Web site, allowing parents and their children to watch the speech on their own time, if they wanted to.

"At the end of the day, it's the president of the United States wanting to share a message of staying in school, setting goals and being persistent in education," Petrone said. "And, if you look at it, many people said this was quite helpful to young children."

Tegtman said she thought it was important to show the speech.

"It gives kids the chance to hear a speech directed at them," she said. "These kids might be more skeptical because they're older, but the message is still there. He is bothering to make a speech, and we have the opportunity to listen."

Senior Janna Thompson agreed with Tegtman, though she didn't necessarily agree with everything Obama said.

"I think the conservative community was concerned about him pushing his agenda," Thompson said. "But, the message was good and not political at all. I mean, he was talking about children's future and that's what a lot of people here are concerned about."

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