Friday, September 04, 2009


Forget the Speech. What About This Promotional Poster?

Is President Obama's speech to America's children next week a sinister plot to brainwash them? Well, since they removed the assignment asking kids to write a letter about how they will help Obama, we can probably say no. Even if it's not a brainwash plot, should schools come to a stop while he commences to speechify? What about all those standards? Will Obama's talking points be on the standardized tests that are so vital to No Child Left Behind? Will the goofy lessons kids are supposed to do based on the speech somehow contribute to knowledge of similes or metaphors or quadratic equations or the Vietnam War? No.

Then why are we doing it? Why are we doing it during the school day? Couldn't these children watch a speech as easily at 6PM as they could during second period? Granted, in many instances, and perhaps even most instances, objecting parents can have their kids pulled from viewing the speech, but why should they have to? What is the compelling reason for interrupting instruction in this manner? The message is that education is important. I get that. What I don't get is this: if education is so important, why is it being interrupted by a frivolous speech?

Still, as annoying as it is, I don't think the speech will be too great of a threat to our young minds in the classroom. After all, the speech will be over and done with fairly quickly, and two or three days later will have been largely forgotten. What will stick? What is unlikely to go away for the rest of the school year? What is, in fact, likely to be around for years to come? A poster, delivered to teachers, to put up on their walls. And if you've seen many classrooms, you know that the stuff that goes up on the walls rarely comes down.

It's a high quality product, in color, printed on 11x17 glossy paper. I couldn't hazard a guess at the cost, but it's likely that 120 were delivered to our school alone, and we have about 1,900 teachers in our district. Well, maybe I could hazard a guess. According to this report, a color copy on 8.5x11 glossy paper costs $1.78 each at Kinko's. In 2006. If I double that price for 11x17 glossy paper, and multiply by 1,900 I get $6,764. Not exactly chump change.

Who would be spending that sort of money? The California School Employees Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595, the National Electrical Contractors Association (only identified as NECA on the poster, but of several groups with these initials, this seems like the logical choice), the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and country supervisor Steve Bestolarides. You might wonder how a Republican got caught up sponsoring deifying posters of Obama along with a bunch of unions. As it turns out, this Olympia Snowe of county Republicans has also endorsed Democrat Congressman Jerry McNerny in his reelection bid.

This poster is a project of a group called San Joaquin Grassroots Action. Who are they? "We are a non-partisan community group whose purpose is to promote progressive change." Am I the only one seeing the paradox in that sentence? By definition, progressive is one sided. Conservative is the other side. Maybe you could find a centrist who is non-partisan, but you're probably more likely to find a dodo bird wandering through the Cabinet, provided it hadn't paid its taxes.

Where can you find San Joaquin Grassroots Action? Right here at Organizing for America, the successor organization to Obama for America.

Why are we putting up promotional posters for President Obama in our schools? Unknown.

Why are unions paying to promote President Obama in our schools? Well, pretty much known.

Is it appropriate for schools to promote certain politicians and not others? Known. No.

What does this poster look like, anyway? Here's the initial artwork by sreichenbach that inspired the poster that was delivered today:

Follow the link to Flickr and you'll see about what you'd expect in the commentary for the image.

Bob Tilden has a modified version up on his Flickr page. Bob also happens to be the group administrator of San Joaquin Grassroots Action. This is what was delivered to us:

The poster would be fine just about anywhere outside of school. If every parent decided to put the poster on the ceiling over their kid's bed so the first thing the kid saw upon waking was Barack Obama, well, more power to them. But in school? No.

If someone says "God bless our school" at the end of a graduation speech, and that is considered to be endorsing religion, how can this poster not be endorsing Barack Obama. With the flag superimposed over his face, the imagery clearly states the position that Barack Obama = America. A little known fact? In most of our classrooms, this poster would be the only representation of the American flag that our students will see.

The motives of those paying for and distributing this poster are partisan. They have every right to support Obama. They have every right to make these posters or any other posters in support of Obama or anyone else. But politics stops at the classroom door. These posters should be removed.

I've only seen them first hand in one district. Have you seen them in yours?

Swine Flu, Part Two.

No, I don't have swine flu yet. But that lady I work with has been gone for a couple of weeks now. I'm not sure what she's got.

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