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Charlotte Area

Obama speech to students draws criticism

On Tuesday, President Obama is scheduled to address school children across the country. And that's not sitting well with some parents. All schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system will air the live address, but no one will be forced to watch it. WFAE's Simone Orendain has more. The president's speech is expected to last 15 to 20 minutes. According to the US Education Department website, the message will be all about setting goals for the school year, taking responsibility and being persistent. The department has included lists of classroom activities built around the speech. For pre-K through sixth graders the questions include: Who is the president of the United States? What specific job is he asking me to do? Older kids in 7th through 12th grades are asked to ponder the following types of questions: Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything? These questions and activities have opponents and supporters buzzing. Those who oppose the speech and the prescribed activities feel the president is using this as a political ploy. State Republican Chairman Tom Fetzer says students don't need the president to encourage them to work hard and stay in school because they hear it enough from their parents and teachers. He says, "I don't think that's what this is about. This is about the president trying to tender more support so that when the Congress comes back from recess he'll have the political strength to pass his health care legislation." Fetzer says the speech is a PR stunt designed to win over parents more so than students. At Mallard Creek Elementary, parent Mark Redlich is parked in a line of cars waiting to pick up his daughter. Redlich says he told the school he wasn't comfortable with his fifth grader watching the speech. "I'm very skeptical of this administration and where they're going," he says. "Seems like there's other priorities right now than addressing the entire school population of the United State, minus of course at the collegiate level. I think it's just interfering with the day to be honest with you." Redlich says his daughter isn't interested in the speech and will likely be in another part of the school during the address. One car behind him parent Sudha Vaddireddy wants her kindergartener to watch the speech. "I think it's a good thing. Who should be responsible for their studies if not them? I mean that's my personal opinion that they should have responsibility for their studies. Even a kindergartener can understand the importance of education," she says. Natasha Kelly says she supports the presidents speech. Plus her kindergartener is an Obama fan. "Anything that he has to say, he's a good role model. Anything especially if it's something dealing with education, she should hear it," says Kelly. Five other parents we spoke to said they didn't have a problem with their children watching the speech. A few wondered whether the kids would pay attention long enough. In 1991, then President George HW Bush addressed school children in a nationwide speech. Davidson College political science Professor Susan Roberts says there's a history of presidents wanting to instill the value of education on kids. But she also pointed out that this time around the healthcare debate is fresh on people's minds. "But I think parents who say I want to see what the president has to say, of course the president's not going to say anything that is partisan. If so then he's getting some very bad advice from somebody and I just don't see that as the spirit of Obama," says Roberts. CMS leaders will be stationed at eight schools across the district to watch the speech with students. It will air live at noon on Tuesday.