Friday, February 24, 2012

Pro-Obama Poem Dropped From Houston Public School Programme After Parent Complains

There were plans for a bunch of Houston Kindergartners at Tipps Elementary public school to memorize the following poem to be chanted at a Black History Month programme next week, until one of the kids' dad found out and complained.

The poem was sent to parents (inadvertently, I might add) with a memo meant for fellow teachers stating:

"Attached is a chant about President Barack Obama. All Kindergarteners will be required to learn the chant for the Black History program."

Joseph Beaver, the parent, was not amused- considering the poem far too political for his young child. He told KTRH News:

"You're not learning anything from it."  "I can't sit there and say in 20 years I'm going to need to know his favorite baseball team was this. That's just useless information."

And he's right. Yes, it's Black History Month, and our President happens to be bi-racial (let's remember folks that his mother was white) but this so-called poem is pure drivel. 

Gayle Fallon, of Houston's Cy-Fair teachers union, commended Beaver for complaining, and stated that it should have first been sent to administration for approval, which it wasn't.

"Just like you couldn't put something out advocating a specific religion, you can't with politics either."

"If the poem is overtly partisan political which it sounds like, they have a problem," he says. "If it was just saying we're having a black history program, it probably would not be a problem."

The teacher did apologize, and a statement by Assistant Superintendent Kelli Durham was sent to KTRH News:

"There has been a misunderstanding circulating about kindergarten teachers requiring students to recite a chant at Tipps. This resulted when a teacher inadvertently attached a note, intended for other teachers, to a parent communication that was sent home. A teacher reading the note would understand the inference: only kindergarten students whose parents wanted them to participate were "required" to learn a chant.

However, the chant selected by the kindergarten team of teachers was sent home prior to receiving principal approval. Seeking approval is a school practice for school programs and events. After the principal reviewed the poem, along with the selections that would be performed by students at other grade levels, she selected another activity recognizing President Obama --kindergarten's historical figure to recognize.

Last week, the count for participants was less than 150 students compared to school wide enrollment of more than 1,000 students, and of those 25 were kindergarten students."

Not everyone sees the poem as a problem.  Sylvester Brown of Houston's Black Heritage Society asks,

"Is the teacher using it to express her views?"  "I don't think you can look at it from that side unless you're specifically looking for something to complain about." "If they just sung a song about George Washington in class, would they say the same thing that's political?"  "I mean, where's the contrast?"

Beaver believes there's no comparison:

"The 'cherry tree,' that teaches morals about trying to tell the truth," he says. "This poem didn't teach anything. As a public school system you need to educate people, not teach them little chants and stuff."

Had the poem been a bi-partisan tribute to black Democratic and Republican politicians (including Obama), I'm sure Beaver would never have complained, but it obviously was not.

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