White House : Criticism Over School Speech Marks ‘Silly Season’

US President Barack Obama (R) speaks from the Rose Garden of ...

(KATAKAMI / VOANEWS) The White House has dismissed criticism over President Barack Obama’s upcoming back-to-school address to the nation’s schoolchildren.

Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday the country has reached a “silly season” when the president of the United States cannot tell children to study hard and stay in school.

Some conservatives say President Obama is using the opportunity to promote a political agenda and is overstepping the boundaries of government involvement in schools.

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The White House says the speech Tuesday is not a policy speech. It says the president will challenge students to work hard, set goals and take responsibility for their learning.

School districts in at least six states say they will not show the speech in classrooms after objections from some administrators and parents.

The speech sparked criticism after U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to school principals urging them to allow their students to watch. The Department of Education also had material that included a suggestion that students write themselves a note on how they can “help the president.”

The Department of Education has since updated the material to instead ask students to write a note about how they can achieve their long-term and short-term education goals.

President Obama is to deliver the address Tuesday at a high school in the southern state of Virginia, in Arlington County, just outside Washington. The speech will be broadcast live on the White House Web site and the C-SPAN cable network.

Those in support of the president’s speech have noted former Republican President George H.W. Bush also addressed students live on television in 1991.

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