Posts Tagged ‘ President Obama ’

Obama Administration Announces New Youth Fitness Program

Monday, September 17th, 2012

The Obama administration is phasing out a test of youth fitness that dates back to 1966, replacing it with a fitness screening that it hopes will minimize comparisons and competition between children and instead encourages positive fitness experiences that will lead to lifelong health.

The Presidential Youth Fitness Program will replace the long-practiced Youth Fitness Test, and it will feature awards and ways to recognize students’ progress in physical fitness activities.  The new program was developed by The Cooper Institute, which is a nonprofit organization, and it will become the standard in American public schools for the 2013-2014 school year.

Image: Child on playground, via Shutterstock.

Add a Comment
Back To Parents News Now

Why Democrats Seem More Like Normal People (OPINION)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Sharon Lerner

There’s nothing like convention season to remind you of how ridiculous politics can be. The Republican gathering frightened me. (Though admittedly, I got a fair amount of my coverage of the Tampa goings on from the Daily Show.) It felt staged, weird, rabid. They wore goofy hats.

And last night, the Democrats got a little embarrassing, too. Scripted call and response, as in Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “forward-not-back” number, is just not my kind of thing. I don’t like sing-alongs much either. Waving pre-printed signs embarrasses me, too. So does ending a speech with the obligatory “God Bless America.”

But.

Watching the Democrats last night reminded me that, if American politics necessarily contain a certain amount of hooey, I’ll take the Democratic kind of hooey any day.

I started getting excited around Deval Patrick’s speech. When he began with that heavy-handed, old “American dream” talk, I rolled my eyes and got ready to scoff some more. But by about a minute in, when he was calling Republicans on the fact that their government-shrinking approach was what got us into the recession, I was pumping my fist.

Clearly, some of this is about content. I agree with what this man said. It was deeply satisfying to hear someone for once unapologetically–and a teensy bit angrily–to say what the Democrats are for. It was especially heartening that he, along with most of the night’s other speakers, included gay marriage and women’s right to end an unwanted pregnancy right up there with the party’s priorities. (Those were his words, by the way–“a woman’s decision whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy,” as opposed to the daintier and more roundabout “choice.”)

But as I was hooting and strutting in my living room, I started thinking that my excitement was about more than the Democratic platform. The convention left me feeling less alone, and more hopeful. I was relating to Patrick. The Republican delegates I saw interviewed creeped me out. They were dressed in costume, espoused extreme views, and didn’t seem to understand the impact of the policies their party espouses.

But when the cameras panned the Charlotte audience, I found myself awash in a visceral sentiment. These are my people!

Of course, many Republicans probably feel the same recognition when they encounter their kinsfolk. It makes me think about that icky research that there’s a genetic basis for political allegiance. Are we destined for eternal tribal political warfare, with the blue and red clans forever fighting across a sea of alienation?

Luckily, just as I was contemplating this depressing thought, Michelle Obama took the stage and assuaged my fears. Why do I relate more to Democrats like her and her husband? Because, as she explained, they have lived in the world that I–and most of the people I know — inhabit. They’ve experienced the problems we have. They also understand that their lives have been shaped by their own–and, critically, their parents’–struggles.

Seeing Julian Castro talk about his grandmother, who worked cleaning houses, it was apparent he truly understands that he has her to thank for his success. The Obamas clearly “get it” on this level, too–both because their parents worked hard so their children could succeed and because, as parents, they seem grounded by the same priorities.

Coming from families that struggle the way most do makes Barak and Michelle Obama seem as much like normal people as a president and his wife can.

Not all Democrats come from humble beginnings, of course. Many–including, sometimes, the President–disappoint me. And some are creepy in their own right. But, more than Republicans, they value equality. They see the need to make sure that Americans who need help get it.

Hearing Michelle give the personal side of these values left me hopeful. With so many Americans now needing help, and the Republican party moving ever further to the right, how can voters not connect with basic humanity that came through in Charlotte last night? Even with all the hoopla, the convention shows them to be the more humane–and far less creepy–choice.

Read more opinions from Sharon Lerner

Add a Comment
Back To Parents News Now

What Would Romney or Obama Teach My Kids About Economics? (OPINION)

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Amy Julia Becker

The election of 2012 is supposed to be all about the money. We’ve heard about Mitt Romney’s tax returns (he paid 14 percent in taxes on hundreds of millions of dollars in income) and Paul Ryan’s budget plan (which calls for a 16 percent decrease in spending on the poor, for instance) and President Obama’s “socialism” (based largely upon his support of universal health care). Although the rhetorical jabs lobbied at both sides should probably be dismissed as caricatures of what these men actually propose when it comes to economic policy, this focus upon the economic health of our nation has led me to wonder who I should vote for in November. And one way for me to try to answer that question is to consider what I want to teach my children about the intersection of work, money, and ethics.

Our kids aren’t old enough to think about money on an abstract level. They know that money buys things, but they don’t really know that it comes from a paycheck. In fact, they’ve more often been the recipients of money that comes from gifts–a twenty dollar bill from a grandparent on their birthdays, the man at the local coffee shop who always gives them a few coins, the tooth fairy who leaves a dollar under Penny’s pillow (until she decided to stop that strange practice by writing a note: Dear Tooth Fairy, Don’t come. Ever.).

But I know that the practical and daily decisions my husband and I make about money could make a lasting difference in our children’s understanding of the value of work and the role of generosity, not only in their own lives but in our culture at large. On the one hand, I want them to understand that working hard, by which I mean persevering at a task even when you don’t feel like it, is a worthwhile enterprise. I want them to understand that when Dad gets up and goes to the office in the morning, or when Mom hires a babysitter to sit in front of her computer and type an essay, those hours provide the income that allows for new shoes and piano lessons and lunch at the food court at the mall. But then I think about their grandmother, my mother, who worked at a paying job for only a few hours every week. And I want them to understand that her “work” in raising a family without direct financial compensation is just as valuable as their grandfather’s work sitting in a desk and taking conference calls at the office.

To make matters more complicated, I want my children to understand that hard work isn’t all it takes to create economic success. Our oldest daughter Penny has Down syndrome. And although there are times when she’s as recalcitrant or lazy as any of the rest of us, I can generally say that she works harder than her brother and sister to learn just about anything. She’s had some triumphs–she is this close to tying her shoes after months of practice, she can read any children’s book put into her six-year old hands after years of poring over those pages, and she experienced the joy of performing after she worked hard to memorize her routine for ballet class. But at the end of the day, her hard work will never produce the same results as William’s, at least not in the eyes of a culture that measures individuals according to their economic productivity.

I not only want to instill in my children the value of hard work, but the importance of forming a community that recognizes the inherent worth of every individual independent of economic productivity. I want to teach them to give generously to others without judgment, without assuming that the recipient needs the gift as a result of negligence or laziness or moral failure. Quite frankly, I want to teach them to be generous even in the face of laziness or immorality, and I want to teach them that even their own hard work comes in part because they have been given so much to begin with. My kids are growing up with economic stability that not only provides them with their material needs but also offers me the freedom to work part time and spend lots of time with them. They have the benefit of two married parents who love each other. They live in a “language-rich environment” with a host of immediate and extended family members who have been to college and speak English. Whatever hard work they do will begin from a position of strength that has little to do with ethics and much to do with the circumstances of their births.

My dual hopes–that my kids would believe both in the individual responsibility to work hard and to care for others in their community without judgment–leave me somewhat at a loss when it comes to the current crop of political candidates. It leaves me wishing that President Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” had translated into a thoughtful and thorough economic policy. It leaves me wishing that the Obama administration promoted an economic policy that did more to support marriage and stay-at-home parents (see my fellow blogger Suzanne Venker’s recent post for more on this topic). It leaves me wishing that Paul Ryan would admit that Ayn Rand’s ideology doesn’t translate into day-to-day governance.

When it comes to our family, I think I know how to teach my kids about both hard work and generosity. Our government doesn’t seem to have room for both, which leaves me wondering where to turn in November.

Read more opinions from Amy Julia Becker

Add a Comment
Back To Parents News Now

Who Needs a Husband When Obama’s in the White House? (OPINION)

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)

By Suzanne Venker

Like most girls, my 12-year-old daughter has dreams. She wants to be a writer, for one thing. She also loves animals and is concerned about the environment, so perhaps she’ll focus her literary pursuits on those topics. More than anything, however, my daughter wants to get married and have a family. And she plans to stay home when that day comes.

It may sound strange to you that she’s already thinking about this, but it’s only because her mother writes a lot about this subject so she hears an earful on a regular basis. But really, my daughter is no different from most girls. Wanting to build a nest is a most natural female desire. Only in the past few decades has this goal been eschewed by our culture.

The modern woman is not raised to focus on marriage and motherhood. She’s raised to focus exclusively on an education and career, as if these endeavors are the sole barometer of a successful life. But most women want to marry and should thus be supported and encouraged to do so. That’s what I’m doing for my daughter. Unfortunately, America is not.

Indeed, President Obama isn’t the least bit interested in policies that strengthen marriage or make it easier for mothers (or just parents in general) to stay home and take care of their children. His focus is on “empowering” women by helping them live lives independent of men and the traditional family. Referring to women’s ability to make their own healthcare decisions, Obama said during a campaign event in Colorado that Romney wants to “take us back to the policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.”

The implication is that women in the fifties were an oppressed bunch. Not only were wives caged in their homes, women were forced to bear children they didn’t want. The President even said in 2008 that if his daughters made a “mistake,” he wouldn’t want them to be “punished with a baby.” To be truly empowered, women must be liberated from the home. Domesticity undermines female empowerment.

Which is why Obama and his team have come up with a new plan for women — one that supplants the need for marriage. In a strange attempt to woo female voters, Obama presents “The Life of Julia,” a timeline of sorts that demonstrates how Obama’s policies help women throughout the course of their lifetimes, and how a vote for Mitt Romney would change women’s trajectory.

“The Life of Julia” is a fantastic illustration of the point I made in my last post about Obama’s commitment to the “it takes a village” mantra. It offers cradle to grave entitlements for every phase of a woman’s life, from childcare through retirement. In Obama’s pretend world, he — not husbands or the family unit — provides women with the opportunity for a good life.

What does this good life look like? At age three, Julia enrolls in a Head Start program so she can join “thousands of students across the country who will start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed.” After all, everyone knows proper childrearing requires professionals. If children aren’t exposed to “early childhood education,” the child is at a distinct loss when entering kindergarten.

That the Head Start initiative has done next to nothing to improve elementary education is beside the point. According to the executive summary of Head Start Research (July 2010), “the advantages children gained during their Head Start and age 4 years yielded only a few statistically significant differences in outcomes at the end of first grade for the sample as a whole.” Facts like these are ignored because the assumption is that Head Start is a good thing and gives children a leg up in preparation for kindergarten.

Jump to age 18, and Julia’s family becomes eligible for the Opportunity Tax Credit. The government wants to pay for Julia to go to college because everyone’s entitled to a college degree and should pursue one. That America is in desperate need of folks who’ve mastered a blue-collar trade is irrelevant. According to the Obama administration, to be a “someone” you have to go to college.

And during college, women are never encouraged to plan for, or even think about, marriage and motherhood and how this desire will factor in to a woman’s career goals. Indeed, the traditional family is so reviled by this administration that in “The Life of Julia” Julia never marries. There is no wedding and no husband in Julia’s life.

But don’t worry — that doesn’t mean Julia can’t satiate her maternal desire. At the age of twenty-seven, she simply “decides” to have a child. And throughout her pregnancy (we’re given no information on how Julia gets pregnant because, naturally, that isn’t relevant), Julia benefits from “maternal checkups, prenatal care, and free screenings under health care reform.” Who needs hubby’s health care benefits when Obama’s in office?

Interestingly, Julia’s story omits what happens between the years her baby is born and the year he or she starts kindergarten. Who will rock the cradle when Julia’s at work? And what if Julia decides she wants to stay home with her baby? Oops, too bad. No hubby, no choice.

The message to women is clear. Under an Obama presidency, women are “liberated” from home, husbands, and children. As cultural commentator Heather MacDonald wrote, “The single mother has become the cornerstone of Democratic politics.”

Indeed she has — “The Life of Julia” is proof of that.

Now all Mitt Romney needs is a campaign strategy showing the ways in which the federal government can strengthen marriage.

For starters, we need more policies like the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed by Congress in 1996 and signed by Bill Clinton. It doesn’t just protect state marriage laws, it protects the 1,138 federal laws that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says depend on the traditional definition of marriage.

The marriage penalty, on the other hand, should be eliminated. Married couples shouldn’t have to pay higher taxes than single people and  cohabiting couples do.

Finally, I’d like to see at-home mothers get the same tax break working mothers do. The child-care tax credit offers parents a federal tax credit of up to 35 percent of the cost of daycare, which essentially awards mothers for not staying home with their children. It should be the reverse.

If it were, my daughter would feel support from someone other than me.

Add a Comment
Back To Parents News Now