It’s not easy for children to grow up in the White House. They have to live in a media fishbowl with an army of reporters looking for the most excruciating details of their lives in order to sell a few glossy magazines or supply gossip for a nation of Nosy Parkers. For the most part, Barack and Michelle Obama have done a fine job in maintaining the privacy of their two young daughters. This, however, was not the President’s finest moment:
The New York Times reported it rather straightforwardly:
President Obama marked the first anniversary of his election on Wednesday by calling on states to toughen their education standards – and wound up calling on parents to toughen theirs, too, as he confessed that his 11-year-old daughter, Malia, recently got a 73 on her science test. …
Then, to a chorus of oooohs from the crowd, he said that Malia, a sixth-grader at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, had come home with a 73 on her science test not long ago. He recounted how, a few years ago, she had come home with a grade in the 80s, believing that she had ‘’done pretty well.’’ He and his wife corrected her, telling her that their goal was “90 percent and up.’’
“So here’s the interesting thing: she started internalizing that,’’ the president said, adding that when she came home with a 73 on the science test ‘’she was depressed.’’ He asked her what happened, and she said the study guide didn’t match up with the test. So she vowed to study harder.
“So she came home yesterday, she got a 95,’’ Mr. Obama said. “But here’s the point: She said, ‘You know , I just like having knowledge.’’
The moral of the story, in the president’s view: “Don’t just expect teachers to set a high bar. You’ve got to set a high bar.”
No, the moral of the story should be not to use your child’s shortfalls as ways to score political points. It’s embarrassing enough to have your parents tell stories about your failures to other family members and friends; it’s absolutely mortifying to have a parent do so in a nationally-televised speech. In fact, it’s precisely these kind of natural childhood stumbles that the Obamas have done well to keep away from the media in order to keep some level of normalcy for their daughters, rather than force them to live their lives overly self-conscious.
Update: Fixed the video.
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