You may have caught a glimpse of this eye-opening cover artwork for yet another President Obama-related book directed toward elementary schoolers:
The scuttlebutt is that the poetry-based mini-biography "Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope" paints the president with a "messianic" brush and is reportedly a Common Core fave.
... a new lesson that casts America’s 44th president in a messianic light. Literally.
And – surprise – it’s Common Core-aligned.
EAG called attention to a teacher's guide for "Son of Promise" which is titled "Barack Obama Lesson Plan and Prezi," authored by Sherece Bennett, and is for sale at TeachersPayTeachers.com.
TheBlaze picked up a copy of "Son of Promise." Here's what we found out:
1. Some blogs say the book is the issue, but it's actually not.
According to EAG News, where the main chunks of information are coming from, at issue is the "new" lesson plan for teachers based on the "Son of Promise" book...not the book itself, which was published before the November 2008 election.
2. Some blogs I.D. the book as aligned with Common Core, but that may not be the case.
The lesson plan for teachers focused on "Son of Promise" states that it's "Common Core Aligned," but there's no apparent evidence that the "Son of Promise" book is related to Common Core.
3. The 'messiah' observations about 'Son of Promise' may have some merit, depending on your interpretations.
Some passages of note, as the text marks points of interest in Obama's life:
- "...the sight of beggars broke his heart. Barry started to wonder, Will I ever be able to help people like these? Hope hummed deep inside of him. Someday, son. Someday."
- “...one morning he slipped on the name he’d been born with, the name of his father: Barack. For the first time in his life, he wore it proudly; like a coat of many colors.” (An aside from "David," presumably an imaginary reader talking to his mother, exclaims: "Like Joseph in the Bible!" said David. "You remembered!" said his mother.)
- "When Barack wasn't studying, he liked to jog along the Hudson River. He couldn't help but notice the river of hurt and hate and history that separated blacks from whites. Being both, he could not takes sides. Don't worry, said Hope. I will be your bridge. In time you will be the bridge for others."
- "Barack's eyes saw the hungry and the homeless, crying out like beggars in Djakarta, burning a hole in his heart." Later at church in Chicago, he learned "not how to be black or white, but how to be a healer, how to change things, how to make a difference in the world."
- "Door-to-door Barack went, early mornings, late nights, pleading and preaching, coaxing strangers to march together, to make life better for everyone. He worked hard as a farmer, planting the seeds, 'Yes, we can!'"
- "One Sunday when Barack was sitting in church, Barack heard God say, 'Slow down, look around you. Now look to me. There is hope enough here to last a lifetime."
- "Finally, Barack knelt in the soil at his father's grave, listening to the still, small voice that spoke to his heart..."
School Library Journal reviewed the book and notes some of these elements:
Grimes's imagery, however, is occasionally overblown as both Hope and God speak directly to Obama. His impressive life story needs no inflating, and the heavy imagery gets in the way of the message.
4. The 'Son of Promise' author disputes 'messianic' criticism.
At some point Nikki Grimes answered critics on her website, offering the following position she titles "Messiah? Puleeze!"
For the record, in my 32 years of writing books for children, I have never once produced one that I considered controversial. And yet, conservative political commentators and pundits have charged me with writing a biography that paints President Obama as a messiah. The charge is both laughable and distressing. Laughable because nothing could be further from the truth; distressing because the only one who sits on the throne of my heart is Jesus Christ. He is the one and only Messiah I recognize, and absolutely no one else even qualifies for the job!
When the title of the book came to me in a flash of inspiration, it never once occurred to me that conservative reviewers and commentators would take the title and beat me over the head with it! Of course, we live in the land of free speech, so they may spew whatever they choose. For my part, I need to state that their charges are without foundation, and shame on them for suggesting otherwise. Thank God, the children who read my books have better sense.
I'm just saying.
Much remains murky: Some appear concerned over the book, which was published five years ago — but may or may not be part of elementary school curricula. Some are concerned over the teacher's lesson plan that the book is based on, but how influential that turns out to be is anyone's guess.
But it seems clear, especially on the heels of another book for grade schoolers that reportedly claims whites wouldn't want to vote for Obama because of his skin color, the influence Obama can have on youths remains a hot-button issue.