MIDDLETON (WKOW) -- The classroom in Rick Evans' Life Skills class at Middleton Alternative Senior High became crowded as 11 a.m. approached. Mutiple sections of students squeezed into his room, waiting for the television to turned on, and hear what President Barack Obama had to say to directly them and millions of other students across the country.
"If you quit on school, you're not just quitting on yourself," said President Obama before a nationally televised speech he delivered at an Arlington Virginia high school. "You're quitting on your country."
The message was about setting goals, and not making excuses for doing poorly in class. While the days before the speech were preceded by debate from concerned parents who were concerned if the speech should be shown in schools, Evans didn't hesitate showing it.
"Getting eyeball-to-eyeball with students and talking about their investment in education, I thought it was a great thing," he said.
"I'm amazed anyone said it was inappropriate to show to school children of any age, because that's the thing that more children need to hear," said sophomore Carly Lundt.
Many of the students who listened said they already do what the President has asked.
"It was very standard, pull yourself up by your bootstraps," said senior Alex Bono. "It was nothing we haven't heard before."
Another student, however, said Obama's words struck a chord with him.
"He kind of went through what I went through," said sophomore Mike Morgan. "He didn't have good schooling. I don't do well in a normal school."
Toward the latter half of the speech, Obama said, "The circumstances of your life, what you look like, where you came from, how much money you have, what you've got going on at home, none of that is an excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude in school."
Junior Zach Hall agreed. "It might not motivate people that don't want to get out (of a bad situation), that don't want to try, but I think it will definitely help kids that do want to try," said Hall.
This was a speech that faced criticism, largely because of questions the federal Department of Education recommended that teachers incorporate into their lessons plans.
At this class, Evans hadn't event looked at the list and doesn't intend to use the questions. This alternative school already hits the same points the President did.
"We're going to have some engaging dialogue, and probably reference what the President had to say," he told the students afterwards, describing the year-long curriculum that is part of the fabric of his school.
From checking with area districts Tuesday morning, it appeared there were very few classes that watched the speech live, largely because it conflicted with lunch periods. Superintendents and principals said many teachers are likely to show the speech at a later date.
Schools in the Madison Catholic Diocese did not show Monday's speech. Other districts allowed parents to remove their students from class as it played.
Email Carl Agnelly at firstname.lastname@example.org