Family

Michelle O — Too Cool for School

Urges texting kids, using emojis, not obsessing on grammar

First Lady Michelle Obama would like America’s parents to get with the times by mimicking the “short and sweet” communication patterns of their teenagers.

Her advice includes avoiding correct grammar and punctuation, using emojis liberally, and keeping our content “raw and authentic.”

“Don’t make the mistake of responding to a text using full sentences with proper grammar and punctuation,” said Mrs. Obama.

She would also like us to realize that “email is dead.”

She shared these thoughts at the White House this week while rolling out a new initiative that, ironically, is aimed at encouraging America’s kids to value higher education.

Her comments might be understandable if they were funny and wistful asides from a first lady — and mother — whose teenagers are quickly growing up. But in reality, if we continue to cater to many kids’ poor communication patterns, even when discussing college and higher education, those same kids may be shocked when they text a professor, “Dude, my paper’s gonna be late. Peace out. (sad face emoji)” and that message is not happily received.

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“Don’t make the mistake of responding to a text using full sentences with proper grammar and punctuation,” Mrs. Obama said at the launch of her new “Better Make Room” initiative. “If you really want to get their (the kids’) attention, use symbols, little symbols. There’s the smiley face, the angry face, and all the other faces that can show any emotion that you may be feeling.”

“Ms. Obama is typical of the liberal mindset, which is to fall under trendy ideas rather than to model and counsel excellent behavior,” Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum, a pro-family organization based in Dallas, told LifeZette. “Her advice can either model the highest and best standards for her daughters, or it can acquiesce to the lowest common denominator.”

Previous first ladies have set values and standards for their children — and by extension the kids of the nation — in far more substantive ways.

Previous first ladies have set values and standards for their children — and by extension the kids of the nation — in far more substantive ways.

Consider Laura Bush, for example. “Young people need us in their lives,” Mrs. Bush told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2014. “They need to know they are valued, that somebody believes in them and that their success matters. The problems are great, but greater still is our love for our children.”

Related: Teaching Our Children Well

Mrs. Bush also offered parents this good advice: “Play outside with your kids and then read to them.”

Jackie Kennedy valued writing thank you notes, and shared that good habit with her children, making sure they immediately sent out proper notes after they received gifts or kindnesses from others. “If you bungle raising your children,” she once said, “I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.”

Eleanor Roosevelt tackled exploring the world when she spoke about children. “I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.”

“They usually stop listening to us after about six seconds. Their eyes just glaze over as we blather on and on,” said Michelle Obama.

Mrs. Obama, on the other hand, explained how kids operate today.

“They usually stop listening to us after about six seconds,” she said. “Their eyes just glaze over as we blather on and on. We think we’re getting to them, but they’ve shut us off minutes ago.”

So — kids run the show, apparently.

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She would like us to remember that kids “want content that’s authentic and raw — nothing polished, nothing packaged.”

This is disturbing. First ladies should aim higher when speaking to a listening nation that includes parents and guardians. Timeless values should be fostered, instead of mirroring the speed and casualness of our social media era. The first lady is not only demonstrating acquiescence to her kids’ preferences, but is subtly abdicating her position as a national role model.

‘Space to Create Content’ 
A fact sheet for Mrs. Obama’s education initiative reads: “That is why, as part of her Reach Higher initiative, the First Lady is announcing a new public awareness campaign, Better Make Room, to target Generation Z, or young people ages 14-19, to celebrate education, change the national conversation, and reach students directly where they are and give them a space to create content while also navigating the college-going process.”

Some conversations are important enough for actual talk.

“The example Ms. Obama uses is that teens like to text, so as a mother, she must learn their preferences,” said Cathie Adams. “Her real choice is either to give her daughters the time and effort they deserve, or to allow them to text their plans void of — or at least short of — parental efforts to communicate.”

Some conversations, though, are important enough for actual talk.

“Talking heart-to-heart doesn’t outlaw texting, but it sure gives more time and attention to her daughters,” Adams said. “That would have been a better message for the first lady to deliver.”

Mrs. Obama’s campaign calls on teens to use social media sites such as Vine, a partner in the initiative, as well as Twitter and Instagram to show off the accomplishments of their peers. But even the first lady seemed baffled by it all.

“The truth is, I probably won’t understand everything we’re doing with this campaign and neither will many of you,” Michelle Obama said. “But that’s OK — we’re old.”

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