As he promoted administration education goals today, Mr. Obama uncharacteristically departed from his prepared text to share details of a First Family situation.
He told a Madison, Wisconsin school audience that his 11-year-old daughter Malia recently "became depressed" after scoring a 73 on a sixth grade science test. According to the president, that was disappointing news in a household where "our goal is 90 percent and up" on school tests.
He went into surprising detail as he recounted his daughter's complaint that the test differed from the class study guide. The president told the audience of parents, students and teachers that Malia was determined to improve. After changing her study habits she scored a 95 on the next science exam. He quoted Malia as saying, "I like having knowledge." The audience applauded the accomplishment.
The president told the crowd, "In our household with the privileges and opportunities we have, there are times when the kids slack off" and watch TV or play computer games. He said, "Part of our job as parents is not just to tell the kids what to do, but to instill in them a sense that they want to do it themselves."
He discussed the family issue to make the point that "parents must set a high bar in the household."
For the president, it was a rare public description of life in the White House family quarters. The White House Press Office and the First Lady's staff are justifiably fiercely protective of the Obama girls' privacy, so it was all the more surprising to hear the president's detailed account of Malia's study habits. Reporters were left to wonder if the president would tell Malia that he told the world about her science lesson.