Dean's Homework

I was just at FIRST Detroit and truth be told didn’t watch the hours of speeches form Houston to compare. When Dean was announcing his homework again it was almost aggressive at how we “didn’t get enough congresspeople” yet. I found this almost appalling to listen to him talk about his homework which is lobbying to congress to further his goals. And I’m not against this because I am ok with the tragedy that happened on that day, I don’t hate technology, or teachers as he implied I would by opposing this. I just really have an issue with basically taking young moldable students and trying to bend them to lobby congress on your behalf, for something that we don’t really know where the proceeds go. He said it would be for a pro tech organization, but didn’t say which to my memory, and it doesn’t give me the opportunity to do proper research into the organization. As well as the message was delivered so passive aggressively as though he is actually disappointed that only 170+ congresspeople have signed on to his idea. I was just wondering anyone else’s thoughts, just the whole thing really really got under my skin and the delivery in general. I just hate the idea of taking a bunch of kids and trying to get them to do what you want because they are a part of your organization.
Thank you.


Good point, the organisation though is FIRST I think, I remember him saying that but I could be wrong


The money goes to FIRST, and in turn, the teams…

That was a big part of the speech, or at least it was in Houston.


yea he only just mentioned FIRST at detroit


Yea I was mostly paying attention but as his speeches usually do, it went on for a while so I’m sure I missed a couple details.

Yeah… I mean I for one thought the speech was very inspiring. I really appreciate it, and liked it a lot. The cause was strong, Christa McAuliffe is truly inspiring. The money is for a great cause, and could be a potentially great money stream for us. I’m not sure how anyone could complain about him giving a great speech, asking us to support a great cause, which helps us.


Again, I don’t hate the cause, I disliked the delivery. I of course love the idea of being able to help give back to team, recognize a tragedy, and help grow STEM, help teachers, and students. I just dislike passive aggressively talking to students as if they haven’t done good enough lobbying for something of his agenda. It just sits with me poorly to use that platform to try to get the students to do something like that for you and then say stuff like “if your Congress people don’t agree just ask them ‘do you hate teachers, or students, or technology’” that type of argument is one used far too often to try to back people into corners and it just doesn’t sit well with me.


Maybe this is me being too cynical but to me it feels more like they want to use Christa McAuliffe as a way for them to get more recognition and money than it feels like they’re doing this because it’s a good thing to do.


That’s how I felt listening to it as well, which is why I wanted to talk about it. I’m not trying to necessarily change minds or opinions, just give how I felt listening to the speech

The whole Commemorative Coin speech totally rubbed me the wrong way, especially when Dean told us to call out our congresspeople as “anti-teacher and anti-woman” (quote from Dean) if they wouldn’t co-sponsor the bill. Totally out of line and pretty un-GP. Some degree of evangelism is necessary to spread FIRST’s mission, but as soon as that crosses in to “do whatever Lord Dean tells us to do without any consideration or critical thinking,” it’s pretty dangerous.

If you want to honor Christa McAuliffe’s memory – that of a “a teacher, a woman, an astronaut, and a hero” (quote from Dean) – it’s hard to think of a worse way to do so than monetizing it.

It leaves a sour taste in my mouth to see an incredibly inspirational figure reduced to the means to a political/financial end.


It would of been nice if the speeches at world champs were about something applicable to the entire world, it’s a nice cause and all but it was quite a long speech for something that many of the teams attending were unable to take part in.


As far as knowing what the bill was all about and know what you’re lobbying for before going out and doing it, the bill is found here, just like any other piece of legislation. finding it is a quick google. Every piece of proposed legislation can be found online. Great for staying engaged in government.

Having said that, I think Dean and FIRST need to consider these types of US-centric homework assignments more carefully in the future. The international FIRST Community just keeps growing, and assigning homework to kids who can’t participate just seems wrong to me. If you’re going to do something like this, give some sort of alternative but co-equal" assignment to international teams.


Like others have mentioned already I think it’s somewhat frustrating that this is only applicable to US teams. I’m totally on board with the project and whatnot, considering the book report I did on Christa McAuliffe in 3rd grade or whenever it was is the only one I still fondly remember working on, dreaming one day I could be like her. I wish the full FIRST community could share in some part of this. I kind of connect with this on a very personal level because of how I looked up to her as a kid. Why should it be limited to a subset of our community? :disappointed:

My two cents…

The delivery definitely wasn’t great, and Dean came off as very aggressive for people to push their congresspeople to sign this, but I can definitely see why he would act on this. Based on the fact of how long he’s wanted this passed and how close they are, I can see how he wants to get that final push to make it pass.

I have to agree now that it seems like he’s just throwing out Christa McAuliffe to get support from Congress. If the coin was all about FIRST, I think it would be a lot harder to get congresspeople to see the importance of passing the bill, so Dean is clearly trying to package the coin in a way that can seem very bipartisan. This is reflected pretty well in the current cosponsors.

But, there’s nothing we can do and in the end, the coin will help further the mission of FIRST which is why we’re here. You have to pick your battles sometimes. Further clarification, I realized it seems like I’m supporting everything here at the end, but I really don’t know how to stand on this. It’s a very complicated issue.


After standing for the national anthems of the Netherlands and Canada and seeing the FLL
champions from Lithuania, I wondered what they thought of this year’s homework.

On the other hand, I would classify myself as anti-political, but you have to recognize that the growth of FIRST in Michigan is due in large part to the support by the state government. One could also say that the growth of FIRST internationally is because of the success of FIRST in the U.S.

I don’t know how a member of the Congress would react to a letter from a student in Lithuania, or several letters from students from many different countries but I’d think that it would definitely get their attention. Maybe that idea was scrapped because of rules about lobbying by foreign nationals.

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To address a whole bunch of comments at once, my thoughts:

  • FIRST, as I’ve said before, is an inherently political organization. There’s no way around it.

  • Since they are based in the United States, it is natural for a bulk of their political activities to take place in the United States. It certainly does exclude some work for international teams but due to the concentration of teams, staff, and infrastructure in the United States, it only makes sense. I’m sure FIRST would love to do more international lobbying but it doesn’t really have the capacity to do it at large scale.

  • In my opinion, it is okay if Dean’s speeches are a bit political. I would appreciate it to be less one-sided and I would LOVE if they were much shorter. However, Dean is the Founder. He is not the President, nor is he a Director of a program. The point of his homework, as I see it, is to mobilize FIRST to take action in the world. Lobbying Congress is one of those ways.

  • If FIRST is going to lobby for something–and empower youth to lobby for it–a comerotative coin is the least political, most innocuous thing possible. There are countless other science, technology, and education bills that come through various law-making bodies. FIRST/Dean has chosen that they are not going to use youth to advocate for these more partisan initiatives.

  • That being said, a commemorative coin is a nice gesture. But that’s all it is. I am sure there are other nonpartisan pieces of legislation that would have a much larger impact that FIRST could have taken up. I sincerely hope this has nothing to do with the expected funding that would come through. That would make me very sad. I’ll hide my cynicism and speculate otherwise. Perhaps this symbol is the easiest thing to lobby or the most likely thing which will have a positive impact as a result of lobbying and that is why we are doing it.

Can you explain this logic to me? As far as I, a reasonably astute outside observer, can see, money going in to FIRST≠money going to teams. If revenue from this will lower registration fees or provide more team grants or improve the event experience directly, sweet.

This made me cringe. There’s certainly an element of guilt/shame that is inherit in lobbying but this is not the way to do it and not the speech to say it in.


This is exactly what I thought. I looked into the bill, 350,000 $1 coins to commemorate the teacher (good idea). All surcharges go to FIRST (seems a bit sketch unless it goes toward making registration fees cheaper for teams, x to doubt tho).

I just looked at it more, there is a surcharge of $10 per coin. That’s ~$3,500,000 going to FIRST if all coins are sold (if this bill were to pass).

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A couple things since you guys were actually more active on this topic than I assumed it would be.

  1. I when writing never considered the lack of global impact of it and agree that the homework should be more world centered so that more teams can participate if they want to, and since it helps a lot with chairman’s I’m sure a lot more teams would like to participate.
  2. I’m not going to mean to downplay $3,500,000 but I feel like that number doesn’t mean much without context of how it will be used. Giving it to make events run cheaper and smoother and lower cost is a good thing and it sounds like a lot of money, which it is. But when you have over 180 events a year between districts, regionals, and championships it would be about $20,000 to each event. (Assuming it would be distributed evenly so all teams received benefit, and the full amount goes solely to that effort.) That amount is a few registrations from teams (Since it is $5K to enter a regional & district/league championship per veteran, $2.5K to enter districts per veteran) There are usually 40 teams per district, say 50 average per regional, and quite a few more at all the championship events, you would think if it is to reduce costs of entry and running events that money raised would again help the teams lower cost, but with all those events and teams it realistically probably would only be a few hundred bucks max at each event, which for some teams is helpful I don’t deny that. But I don’t see a way where it is some extremely helpful amount. Don’t mean to sound cynical again its just how my mind works and this is how I thought of it when the totals started getting talked about.

A lot of what I’d say has already been said in this thread (I didn’t like the speech, it totally rubbed me the wrong way and felt inappropriate, it’s not clear how the money will actually benefit teams, etc), so I’ll instead just note how ridiculously dissonant it is to have Woodie give a speech about clear-headed thinking and overcoming cognitive bias every kickoff and then have Dean suggest that anyone who doesn’t support a new revenue stream for FIRST must be “against teachers” and “against women.”

To be completely honest, though, I’ve never felt that Dean is a particularly good role-model in that regard.


Honestly, the American space program adds a lot of goodwill for America. There was absolutely an international outpouring of sympathy when the Challenger was destroyed, and I think letters from around the world would show how much this means.

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