Just when you thought August recess couldn't get any wackier, conservative talk show hosts have stirred up a hornets' nest over President Obama's planned speech to the nation's schoolchildren next Tuesday. Obama plans to tout the value of education, encouraging kids to work hard and stay in school. But now, after working themselves up into a frenzy over death panels and Nazi symbols, conservative critics are inspiring a new wave of madness, calling the speech a political recruiting tool and propaganda. Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer took an incredible leap of logic, saying that Obama intends to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda."
Newpaper reports all over the country are reporting that parents have called local schools requesting that their children be excused from viewing the speech or threatening to keep their kids home if the speech is shown in their classrooms. The Associated Press reports that school districts in six states - including the President's home state of Illinois - will refrain from showing the speech to students. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has written to teachers encouraging them to incorporate the speech into their lesson plans, using the president's message about hard work as a learning tool. But, in reaction to concerns from parents, some schools have decided that the speech won't be discussed at all in their classrooms, leaving it up to parents to decide whether the speech merits a conversation with adults.
All of this raises a few questions: What happened to classrooms as venues of learning, where ideas are explained and debated? Isn't it the exact job of schools to turn out young citizens who are informed and engaged enough to be full participants in political discourse? Since when should we be directing schools to shield children from history, politics, and culture? If a speech by the president of the United States isn't a legitimate device, then I'm not sure what is.
It's not unusual for presidents to visit schools when promoting policies, as George W. Bush did when he passed No Child Left Behind and wasn't he a brillant one. No problems with him entering the classroom. Ronald Reagan did the same for his "Just say No" policies. Mostly it's been considered a privilege and a learning opportunity to have an important political figure speak to children. Political candidates often use schools as a backdrop for their education pitches. And it won't be the first time teachers have turned on a TV so students can witness important political moments. Do you remember the day you watched the first teacher go up into space only to have the shuttle explode on tv. I watched this in my 6th grade Science class. The notion that letting children hear the president speak is worthy of fear seems ridiculous to America's democratic values. Moreover, the subject matter should be something that people of all political stripes agree on: education should be prized, working hard should be valued, and staying in school helps kids getting ahead. The question has been proposed about how todays young students could insure a graduation rate in 2020 of 80%, I believe the number was. And isn't that a horrible thing? We have this "horrible" president who would like to see 80% of our high school kids graduate! Oh the horror of it all! He wants kids to graduate! What will he want next? Young people to go to college?! Heaven forbid! We can't allow him to indoctrinate our children to become ed-u-ma-kated they might end up smarter than us! They might even grow up to become a Vice President who knows how to spell potato. Have we really gotten to a point where parents are afraid of having the president impart those messages? You will allow your child to download music that you can't even hear to follow through your child's ears while they are in your backseat, knowing you have no idea Lil' Wayne is really saying - or when is the last time you viewed every text that passed through your child's cellphone or myspace - but certain folks have the nerve to be intimidated by a stay in school speeches for your child? Are you serious? President Obama...please please please indoctrinate my children that SCHOOL IS THE WAY!!! It is what we as parent "preach" to them EVERYDAY!It's been one crazy summer.