There has been an inordinate amount of concern over a speech Barack Obama intends to make to school children across the nation next week. Talk radio and some blogs are freaking out. In some quarters, there are even calls to keep children home from school on the day of Obama’s speech.
This is difficult for a lot of people to understand — especially since politicians speaking to kids is a time honored publicity op. Just to give you an example of a sentiment I think is probably widely shared among people who aren’t that political, I noticed one of my teachers from high school posting this on Facebook last night,
It’s difficult for me to understand how listening to the President, the commander-in-chief, the chief citizen of this country, is damaging to the youth of today, especially when his topic is about studying hard and staying in school. We are off the edge objecting to this speech!
Are people overreacting? I think so. I would be very surprised if Obama did anything other than give a fairly generic, non-political speech. At this point, if he stuck even his big toe into politics during the speech, it would create a firestorm of criticism.
So, are the people who are very worried about this being unreasonable? While I don’t agree that it’s anything worth getting distraught over, it’s worth noting that concerns about this issue are not being constructed out of whole cloth.
To begin with, the Education Department sent out an extremely inappropriate lesson plan to accompany the speech. It included this suggested activity for students, which could fairly be interpreted as an attempt to politicize the event:
“Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.”
Moreover, during Barack Obama’s “cult of personality” style presidential campaign, there were some weird and creepy moments with children that really rubbed people the wrong way:
For example, here’s Reason’s “Obama Kids: Sing for Change (Pyongyang Remix)”
Then, to name another example, there was the “Obama Youth Junior Fraternity Regiment”:
Even before Obama became President, many Americans believed that teachers across America were working to indoctrinate their children with liberal political views. Then, after being exposed to those disturbing videos, we’ve got the Education Department suggesting that students should be working not to help themselves, their communities, or their country, but to help the President specifically, and it set off alarm bells. Agree or disagree about the speech, it’s easy to understand why this speech has put some parents on edge.