Friday, September 04, 2009

I guess Obama's speech has the GOP feeling left behind.

UPDATE, Saturday morning, Sept. 5: Now comes word that many of my local school districts are giving member schools and even individual teachers "the option" of whether or not to show Obama's speech or, as yet another alternative, to touch on its highlights with their classes. Now, as I think I made clear in my original post, below, I'm all for Obama making the speech, if that's what he wants to do, and I'm all for its being universally and passively watched by America's students. However, I'm far less comfortable with this idea of allowing individual teachers the discretion of whether to show the speech and how to frame and/or edit it. That, to me, runs too high a risk of politicization by the teachers themselves.

The president ran on a partisan platform and, therefore, can reasonably be expected to run a partisan government. The teachers, though, were elected by no one and enjoy no privileges (nor even, I would argue, any rights) in the area of delivering (or facilitating the delivery of) the president's agenda. The distinction may seem subtle, but it's important. In my view, teachers must be apolitical. The most sacred aspect of so-called "academic freedom" is the student's right to attend a school where there is no "house ideology." That, of course, is a laughable notion, given the overwhelmingly leftward tilt of the nation's schools, and especially its colleges. But it's something to shoot for.


In a sense, I understand all this carping about federal "meddling" in education, which, by constitutional default, is a matter of local policy. But let's face it, Washington is so inextricably entwined in the fabric of the American educational system coast to coast that if the government suddenly butted out, there would be no school tomorrow. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but the system would grind to a halt very soon. It's that simple. (This year, federal aid to education exceeds $3 billion in New York alone. And money is influence: How many times has Washington threatened to yank educati
on funds in order to "persuade" a given state or even an individual institution to embrace some mandated policy? And wasn't it Bush, a Republican, who never tired of touting his nationwide "No Child Left Behind" legislation?) Besides, maybe it's time to think the unthinkable, which is to say, to rethink the question of such federal meddling. Clearly if there's anything this country needs, it's a more enlightened, proactive, consistent and well-organized approach to ensuring quality schooling. Why should kids in Arkansas receive a different education from kids in Brooklyn? Who cares if the "local standards" require, say, a nod to Creationism in any discussion of evolution? Can't we get a reasonable consensus on what constitutes an accepted body of knowledge at this point in time? We do it in just about every other facet of life.

The bigger point, though, is all this right-wing vituperation over Obama's forthcoming speech to American schoolchildren to kick off the new academic year.
Hell, to listen to Sean (DMoTV) Hannity, you'd think Obama was about to announce a policy that requires teachers to have sex with students. Here's just a small sampling of the (professed) outrage, for flavor:

Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, says Obama is using taxpayer money to "spread [his] socialist agenda."

Columnist Michelle Malkin argues that parents are entitled "to worry about their children being used as Political Guinea Pigs for Change."

FOX's new phenom, Glenn Beck, says Obama is trying to "capture your kids."

One of my local GOP agitators, Julian Stolz, frets about "the indoctrination of our students."

Talking head Monica Crowley, clearly intent on earning my nomination for DWoTV, says, "This is what Chairman Mao did."
Now, I could play comments like that last one for the groans and guffaws it deserves...but you know what? I'm not gonna do that. Instead my response is: So what? If he wants to play Chairman Mao, and you don't like it, Monica, tough noogies. Then make sure your guy or gal wins the election next time (and maybe start by nominating someone who can name a landmark Supreme Court decision besides Roe v. Wade, and who realizes that Africa isn't just one big country. Maybe that would better demonstrate your commitment to education.)

Seems to me they're still running a sort of campaigni.e., demanding a say in what the sitting president is "entitled" to tell the nationwhen in fact that issue has been decided, because the political season is over. OBAMA WON THE ELECTION. As I see it, that entitles him to say pretty much what he damn pleases, and to use the White House as his bully pulpit. He certainly hasn't pulled many punches in his views on health care. He certainly doesn't flinch when it comes to declaring that the wealthiest Americans need to shoulder the principal burden in any new tax programs that become necessary. So why shouldn't he state his feelings on education, even if those feelings include some content that might be considered partisan? The government is always partisan depending on which side controls it (when it's not in gridlock, that is). That's how it works: We all go to the poles, and we cast our ballots, and the chosen one tries to run the country in accordance with the values that presumably got him or her elected.

What am I missing?


Anonymous said...

If Obama doesn't want to be criticized as a dictator, maybe he really should not do things which other dictators have done: school kids singing his praises; rhetoric about lowering the tide; surrounding himself with corrupt cronies; badgering the conservative media; looting the treasury; expansion of the government to take over capitalist industries; email addresses for snitching on health care opponents; bowing to Saudi kings...

Obama has the youthful good looks and charisma of Jack Kennedy, but the actions of Richard Nixon.

Matt Dick said...

I wrote about this here.

And interestingly, Ryan Witt, from the Indianapolis Examiner found a video from George Bush, Sr's similar efforts to bore America's school children.

Steve Salerno said...

This fascinates me. I doubt I've ever encountered anything in my life that better demonstrates the way biases color perceptions than the polar reactions to Barack Obama. I read your comment, Anon 12:32, and I wonder if we're looking at/talking about the same man, the same agenda. Understand now--stepping back from the fray a bit--I can't be sure, objectively, whether you're right and I'm wrong, or whether I'm right and you're wrong, or whether we're both all wet and the Truth is something else entirely. All I know is that we can't both be right, yet we're both intelligent people who assess this man through the lens of our respective beliefs, presumably working from the same set of facts. And yet look where we end up.

As I say, fascinating.

Anonymous said...

What you are missing, Steve (since you asked ;), is the fact that children themselves are vehemently opposed to this evil commie indoctrination (because what else could Obama's speech be?).

Anonymous said...

Oh, Anon, if only Obama's actions were more like those of Nixon...

Neuroskeptic said...

Hilariously the exact same thing happened in reverse with George H W Bush, right down to the outrage -

"The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students," said Richard Gephardt, then the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives.

Republican Newt Gingrich defended Bush's speech, though. "Why is it political for the president of the United States to discuss education?" Gingrich said at the time. "It was done at a nonpolitical site and was beamed to a nonpolitical audience. . . . They wanted to reach the maximum audience with the maximum effect to improve education."

Except the debate was at least a debate rather than a shouting match full of accusations of Communism/Naziism etc.

Anonymous said...

The reaction to Obama's speech to motivate students to set goals and work hard has stunned me. Surely his "agenda" is this: "I worked hard and set goals in school and overcame bigotry and intolerance to become President. If it could do this for me, education can open the doors of achievement for you as well." If this isn't a simple reiteration of the American Dream, I don't know what is. How could anyone oppose encouraging their own children to work hard, to dream, to try to excel? Let critics attack Obama on his issues if they must, but please God, not on a simple attempt to motivate students to study.

RevRon's Rants said...

I found it telling that in Arlington ( I believe it was Arlington... I know it was one of the towns in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex), Texas, the school district refused to broadcast the speech in the schools, yet did allow George the Lesser to address the students this week. And these are the same folks who scream that President Obama's actions are too political??

On the bright side, these folks are teaching their kids lessons they might not be intending to... about "maturity!" :-)