This is just nuts.
The Houston Chronicle is reporting that plans by President Obama to address students across the country next week have right-wingers — including Texas State Board of Education members – foaming at the mouth about “political indoctrination” and students being “ostracized” if they don’t agree with the president. One Houston-area parent tells the newspaper:
“I think it’s inappropriate because it smacks of political indoctrination of the worst kind. It’s not just a speech. It’s a specific curriculum to go along with the speech directly from the president of the United States without review.”
A letter from the U.S. Secretary of Education to school officials explains that the president will talk about “the importance of education”:
“The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”
That kind of radicalism will destroy this country, right?
Of course, presidents making speeches to students is hardly new. In 1989, for example, the first President Bush talked to the nation’s students about the dangers of drugs. Schools held assemblies and wheeled televisions into chassrooms so students could listen.
But now the Internet is filled with wild-eyed paranoia from the right. Some right-wing posters on one Web site are even comparing President Obama’s speech to efforts by the Nazis to recruit Hitler Youth.
Texas Freedom Network’s Kathy Miller told the Chronicle:
“It’s hard to imagine anything more ridiculous than attacking the president of the United States for talking to students about the importance of getting a good education and being a good citizen. I wish our elected leaders were responsible enough to denounce this kind of wild-eyed paranoia. But the problem is, too many of them are actually feeding this kind of nonsense – like when the governor flirts with secessionists and State Board of Education members say the President sympathizes with terrorists.”
And sure enough, state board member Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, is protesting the speech:
It simply “obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with Obama’s initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates.”
State board member David Bradley, R-BeaumontBuna, chimed in, warning about follow-up activities after the speech and reminding parents that they have a right to keep their children from participating.
What about those devious follow-up activities? They include guided discussions with suggested questions like:
- What is President Obama inspiring you to do? What is he challenging you to do?
- What do you believe are the challenges of your generation?
- How can you be a part of addressing these challenges?
Of course, at least Bradley’s and Cargill’s comments are rather restrained considering what fellow board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has said about the president in the past:
“We have been clearly warned by his running mate, Joe Biden, that America will suffer some form of attack within the first 6 months of Obama’s administration. However, unlike Joe, I do not believe this “attack” will be a test of Obama’s mettle. Rather, I perceive it will be a planned effort by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is threat to tyranny. What nobody seems to be discussing is the fact that if such an attack takes place, what about Martial Law? What happens to expand executive power when a state of civil disorder is declared?”
Why should anyone be surprised when everyday folks parrot the paranoid fantasies that their elected “leaders” are spouting?
You can read the whole Chronicle piece here.
UPDATE: At least one far-right group can’t even tell the truth about something this simple. The Family Research Council has blasted out an e-mail telling activists that President Obama “will become the first President to address the nation’s schoolchildren.” But e-mail links to a Washington Post news story that clearly says, “White House officials said Obama’s speech would be the first by a sitting president to students about achievement since 1991.” Maybe the folks at the Family Research Council didn’t bother to read the whole story — or maybe they just want to convince people that this speech is unprecedented and dangerous. Here are questions the e-mail asks recipients to consider:
1. Should President Obama be directly addressing American children during school hours?
2. Do you expect the President’s message to children to acknowledge parental authority in education and encourage obedience to parents?
3. Should President Obama discuss his administration’s current or future policies with schoolchildren?
4. What do you think President Obama should say in his address to American children?
Maybe they forgot one: “Do you think
President Obama should admit to students that he is a gay-loving,
white-hating closet Muslim out to undermine capitalism, kill their
grandmothers and destroy all that is holy about America?”
SECOND UPATE: Peter Morrison, a far-right activist serving on one of the Texas State Board of Education’s social studies curriculum writing teams (see a post about Morrison here), is now telling recipients of his e-newsletter that the president is “using” schoolchildren as “political fodder” with his “Orwellian” speech:
“Children are young, impressionable, and eager to please. They should be considered off-limits to a politician pushing a socialist agenda.”
He is also calling on his readers to demand that local school officials not allow students to listen to the president’s speech:
“It is unfortunate that so many school districts across our state are treating this as a ‘news event’ and allowing a political speech to displace classroom time. Imagine: millions of our students being propagandized to accept Obama’s socialist rhetoric under the authority of their classroom teacher.”
It’s becoming harder and harder to avoid the conclusion that far too many people on the far right have simply lost their minds. What’s truly alarming is that the unhinged rants of people like Morrison could influence the public school curriculum for the next generation of Texas students.