President Obama’s planned address to America’s schoolchildren on Sept. 8 is generating a firestorm of controversy from concerned parents who think he should mind his own business and stay away from their children. It’s easy to see why.
According to an Aug. 26 letter from Education Secretary Arne Duncan to school principals, the president wants to “challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning.” He also will call for “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.”
If the speech was simply limited to this kind of feel-good rhetoric, it would be harmless enough. But there is more to this noontime event than simply interrupting lunch. The Obama administration has recommended a series of activities before, during and after the speech intended to drill home the president’s messages. Given that the teachers’ unions are some of Mr. Obama’s most ardent supporters, we expect that the supporting activities will have the feel of pro-Obama pep rallies.
In a move suggestive of the Pyongyang public school system, the U.S. Department of Education recommended that before the speech students collectively brainstorm questions like, “Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? How will he inspire us?” Classrooms are to be festooned with “notable quotes excerpted (and posted in large print on board) from President Obama’s speeches about education,” presumably alongside benevolent-looking images of the dear leader.
One of our favorite notable quotes was from a Sept. 9, 2008, speech in which Mr. Obama said that his administration would reform education “without mortgaging our children’s future on an even larger amount of debt.” This is a particularly salient passage in light of the fact this president is recklessly running up the national debt to unsustainable heights that our children (and their children and grandchildren) will have to pay for the rest of their lives. Class, talk among yourselves.
During the speech, students are to engage in a busy-work nightmare, writing down key concepts from the speech, trying to capture direct quotations, and afterward matching them up to key words “to increase retention and deepen their understanding of an important aspect of the speech.”
This is troubling in light of Mr. Obama’s history of radical activism in schools. This week, Stanley Kurtz of the Ethics and Public Policy Center revealed details of Mr. Obama’s tenure as chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in the 1990s, where he forged a close partnership with self-described small “c” communist Bill Ayers. Under Mr. Obama’s leadership, the group funneled $100 million to left-wing activists to promote a radical political agenda under the guise of education reform.
Radicals always have viewed children as wards of the state to be shaped into shock troops to advance their revolutionary agendas. It is an idea of ancient provenance. Plato said that “children must attend school, whether their parents like it or not; for they belong to the state more than to their parents.” Every radical leader of the 20th century put indoctrinating children at the top of his agenda. So when someone with Mr. Obama’s background reaches directly into every school in America, parents are rightly concerned.
The planned speech reinforces the lurking creepiness factor around the cult of personality being erected for this president. The White House is billing the speech as “historic,” and perhaps they even believe it. But there is no reason for this federal intrusion into family and community affairs. It’s not the president’s job to be a surrogate parent, teacher or principal for America’s children. He would better serve our kids by not bankrupting the country they will inherit.