On Obama’s “indoctrination” speech

Tomorrow, President Obama will speak to the nation’s school children, presumably about setting education goals and staying in school.  At least that is what the White House is saying.

This is the first time an American president has spoken directly to the nation’s school children about persisting and succeeding in school. We encourage you to use this historic moment to help your students get focused and begin the school year strong.  Letter from Secretary Arne Duncan to Principals

This historic moment.  We are inviting students to become a part of history, much like when I was in school and the television cart was rolled in to watch the Challenger lift off.  I don’t know why I exactly stumbled over that part of Duncan’s letter to principals.  His job is PR for the program, but it still seems a bit over the top.  Even if George Bush, Sr. hadn’t done it almost 20 years ago.  The technology may be a bit different, but it appears that speech was about succeeding in school and was intended to address all students.

Both Bush’s went much further than Obama toward making our schools a national stage for federal education politics.  Granted, Obama wishes to go further still, but the course has already been charted.

For twenty years, we steadily shift the power in education from the local community toward the federal government, and do nothing but occasionally grumble.  The president makes a speech, however, and we call for a National Keep Your Child at Home Day.  Suddenly, we’re worried about brainwashing in a “totalitarian-type telecast” befitting “banana dictators.”

Compared to the power we have willingly handed over (even demanded to be taken from us), I must agree with Joanne Jacobs on this one.  What is so sinister?

It certainly isn’t because he’s black, so why the uproar?  Honestly, I think a lot of it has to do with something My Domestic Church quipped.

This president has used more prime time press conferences and informercials than any previous president.

Even liberal bloggers can see a bit of public relations overkill in the speech and its pre-game show.  Which brings us back to that word “historic” that made me choke on my coffee.  But there’s more to it than just that.

Read the post over at American Elephant.  How much of it really has to do with the speech?  Not much.  Instead, it is expressing general frustration over the direction the country is heading.  It is a direction we have very little control over individually, but we certainly can pull our kids out of school for one day.

One day.

Education has been moving toward national standards and centralized control for my entire life.  Finally, some people are standing up and saying “Enough.”  Unfortunately, it is an insignificant gesture aimed at an irrelevant event.

Incidentally, I do believe it is important to listen to the President so I’d like to invite you to discuss the speech here tomorrow.  We’ll be doing some warm up activities I’ll share here for discussion before viewing the video.  I have an appointment so will be watching it after the copy is made available, but feel free to share your thoughts!


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43 Comments on "On Obama’s “indoctrination” speech"

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JJ Ross
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Here’s what I see:

Texas is a hub for the presidential speech objectors; Texas is a hub for inserting politics and religion into public school curriculum, textbooks and governance including a new statewide bible study mandate; Texas is a hub for militant secessionist threats against our United States of America (along with Alaska, both states claiming to be more free and more truly American than the rest of us.)

Mrs. C
Guest

Dana, the HISTORIC thing struck me, too. It made me think of alllll kinds of awful things he could announce that would fit the adjective. The little lesson plans that went along with it didn’t really help.

I think in all the argument, we need to be supportive of the fact that parents ought to be able to opt their children out of this speech even if we disagree with their reasons for doing so.

JJ Ross
Guest

Obviously this presidency itself is historic. Children of color in the public schools have NEVER had a president as a role model. If Hillary Clinton had been elected instead and were making this speech to schoolchildren, that too would be historic.

Kristina
Guest
Dana, You pretty much nailed it on the head as far as I am concerned. Does this speech bother me? Not in the least. Why? Well, I have my children watch a lot of presidential speeches, so why would one more be different? In fact, I want them to see this one. The difference is that, like you, I will be there with my children. JJ, I still think that attaching ‘historical’ to everything he does because he is black is ridiculous. I would have felt the same way about Hillary Clinton. I am tired of his presidency being about… Read more »
Kristina
Guest
Oh, and I think that if parents were more aware of things that go on in schools, they might be more willing to pull their children out, permanently. They are not taught to think, they are only taught WHAT to think. Parents often complain about their children being indoctrinated, whether it is with conservative ideology (JJ’s mention of Texas), or liberal ideology (California’s problems with the GLT curriculum). No matter what ideology it is, schools are teaching an ideology. Whether or not people are upset by this seems to be completely based on whether or not they agree with said… Read more »
JJ Ross
Guest

“As for those deeply concerned about the politicization of America’s classrooms, washingtonmonthly (dot) com/archives/individual/2009_09/019783.php] I’m sure the right-wing critics of the president’s stay-in-school message will be quick to denounce the conservative efforts in Texas.

Any minute now.”

JJ Ross
Guest

One can of course choose to hide it from the kids but like it or not, believing it’s how things “should be” or not, JFK’s presidency was historic simply because he was Roman Catholic. This presidency is more clearly historic than that, for a nation in which race politics and culture clash played a major part from the earliest days.

<[economist (dot) com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12544678] The Economist (the respected magazine everyone including, [thinkprogress (dot) org/2008/10/03/palin-economist/] Sarah Palin pretends to read): "America prepared to welcome the first black president-elect of a country born with the ugly birthmark of slavery. It is a remarkable, and historic, achievement." US BLACK HISTORY MILESTONES 1861 - Civil war starts 1865 - Civil war ends, leading to abolition of slavery 1870 - Hiram Revels is first African-American senator. African-American men gain the vote, but face resistance and intimidation 1954 - Civil disobedience campaign starts 1963 - Martin Luther King: "I have a dream" speech 1964 - Civil Rights Act 1965 - Right to vote guaranteed It is historic to those of us who were public schoolchildren in the South during segregation, and then desegregation under court order and with politicians blocking the schoolhouse doors with ax handles. It is historic to those of us who worked professionally in public schools to overcome racial disparities of every kind, that disadvantaged innocent children based on adult prejudice.

Kristina
Guest
I didn’t say it wasn’t historic. In fact I think that it is important for our children to celebrate the idea of a black man being president. That does not mean that everything he does should be touted as historic. It should not be touted as historic that he is speaking to school children because he’s black. It seems that President Obama is being followed around by people saying, “A historic moment” about everything. Of course it is historic that a black man became president. That doesn’t make his presidency any better or worse than any other presidency. It just… Read more »
Michele
Guest

Perhaps this would give one significant pause reg. this speech day…
(05/26/17: Dead link, twitlonger (dot) com/show/fqms)

It’s more than just a speech, you see. One must see the bigger picture.

When the little things are no big deal, they build up quickly until we’re where we are, & eventually, much worse.

On another note, if one wants to impart good morals to children, one should have them first… just a thought. 😉

JJ Ross
Guest

I have no doubt Kristina (like Dana above) has been honest with herself, thought this out and stands just where she says she stands, that race is no factor in her education of her children or her education politics. However, I also have no doubt the organized opposition to this historic president — indeed to the public schools ever since desegration — is largely and disingenously about race.

JJ Ross
Guest
Example of how our freedoms are undermined by disinformation passed on without thinking and checking: the book “Barack” says no such thing as what Michele passes along above as if it were fact. I see the bigger picture all right but it’s not the one Michele sees. That tweet is a lie. It took me three minutes to check Snopes, where absurd-sounding stories as this sometimes do turn out to be TRUE, and then to search inside the book with Amazon and disprove the fabrication: “As celestial choirs started singing, his coming could not have had better timing for all… Read more »
Dana
Guest

That America, 150 years after abolishing slavery, has a black president is historic. That the Democratic Party, after doing all they could to block abolition and later civil rights legislation, is the party that put him up is historic.

Every thing he does as president, however, is not historic simply because he happens to be black.

Dana
Guest
Michele, I do see the bigger picture. What we on the right are objecting to is the natural culmination of what Bush, Sr. started as “The Education President.” My point is “Why now?” “Why over this?” Obama has said many things more concerning than “I’m giving a speech Tuesday, and it will be available for kids to listen to.” If you really want to challenge something, go with your child. If I were a school administrator, I would have sent out a flier inviting parents to listen with their children and join the discussion because as a former teacher, I… Read more »
Mia
Guest

I fail to see what a private-school-educated, half-white man, who was raised by his white grandparents has in common with the average black student in public school. But, whatever. The lesson plans were over-the-top, but par for the course in public school. If Obama was going to have the kiddies hawk his health care plan or other policies to their parents or perform other tasks for him, I doubt it will be done now that the spotlight is on this speech. It will probably be some innocuous “stay in school” pep talk.

JJ Ross
Guest

Snopes photograph link broken above, this should work: absurd-sounding stories [snopes (dot) com/politics/obama/bookdisplay.asp] sometimes do turn out to be TRUE. . .

Dana Hanley
Guest

And this is what concerns me. Really concerns me when we are talking about “the big picture.”

There are a lot of things that I oppose regarding what Obama has planned, and is already working toward. This speech is a little thing, and if he says anything more than “stay in school” I will be very surprised.

So all the talk of Nazi and Communist and Socialist really starts to look looney. Most of that I see more as blog fodder, but still. The mocking is justified.

Kristina
Guest
The speech is available for reading, now. It’s pretty innocuous. What I DID find humorous about the speech was his bit about no one being born able to do anything. I’m afraid I would have thrown down the BS card on that one. There are some people who are just naturally good at things, whether it be athletically, artistically, or academically. We all know those people. As a result, I think his message gets a little lost at that point. The idea is that you shouldn’t give up just because something is difficult, which I completely agree with. It just… Read more »
Kristina
Guest

Oh, and that was my immediate response to the ending, was well.

JJ Ross
Guest

Peter, in whatever form of educated critical thought you prefer to mine, how are useful distinctions made and weighed, say between this black man you’ve put up as YouTube Authority and the black law professor we elected as Actual Authority? How do you propose America’s children should be taught to make such distinctions in their thinking and citizenship?

JJ Ross
Guest

Yes, why I said it was disingenuous — these days it’s usually cloaked as bootstrap libertarianism or some such. OTOH, there’s plenty of it to be seen too. Just ask the 57 corporate sponsors who saw enough overt racism in Glenn Beck to disassociate their reputation from it even when other FOX programs are okay with them.