It's that time of the year again. Parents are busy preparing their children for the first day of school while children are busy holding on to every minute left in their precious summer vacation. But, out in the distance, an ominous threat is looming. That threat has a name ... gulp ... and it is ... whimper ... President Barack Hussein Obama.
Following news this week that Obama will speak directly to students next week in a special "back to school" address, media conservatives went absolutely apoplectic, calling Obama's forthcoming speech "indoctrination," as Fox News' Glenn Beck put it.
Beck's comments were only the tip of the iceberg in right-wing outrage. Others compared it to "brainwashing," communist China, and the Hitler Youth. Some (yes, Beck was of course among them) went as far as encouraging parents to keep their children home from school on the day of Obama's speech. Filling in for Rush Limbaugh, Mark Steyn said the president's speech was part of a "cult of personality" though not on the scale of Kim Jong Il or Saddam Hussein. Steyn also claimed that Obama's speech was based on the view that education exists to make kids "good subjects" of big government. Over on Lou Dobbs' radio program, guest host Chris Stigall pulled back the curtain on this smear ever so slightly when he said that he "didn't say the message was bad," just that he didn't want Obama to talk to his kid alone. Then there was Michael Savage, the third most listened to radio host in America, who put it this way: "Hitler had the Hitler Youth, and Obama would like to have the Obama Youth."
Of course, Fox News was hyping the outrage. On The Live Desk, Fox commentator Andrea Tantaros flexed her intellectual heft, saying of the president's speech: "They do this type of thing in North Korea and the former Soviet Union ... very cultish." Fox & Friends hosted a parent who plans to "keep kids home" from Obama's "indoctrination" speech, while the network's right-wing website TheFoxNation.com asked visitors "Will You Keep Your Kids Home the Day Obama Speaks to Schools?" I'm actually surprised the options for answers weren't "yes" and "absolutely."
Perhaps it would be helpful at this point if we actually discussed what exactly Obama plans on telling students during his speech on September 8. Well, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to school principals last week describing Obama's speech as being about "the importance of education" and "persisting and succeeding in school." Duncan also offered "classroom activities" to "engage students and stimulate discussion on the importance of education."
How absolutely communisty of Obama! How dare he subject our children to such indoctrination. If our kids take his advice, they might, they might end up in college, and we all know how liberal our colleges and universities make our once-wholesome boys and girls.
In all seriousness, Obama is hardly the first president to directly address students in the classroom. NBC's Kevin Tibbles noted that George H.W. Bush broadcast a speech to classrooms nationwide in 1991, while Fox News' Wendell Goler noted that both Bush and Ronald Reagan (you know, the one and only Gipper that the right always wants to win one for) broadcast speeches to classrooms nationwide.
Simply put, the freak-out over Obama's planned speech is due to baseless fears, stoked by conservatives in the media, that he will use the platform as an opportunity to push his agenda on unsuspecting students. Ironically, that is exactly what Reagan did two decades ago during his classroom speech. In fact, during Reagan's November 1988 address to classrooms, he spoke of the American "vision of self-government" and the need "to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America," but in the middle of the speech, the president went off on a tangent about the importance of low taxes.
With each passing week, it becomes more apparent that the conservative media will take anything Obama does and twist it beyond comprehension.
Click to view image: 'beck'
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