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 Responses

  1. 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.)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    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 him being black (not that I’m saying that’s what HE’S doing- but it seems to be what a lot of other people are doing), when in actuality, it should just be about what he is doing, whether a person agrees with his actions or not. Being president is not about race or gender. It’s about actions.

  5. 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 ideology. That is silly. Children shouldn’t be learning ANY ideology in school. They should be learning how to learn and think.

  6. “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.”

  7. 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.

  8. 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 makes him black.

    And, that’s where we differ. I believe that my children need to learn that color and gender doesn’t matter. Yes, my children have what many people would call an advantage, being both boys and white. Fortunately, my children don’t seem to recognize that other people are different because they are of a different gender or race. Thankfully, I can say that those people aren’t different.

    Yes, I suppose that the first time President Obama does anything, it will be historic, by virtue of the fact that he is the first black president. Does that make it worth mentioning the word every time he does something? Of course not. Are we going to talk about the ‘historic retirement of the first black president’ when he leaves office? I’m just saying that coating everything in the word ‘historic’ makes it seem more worthy, when in fact, he is just doing what a president SHOULD. He’s making his address to the school children, just like most presidents have in recent years.

    That is my irritation. It waters down the historic aspect of his presidency to cloak everything in the word ‘historic’, just like it waters down the complaint of the Republicans that President Obama is socializing our country when they apply that to a speech that he hasn’t even made yet, and promote mass hysteria.

  9. 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. 😉

  10. 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.

  11. 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 of mankind.”

    is actually:

    “Here was a man who spoke of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, whose strong words lifted up the downhearted people and made them believe that the world was not beyond repair.”

    None of these wrods appear in the book: celestial, choirs, coming, timing, mankind.

    No one needs to care for either sentence or the book itself. The book sounds insipid to me and I personally wouldn’t waste my kids’ time with it (meaning my kids at home or “my kids” when I was a school librarian.)

    Make your decisions on what is real, not on lies and propaganda and corporate-funded fraud. I’m with Kristina on the point of education being for all citizens to learn to think and engage freely in democratic institutions, not to obediently swallow whatever you’re force-fed at school, church or home, reading the newspaper, etc. Much less on Twitter!

  12. 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.

  13. 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 know that what those parents say in fifteen minutes will have a much larger impact than what the president says.

  14. 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.

  15. 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. . .

  16. 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.

  17. 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 wasn’t a great way of saying it.

  18. 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?

  19. 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.

  20. I get so fed up with folks who are allegedly “conservatives” calling for the nationalization of the curriculum. We need to get rid of the state standards and return to local control over what gets taught. Even if that means some kids get a better education than others do, it’s worth that risk in order to keep some committee of educrats sitting thousands of miles away in D.C. from dictating what every child in the government-run system gets taught.

  21. If opposition to government-run schools is primarily due to racism, why is it that most of those same folks are perfectly fine with private schools (which research has shown are MORE racially integrated than the typical government-run school)?

  22. “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.”

    Of all the reasons I’ve ever heard or read from opposition about this president or about public schools, race has never been one of them.

  23. JJ- Just because there are a lot of people bucking President Obama and turning toward libertarianism does not make them racists. I, myself, am much more prone to being libertarian than ‘republican’ because of how the Republican party has acted. In fact, I think a lot of people who are turning to the Libertarian Party are doing so only half because of President Obama’s policies. For me, it is because of the Republicans.

    I’m sorry, but I think a lot of people are seeing racism where there is none.

  24. Once again, simply because Kristina isn’t racist and Tim’s mom hasn’t heard anyone come right out and say it, cannot be claimed in any vaalid logic system to demonstrate racism isn’t a large hidden cause of the vicious disinformation and violent excess being orchestrated to oppose this president in every syabble he utters even before he utters it.

  25. Which folks are those, CW? Home education and church/private schools put together are still less than 20% of the K-12 population, remarkably steady since desegregation court orders caused white flight to private schools. Those one out of five lucky kids somehow able to opt out of ps, are therefore not the children the president’s speech is primarily meant to encourage and inspire.

    One approach is Kristina’s — get more parents to get kids out — and another is to change the public schools. Even better imo is to combine both as I do (and I believe the First Family does) by doing the very best I can for my own children AND working as hard as possible to make things better for most other children, who are still in ps.

  26. And, just because racism is believed to be behind every disagreement with the President’s policies, doesn’t mean it is there.

    And, just because there is disinformation doesn’t always mean that the disinformation is coming from the side we think it is.

    What do you think about the racist comments that many in President Obama’s administration have made in the past? Do you think those should be dismissed because they’re not being made presently? Or do you think that they’re not actually racist comments? I’ve been wondering how you felt about this.

  27. Agreed. (But you’re not really arguing there’s no racism in America, right? Do we need to have that discussion or do you stipulate?)

    I think racism is insidious and it ruins everything and everyone it touches and like Ireland or the Middle East, its poison spreads and there’s no progress to be had for anyone by saying “he did it too!”

  28. OTOH, if the president and his Ed Head (who I am not impressed with) wnated to spend next week doing something transformative for public school education, I would suggest a call for repealing No Child Left Behind! Followed by a challenge to all states to repeal compulsory attendance. 😉

  29. I will definitely stipulate that there is racism still in America. On the other hand, I do believe the Ireland and Middle East thing is religion based, not race.

    I’m right behind your suggestions for the president and his ‘Ed Head’!

  30. Good point, especially in Ireland, though even Europe through history has tended to confuse or at least fuse them, and we’d have to very carefully define our terms. . . 🙂

  31. JJRoss, I have to agree with you here:

    OTOH, if the president and his Ed Head (who I am not impressed with) wnated to spend next week doing something transformative for public school education, I would suggest a call for repealing No Child Left Behind! Followed by a challenge to all states to repeal compulsory attendance.

    But as expected, they want to expand it. The talk calls NCLB a failure, but from all I’ve read, their plan is toward a more national curriculum with more central accountability.

  32. Historical record will stand as authority. In race relations it stands against the Democrats.

    It’s surprising that the delivery mechanism (video) of the material is more important to you than the researched facts and historical truths in the presentation. Better not watch anymore TV.

    – As Bob says, ‘Anyone who can read a book or do an internet search can verify the information in his video.’

    It does not shock me though that you believe the only person capable of authority is “the black law professor we elected as Actual Authority.” That’s your quote.

    You must have been angry at the material for only the truth could bring such disgust from those who don’t want to hear it.

    By the way, in par with your logic if, “the black law professor we elected as Actual Authority,” is the only one with any authority regarding these matters any response to this comment or any of your comments above have no authority.

    When you turn into a black professor who’s been elected, get back to me.

  33. Peter, don’t you read well? There were two serious questions and you missed them both —

    1. How are valid and useful distinctions made and weighed between rival “authority”?

    2. How do you propose America’s children should be taught to make such distinctions in their thinking and citizenship?

    Or maybe you just don’t find critical thought about serious education education interesting? You’d rather be inflammatory and insulting? Well, it’s cheap if not free (we all pay long-term) and fits right in with the general lunacy.

  34. And I would make the argument that 90+% of what is attributed to racism in the U.S. and religious intolerance in Ireland is in reality classism.

    Take the Skip Gates incident that occurred earlier this summer. The primary issue wasn’t a white cop mistreating a black man because of his race but a working class cop wanting to take down the arrogant Harvard professor a notch or two. Yes, there was likely a certain amount of racial tension on top of that, but I’ve had enough dealings with the Cambridge cops to know that they have a TON of resentment towards anybody affiliated with the university of WHATEVER race.

  35. “It certainly isn’t because he’s black, so why the uproar? ”

    Why the uproar? I am so tired of the media, the politicians and even everyday citizens assuming any uproar or disagreement with Obama is due to one of two things, or really two things simultaneously: one, he is black; two, because you are a conservative/Repubican.

    I have been a life long Democrat up until the end of this last Primary season when I left the party for good… and not to become a Republican. I am not a conservative, although I have been told I am a conservative liberal LOL I do believe in the common good, but not hand outs, not redistribution of wealth; I believe in the common man, personal responsibility, hard work, independence.

    I was CONCERNED about this speech due to Obama’s own actions and associations. I don’t trust him. Why? His agenda is overwhelming to me. It changes America in a fundamental way and I see too many sentiments out there that takes us from a people of freedoms and responsibilities to a people of entitlements… and that sentiment seems to surround Obama. It oozes from the people he has appointed to assist him, in official capacities and unofficial capacities. He has helped to create this sentiment himself.

    With that aura of entitlement, and the sense of extreme shifting American values… I don’t trust him. So why would I blindly trust him to address my most prized possession, and yes I do see my children as my possession until they are able to fully care for and think for themselves.

    The whole image of him addressing our children conjured up an image that seemed to step back in time to other leaders, especially given the current political climate. So yes, I was concerned, but in no means was I in an uproar.

    Having said that, I read his speech and found it “nice.” I don’t see anything wrong with it and my son will be permitted, even encouraged to view it.

  36. I’m concerned (no, actually in an uproar by now!) that my pre-existing health care needs before I reach Medicare age could bankrupt my family so I couldn’t take care of them, or that their dad will lose his job and we’ll have no insurance at all, and my kids might get cancer or pregnant or hit by a truck and we’d lose the house trying to pay the bills, hoping not to literally lose THEM too —

    Is it possible you’re focusing on what you feel like you can directly do something about, that’s within your personal, individual power? For people who aren’t playing political games or the most vile bigots, that’s “overwhelmed” psychology is whatI’m seeing a lot.

  37. I wasn’t speaking to you JJ; I was speaking with Dana. You are nasty, and I would kindly appreciate you ignoring my comments. Can you respect that, or do you use this as a bully pulpit?

  38. Which should I respect, the direct question or the command to ignore it?

    Like the phrase [roscommonacres (dot) com/2009/09/why-we-should-listen-to-the-president/#comment-1100282] “special education” I guess the answer depends on which understandings and meanings are in play. Bully Pulpit from wikipedia:

    “Roosevelt famously used the word bully as an adjective meaning “superb” or “wonderful” (a more common expression in his time than it is today); the term has no relationship to the noun bully, i.e. a harasser or someone who intimidates.

    Due to the archaic nature of the adjective ‘bully’ and the religious symbolism of the word pulpit (the elevated platform used by a preacher), this phrase is often misunderstood as a pejorative. This misinterpretation implies intimidation and, possibly, an abuse of authority.”

  39. While we’re on the subject of [parentingbeyondbelief (dot) com/blog/?p=1274] misunderstanding different meanings that can mess us up, even for the word “respect” itself:

    The trick is to sort out the word respect.

    Respect for individuals and respect for their ideas are quite different and must be separated.

    People are inherently deserving of respect as human beings, and no one can be faulted for shutting you out if you declare disrespect for their very personhood. Ideas are another matter. I feel too much respect for the word “respect” to grant it automatically to all ideas.

    Even if I disagree with it, I can respect an opinion if it is founded on something meaningful, like rational argument or careful, repeatable observation. The other person may have interpreted the information differently, but I can still respect the way she’s going about it.

    Suppose on the other hand that someone says Elvis and JFK are working at a laundromat in Fargo and offers a dream or tea leaves or a palm reading as evidence. It would render the word “respect” meaningless to say I respect that opinion. I both disagree with it and withhold my respect for it. And that’s okay. No need to degrade the other person. I know all sorts of lovely, respectable people who hold a silly belief or two—including myself, no doubt—and wouldn’t think of judging them, or me, less worthy of respect as human beings.

    Ideas are another thing entirely. It’s not only wrong to grant respect to all ideas, it can be downright dangerous. So I teach my kids to work toward a better, saner world by challenging all ideas AND inviting the same challenge of their own, explicitly, out loud, no matter what worldview they adopt.

    That’s engaged coexistence. We recognize that we’re going to be sharing this apartment for the long haul and work together to keep each other’s feet off the furniture.

  40. Hello!

    I don’t mean to avoid the issue but…I hope you don’t mind me saying that I find your posts very wise and I think lots of homeschoolers would benefit from reading them. I was wondering whether you would like to add a link to your blog on the new homeschool networking website that our small homeschooling community based in the UK has just started? All you need to do is register (free and only takes 1 minute) add a link pointing to your blog from your public page. Other features include groups, messaging, forums, articles and resources. If this is something you are interested in, have a look at (05/26/17: Dead link, networkhomeschool (dot) com)

    If you like our site, we would be grateful if you could add it to your “links” list.

    Our Website: (05/26/17: Dead link, networkhomeschool (dot) com



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