President Obama's upcoming speech to children has caused loud outrage among some conservatives. In another post, I said that the idea of a president addressing schoolchildren sounds creepy to me. I stand by that statement. It risks conveying a "cult of personality"message -- something that has already haunted Obama.
But much of the criticism of the speech contains horrible misinformation. Many conservative websites, for example, imply that the speech will include the "I Pledge" video as part of the lesson for students. This is simply WRONG. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher made the video in January to celebrate Obama's inauguration. And while a few people complained at the time that the video was "creepy," conservatives have managed to link it with Obama's upcoming speech to children; this distortion has caused views of the video to spike.
The Department of Education has the actual suggested lesson plans on its website, and they do not strike me as creatures of mindcontrol. Of course, you can view the materials yourself -- click here and here. Some of the suggested questions ask students to describe what Obama "wants them to do," but the answer to this question, given the theme of the speech, could be: "Stay in school and do my homework." We just do not know the content of his speech. Much of the alarmist behavior is an overreaction to an otherwise legitimate concern.
Other questions strike me as innocuous and kind of interesting. For example, students are asked to describe what they would want to say if they could speak to all other students in the country. That is a great question -- at least to someone who has to address students as a professional obligation. Potentially, answering this question could take some of the mystery out of the presidency for them and make Obama (and politicians) more "human," rather than "mystical." Perhaps that is the purpose of this particular part of the exercise. Again, I do not know.
Politics: If This Had Been Bush, Then. . . .
Many conservatives argue that if Bush had planned a speech for kids, liberals would have experienced a nervous breakdown. I agree! But conservatives would have accused liberals of being nasty, evil, negative blaspheming scourge of the Earth. If Bush had made the speech after 9/11, liberal critics would have probably received death threats. This does not excuse liberal hypocrisy; instead, it shows that hypocrisy is a bipartisan character flaw.