Saturday, September 5, 2009

More Lies: Critics of Obama's Speech to Kids Beginning to Sound Like a Bunch of Death Panelists

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.

The Distortion
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 Reality
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.


Elizabeth said...

Darren, in all this insane hoopla over an inane issue, one voice is sadly lost -- that of our children themselves, who, not surprisingly, vehemently oppose the Obama's ill-fated idea.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Obama today, Hitler and crack tomorrow.

Dave Muckey said...

What an incredible bit of self promotion, Elizabeth.

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Some people have gotten confused between the I Pledge video and the pending speech to school children by the President. That's partly because the I Pledge video *was* shown to several hundred students in at least one school, and that came out about the same time as the news about the speech.

And partly because people are often fuzzy thinkers.

Of course, there are also the various videos out of schoolchildren singing the praises of Obama in a very Dear Leaderesque fashion, and there's the schoolteacher who made a child cry in her classroom by telling her she was wrong to prefer McCain because of his stance on the war (her daddy was in Iraq), so it's really not that unreasonable for parents to be on edge about what's being taught in their kids' classrooms.

My main issue with the school speech is the study guide- I do expect the President's message will certainly be a solid motivational speech urging kids to do well in school.
But the study guide originally had some creepy language (what can YOU do to serve the President- that was for the K-6 crowd), and I don't know if that's because the speech was originally going to include something other than just 'do well, study hard, stay in school,' or because the authors of the study guide got a little overzealous (which seems to happen often with Obama's staff).

And I think it's just weird that he wants the message simulcast on the first day of school so all the children are listening at the same time.
Why not just make the short video, put it up on the Whitehouse website, let the public know about it (including schools), and leave it at that- no study guides, no lockstep viewing, no appearance of shutting parents out, no bypassing school boards, no creepy, Maoist connotations?

Elizabeth said...

Obama today, Hitler and crack tomorrow.

Yes, Darren, that's the natural progression of things. And given that Obama and Hitler have morphed into one in the minds of many, we are one step closer to crack already.

BTW, Dave: It's all for the freaking children!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Elizabeth, I suspect that crack comes a lot earlier on the list for a lot of the conspiracy theorists.

Headmistress: The problems you detail regarding teachers telling students how they should vote, etc. are problems - but these are not Obama's fault. I teach people who can actually vote, and I would never tell them how to exercise that right. All I can do is present facts and analysis and let them choose.

Also, the "official" lesson plans are on the DOE website (linked in my article). They do not sound like the work of mindcontrol. Even the original "help" Obama one doesn't sound creepy to me in light of the context of the speech (encouraging kids to stay in school). In any event, the text as deleted.

I still do not believe conservatives would have opposed Bush speaking to school students. He was, after all, reading at an elementary school when the WTC collapsed. If Bush planned a speech to encourage students to stay in school and not to worry about, say, 9/11, conservatives would have praised him as the biggest hero of the 20th Century. I also believe that many liberals would have been angry. But this just shows that many people on both sides are partisans.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Dave: I have no problem with Elizabeth linking her blog on my site. As long as people participate, I have no problem with them linking their own websites.

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