Friday, September 04, 2009

Panic at The Schoolhouse

In case you missed it, there is something of a panic over President Obama's decision to give a "back to school" message to the nation's school children. Some parents are planning to pull their children out of school, and certain school districts have taken issue. Now, my reaction to this whole affair is that it appears to be yet another outburst of mass hysteria, over what will most likely amount to nothing more than a harmless pep talk, with calls to "stay in school," "do your homework," and "serve your community." I've not heard the speech of course, and sure, it's possible that politics could be somehow injected into the speech, but how plausible is that? There has been some concern about the proposed cirriculum, but again, from what I'm seeing, the proposed lesson involved writng a letter in response to the speech, about how students can help the country (although apparently there may have been a wording issue, as the White House has walked back from some of this).

The most thoughtful critique of this I've heard so far is from Althouse, who ties it to a larger point about students being compelled (via compulsory education), to listen to the leader of the country. She argues that the students should be challenged to critically analyze the speech, and voices concerns about the level of deference Obama will receive.

If this were to be an actual policy speech, I'd share her concern, but I suspect, as I've said before, that this will be something more general--in fact, I think this will have less to do with what is said, than who's saying it. It's a message from the President! President Obama! A lot of this will involve Obama's still-relatively-high popularity, and the respect many have for him, and that bothers certain people.

The fact is, if this were any other President, this would be a non-story. I mean, it's not like this sort of thing hasn't happened before.

Oh, and one more thing, I think this is important to keep in mind:

It's worth noting that schools are, encouraged, not required, to air the speech. The Houston Chronicle reports that one Dallas school district is leaving the decision to individual teachers. Susan Dacus, spokeswoman for the Wylie school district, says parents who don't want their children to see it can opt out.

In an ironic twist, one Missouri school won't be airing the speech because of a lack of funding. Michelle Baumstark, spokeswoman for Columbia public schools, told the Columbia Daily Tribune, "We don’t have the funding or the equipment to support that type of broadcasting.”

ADDED: As Allahpundit, no fan of the President said:

One pap-filled 20-minute speech about working hard and serving others is so lethal a threat to tender minds that they have to be yanked off the premises for the day to shield them from it?


UPDATE: Here is the text of the speech. Judge for yourself. (Kudos to Althouse for the HT.)

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