I've read the prepared version of the speech made available on the White House's website. And I've read plenty of stories about the controversy surrounding it. And I had two immediate thoughts, which I threw out to my readers at Boston.com's Child Caring blog today:
1.) This feels like 1991, except it's the political Right up in arms over a speech to school children by President Obama, rather than the political Left up in arms over a speech to school children by President George H.W. Bush.
2.) Which means all of the hoopla is really about politics, not education, and certainly not socialist indoctrination. Since when is telling kids to study hard and stay in school a Socialist concept?
Some have compared today's presidential address to Hitler's hope to "own the youth" -- no word on how they felt about President George H.W. Bush's 1991 speech from Alice Deal Junior High School or President Ronald Regan's public address to students in 1988. Others, including conservative talk show personality Glenn Beck, urged parents to join the Parental Approved Skip School Day (PASS) movement and keep their children home rather than listen to the president's speech today. (I really don't see the logic in that one -- if it's better to miss an entire day of school than hear the president of the United States say things like "I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education and to do everything you can to meet them," doesn't that point to a greater problem with our country?)
The bigger issue -- which would not have been addressed by keeping kids out of school for the day -- was the original "lesson plan" offered by the Department of Education, in which kids were to be encouraged to write letters discussing ways they could "help the president." Instead, students are now being urged to write letters outlining their own educational goals, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the lesson plan could have better worded.
Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer released a statement last week accusing Obama of using taxpayer money to "indoctrinate" children and saying that he was "absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. That statement was made before the text of the speech was made available over the weekend; yesterday, Greer told ABC News that it was "a good speech" about the importance of education "and I think that’s what a president should do when they’re gonna talk to students across the country."
Which, I think, really underscores the Obama's point about "the responsibility each of you has for your education." Not to mention doing your homework.