Obama's Speech to Students: Education Message or Lopsided Propaganda?

Filed under: In The News, New In Pop Culture


Last week, a Utah elementary school principal apologized to parents after screening a video, "I Pledge," to students during a school assembly. You might recall the video; it went viral shortly after President Barack Obama's inauguration. Produced by actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore and featuring a wide range of hip celebrities, it was as popular with liberals as it was with conservatives, who saw it as more proof of the heights of Obama-mania.

Among innocuous celebrity pledges such as, "I pledge to smile more," are more controversial ones such as, "I pledge to support stem cell research," and a creepy pledge by Demi Moore who says: "I pledge to be a servant of the President." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the democratic ethic that our president serve us. American civics aside, parents complained that the whole thing wreaked of lopsided propaganda and the school principal now claims to have not seen the video prior to the event (Teaching 101: Screen everything prior to showing to kids).

Now, the President has planned a speech for America's school children on Sept. 8th at noon, complete with pre- and post-speech worksheets and ideas developed by the Department of Education in conjunction with the White House. Questions include, "How does the President inspire you?" and "What is the President asking me to do?"

Frankly, I would have less of a problem with these leading questions if I thought that there was any sense of historical equality here. Could you imagine if the Bush Administration had planned a speech for kids in school at the peak of the Iraq war controversy and encouraged teachers to ask kids to write an essay about how they could help the President? Could you imagine teachers going along with it? It's inconceivable.

This summer we've witnessed a resurgence of a very healthy distrust of government among Americans. I believe that the outrage among many parents over the government-generated worksheets is an extension of this discontent.

Parents are now pressuring schools to cancel the event and are opting to keep their kids home if they don't.

Is it an overreaction to what could be a unique educational opportunity for kids to hear directly from their President? Perhaps. But sadly, the incident in Utah is hardly isolated. There are plenty of documented cases that point to teacher bias in the classroom and in textbooks. Fair-minded parents are wise to maintain a healthy suspicion about whether the President's address is more about the marketing of the president and less about education.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.