T.W.I.S.T. - The Way I See Things
#5 - "Obama's Speech to Students"
[Please read comments before replying.]
Well, today was the day that President Obama addressed students all across the United States, encouraging them to stay in schools, respect their teachers, and wash their hands a lot. You probably knew that. You've probably also heard that there were a lot of parents out there that were protesting Obama's speech, even going so far as to pull their children out of school that day.
What you probably don't know is why.
I've read where people are dumbfounded, saying "How in the world can people protest the president making an encouraging address to the children? They must be filled with so much hate for the man that they'll attack an innocent little encouragement speech to them! Oh, the humanity! Can't we all just get along?!?"
Well, look, granted, if you don't keep up with the news, you're probably wondering the same thing... and believe it or not, there are people who want you to think that this was all just about Obama making an innocent speech and a bunch of Obama-haters overreacted to it. After all, it's easier for them to malign those who disagree with them when they can misrepresent their opponents' position.
So, if you want to learn exactly why this whole controversy got started in the first place, then read on... then you can decide how you feel about it. But at least make the effort to understand a controversy before you attempt to ridicule someone's position.
First of all, let's set the stage by looking at an event that transpired before the announcement had been made that Obama was going to address the students. On August 28th, at Eagle Elementary School in Farmington, Utah, the school principal showed a video to the student body entitled "I Pledge". The video was a blatant piece of propaganda designed to encourage viewers to embrace various liberal ideologies, to visit pro-liberal websites, and even has a section toward the end in it where a celebrity says, "I pledge to be a servant to Barack Obama."
Whoa. Back up there just a second. I pledge to WHAT?!?
If that doesn't conjure up images of students in masses waving little red books, then you're not paying attention to history. In America, we pledge allegiance to the flag and what it represents. We pledge allegiance to our country... to our republic... we do NOT pledge allegiance to a particular person and we do not pledge to be their servant. In America the president is a servant to the people, not the other way around.
The "I Pledge" video was a shameful piece of demagoguery and the school principal responsible for exposing the student body to that tripe has since apologized and rightfully so. As a result of that action, and the nationwide attention it received, parents were now in a position to be skeptical of the president trying to reach their children.
Now comes the second event. The Department of Education announces that President Obama will make a speech to students all across the nation. This address will occur during school hours and teachers are encouraged to not only have their students watch the speech, but also to participate in some prescribed activities to follow. One of those activities involves each student writing a letter to himself or herself that asks, "What can I do to help the president?"
In the wake of the "I Pledge" video, what is one to make of this speech attempt? The aforementioned activity question seems suspiciously like more demagoguery, encouraging students to help Obama... whatever it is he is trying to do. Considering that many people oppose Obama and his policies, is it any surprise that requiring their children to write papers on how they can help the president that those parents would be nervous?
Remember, this first attempt with the speech did not involve parents at all. The speech was not going to be made in the evening where parents could watch it with their children, it was going to made during school hours and the parents were completely cut out of the picture. Having someone influential speak to your kids requires a lot of trust in that person. Given the insidious nature of the "I Pledge" video, parents were prepared for supposedly-innocuous statements riddling the president's speech, such as "We have a responsibility to look after the sick and make sure that everybody can go see the doctor", which would be a clever way to get kids on board with the public health care issue.
C'mon... if you tell a child that we have to take care of other people and make sure they have health care, that child is going to agree with you hands-down. They don't have the knowledge or experience to ask, "But how do you expect to pay for that? What will this do to the private sector? Is it true that you're proposing to fine people up to $3,800 for not having health insurance, forcing them to take the public option if offered?"
And the possibility that any politician might try and sweet-talk our children in order to get them to side with that politician and thereby create a situation in the home where children are constantly chastising the parents for not embracing the politician's ideas? It happens all the time, so there's plenty of precedent to be worried about that. Besides politicians, organizations have done this as well. PETA has done it with coloring books, environmentalists have done it with cartoons... the list goes on and on.
So, getting back to Obama's speech... what happened? You've probably heard it or read it now and so what was the big deal?
Well, after a huge backlash from concerned parents, the activity asking children to come up with ideas of how they could be of service to the president (sounding eerily similar to "I pledge to be a servant to Barack Obama"), the White House changed the activity so that participating students would focus on what they could do to better themselves, which ends up being what it should have been in the first place.
As for the speech, when it was released in text form on Monday (well after the backlash had caused many parents to threaten to withhold their children from school that day), the speech seemed to be a pretty neutral "stay in school" sort of speech. The public outcry was still present, of course, because of how everything had been handled... or bungled, if you will... but was the final result what was originally intended?
We may never know.
But we should take heart in the fact that there are parents out there who are taking an active role in what their children are exposed to. Parents who are concerned with what their children are taught and who are protective of their children's interests.
Lesson learned? Don't try and bypass parents by being too presumptuous. Make them a part of the process.