Some parents are vowing to keep their children home from school on Tuesday when President Obama addresses the nation's school children.
They are afraid that he's going to use the platform to push his political agenda, which they see as decidedly socialist, and, I guess, poison the minds of our nation's youth. But interestingly, Obama won't be the first president to use this tactic. And if he goes beyond encouraging them to work hard at their studies, he won't be the first to subject students to politics.
The progressive watchdog group Media Matters has done a little research and has discovered that in 1988, none other than President Ronald Reagan brought students from four middle schools into the Old Executive Office Building to talk to them. And although, since the country was not yet wired for the Internet, that gathering wasn't put out over the web, like Tuesday's, it was carried by C-Span so that any school could, if it wanted, broadcast it to students.
Oh, and the most interesting aspect is that the topic of that forum was tax cuts.
That's right, a president of the United States actually used a forum of school children to preach the gospel of cutting taxes.
Now, I'm not saying that cutting taxes is a bad thing. I, as a taxpayer, am all for it. But here we have Reagan talking to children about his political agenda. A conservative agenda. The very thing so many conservatives are so concerned that Obama might do on Tuesday.
Perhaps the issue really isn't a president talking politics to the nations children. Perhaps the issue is that this president's political ideology differs from that of those who are criticizing the scheduled address.
Meanwhile, and obviously this is just anecdotal, I've checked with some educators I know to see if their schools are carrying the president's address. A teacher told me her school will not because it would be too distracting to the students. A principal told me his superintendent called to tell him to not play the speech to his students either. He said the superintendent issued the blanket directive to all the district's schools for the same reason - she thought playing the speech would be too distracting.
"I don't think as many schools are going to be playing his speech as they'd like," my principal friend said.
To me, this all seems so much ado about nothing. I really don't understand how or why the level of political discourse has reached alarmist proportions. But Chicken Little seems to be the nation's news director lately. Not so long ago, local TV reporters breathlessly dished out stories about some guy killing his wife and turning the gun on himself. "A story you can't afford to miss!" the station promos would shout. Scare the people into watching the news, I guess. Now, we're seeing the same local tactic being applied to the national news. A tactic that's obviously working. Fox News Channel's ratings, for example, are soaring. But that doesn't make it right.
We need a more rational approach to the issues facing this nation and this world. Clearly, there are plenty of things that this White House is proposing that deserve closer, studied scrutiny. It's not only acceptable; it's critical to the process. Authority and political assertions should be challenged.
But to read ominous subtext to every message that comes out of the White House; to scare people into thinking that all their rights are about to be stripped is, at the very least, misleading.
Three incidents involving the health reform debate should be indication enough that we need to tone down the rhetoric and take a more dispassionate view of the issues so that we can make informed decisions.
1). The Sherman Oaks finger bit off incident.
2). The guy carrying an assault weapon outside a town hall meeting while the president was inside (yes he had the legal right to do so but it was a poor decision that sent the wrong, albeit likely unintended, message).
3). The shouting down of a woman in a wheelchair at a New Jersey town hall meeting because she favored health reform.
I blame the political leaders on both sides of the aisle and the news media for fostering this alarmist attitude. It's time for them all to become more responsible. We need to turn down the static and listen, with critical ears, to what all sides are saying. If we don't, a man losing his finger at a California health reform demonstration will be the least of the damage to the nation.