Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama Not The 1st President To Address The Nation's Kids

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.

8 comments:

The Children of the Phoenix said...

WOW...you know your in the presence of closed minded people when the president of the United States of America is under fire for aiming a speech at children about the fundamentals of education. Instead of labeling the president a socialistic dictator "they" should be worried about why the drop out rate in american public schools are so high or why we are cranking out more students who want to be in the Entertainment or Sports business rather than Mathmaticians, doctors or Scientist. If this mans speech inspires just one kid to do better in my view its worth the 20-30 minute delivery. Get over it people he is your president. He is not Hitler he is not a terrorist! He is a man trying his best to leave the country in a better state than he recieved it.

WorthyOfUrAttn said...

I think that pulling children out of school to hear ANYTHING he's got to say is quite arogant and inappropriate. It does't matter what he needs to tell children, he could tell them on Saturday. Wash your hands to help reduce the spread of swine flu? Pick up recyclables around the neighborhood to help pitch in on energy? Study hard? There is no reason for such a drastic action.

Anonymous said...

Poor example of a 'President addressing the Nation's children ' Gary!!! Talking to children from 4 MIDDLE schools is way different from addressing ALL children in the nation K-12!! Also, that meeting was a face to face meeting, not via the Internet - far less impact!

But still. Your friend, the Principal has taken the true educationalists view - it's too distracting for the kids as they go into the start of the new academic year. Maybe Obama should be aiming his speeches at the PARENTS, since they are the ones who will make or break the way a kid performs, THEY are the ones who are responsible for imbuing family values in their children, not some distant figure.

Finally, to 'The Children of the Pheonix' - obviously you are looking for some sort of messianic event to happen with Obama if you are looking at a sudden shift in societal values that, like the sands of the desert, are constantly shifting. For society to reach this point has taken hundreds of years - for good or ill. We can never put the clock back and return to the 'good old days', nor will we ever reach the sort of Utopian society that some people seem to expect Obama to achieve. If you don't believe me ask the people of the former USSR, or China!!!

Anonymous said...

Watching a presidential speech and then discussing it sounds like an excellent learning experience to me. So what are the kids going to learn from this now...?

Alan Nothnagle

Anonymous said...

Being fearful that our President has a hidden agenda in speaking to our children is the height of hysteria in a free nation.

Anonymous said...

He is the President of the United States. At the end of the day, when he speaks, he is the voice of this nation, it's Head of State. What educator in their right mind, what parent, thinks that's not worth listening to, no matter WHAT the subject. You may not agree, and you can certainly discuss that with your child if you don't. But to say you don't want your kid to even LISTEN for fear he might hear something you disagree with? That's the beginning of the end for democracy in America.

Liz Emrich

Anonymous said...

"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 ..."

So there's only four schools in the whole of the United States?

Come on Gary- you can surely do better than that.
We're talking about a President doing an end-run around the health care debachle by using the kids. He's going on a closed internet cast- to ALL schools that will turn him on.

So why not do it at a more appropriate time- like when the kids are home with mom and dad?

Why does it HAVE to be aimed at kids and why does it HAVE to be ained during the day?

BTW- The parents of the kids in those four schools had to sign a release stating that they knew about the event in advance and wanted their children to attend.

-LD McLellan

Gary Baumgarten said...

If you had read a little more carefully, LD, you may have noted that the Reagan speech was delivered to the nation's schools by C-Span.

The comparison, therefore, is fair.

By the way, the next president to address the nation's children was George HW Bush.