Over the course of the past couple days, I have been flabbergasted by media events -- primarily the uproar over President Obama's plan to address the nation's schoolchildren on Tuesday. From all that I've been able to glean, Obama's speech includes encouraging children to stay in school and study hard. Conservatives are accusing Obama as using this speech to push liberal "propaganda". I have to admit I am completely at a loss here.
First of all, since when is a message about staying in school and working hard liberal propaganda. Do conservatives really take issue with the idea that we might want kids to actually, you know, learn? I know that conservatives like to attack liberals over their elitism and intellectualism. Only in America would we demonize intelligence. Only in America would intelligence be deemed a weakness in seeking office. And now, our hatred of intelligence has gone so far that we don't want to even set it up as a goal to which we want our children to aspire. I won't even begin to list the issues I have with that.
Secondly, do people honestly think that President Obama is going to use this speech as a campaign opportunity? Most likely, roughly 75% of those children exposed to his speech on Tuesday will never, ever have the opportunity to vote for him. What real good does it do to campaign to these children? Can a kindergartener really grasp the complexities of, say, health care reform? (I'm 37, and I struggle to wrap my brain around the everchanging plans that have been proposed) And if he/she can, what good does that do Obama? Do conservatives think that these kids are going to go home and try to convert their parents to Obama's nefarious beliefs? Having grown up a liberal child in a conservative home, I can tell you that it doesn't work. I spent years trying to convince my parents to vote Democrat. I begged and cried and fought with my parents in 1988 when they adamantly refused to see the merits of voting for Michael Dukakis. Even my charming little "Jimmy Carter is Great" song that I wrote in 1976 couldn't sway my parents. One speech from a president is not going to create a nation full of little liberal children, and the fear of our kids being brainwashed by President Obama reeks of fearmongering at best, racism at worst. (Yeah, I said it. It's racist!)
Critics of the President's plan target a proposed "lesson plan" released by the Department of Education. The lesson plan encourages activities like the teacher taking notes during the speech on the board to help students understand the message or having students make note of what they are being asked to do and what they are being challenged to consider. Those bastards! Not only do they want to speak, but they want us to get something from it. Who do they think they are?? I will remind you, once again, that the speech is about staying in school and working hard. I really just have no choice but to shake my head at the fearmongering and paranoia at play here.
As I read more and more this weekend, I was left in a state of shock, depression, and fear. The extremes to which certain elements of the conservative right will go to to discredit our president leave me absolutely stunned. The fact of the matter is that the man is our president. He is not some evil genius out to take over the hearts and minds of American schoolchildren. He is simply the leader that 53% of the people in this country chose to be our leader. For the past nine months, he has lived under a microscope where every single decision he makes is scrutinized, attacked, and lambasted. He goes out for a burger, and he's jumped on. He takes his wife out for a date, and he's jumped on. He is labeled a Nazi, a Socialist, and Communist. Has any president ever faced this level of open hostility? For all the issues I had with George W. Bush, my dislike never reached such a feverish level of outright hatred that Obama has had to deal with from day one (and even before).
Here's the big secret, folks: Barack Obama is not Hitler, Satan, or whatever pejorative label you want to stick on him. He's a man who decided to tackle what is the hardest job on the face of this earth. He is a man who wants to help this nation by reaching out to those often left behind -- the poor, the uninsured, the struggling, the children. He wants to help insure the future of our nation by encouraging those who will eventually rise up to lead us to, well, make sure they have the skills to rise up and lead us. As much as a large portion of our country seems to disdain education, the fact of the matter is that we need educated people to lead us, to teach us, to care for us. President Obama believes, as I do, that a part of governing is caring for the people and preparing the nation for what lies ahead. While I do not blindly believe everything he does, I also believe that he operates out of a desire to make this country a better place. And what better way to make this country a better place than to reach out to our children, to let them know that their president believes in them, and encourage them to reach for their own stars and make this country a better place.
ADDENDUM: An interesting (and terrifying) article I just stumbled across on the HuffPo makes me think I'm not overreacting in my fear here.