Friday, October 02, 2009


Plans for President Obama’s nationally televised back-to-school speech had local superintendents and board members scrambling to come up with various opt-out compromises that might satisfy parents who feared the worst.

After the speech, however, there’s been a lot of back-pedaling by school officials who found the address innocuous and heavy on personal responsibility. Several Letters to the Editor have ridiculed these officials for needlessly politicizing an uplifting event about which only deranged conservatives could have qualms.

This finger-wagging indignation might be tempered if one conducted a thought experiment and asked what these lefties would have done had George Bush made a similar address. My experience-based opinion is that the President’s opponents would have to be scraped off the ceiling.

I say experienced-based not only because of the hate that was constantly directed toward the former president (without media concern) but also because George Bush did, in fact, make an address to school children—George H. W. Bush, that is.

The after-speech response to Papa Bush’s less-ballyhooed talk in 1991 included denunciations by the National Education Association and an investigation of the speech’s production costs. Indeed, the Democrat Congress summoned top administration officials to defend this supposedly outrageous use of 26,000 government dollars.

I was teaching high school in 1991 and can safely say that the President’s speech was on none of our curricular agendas. And I seriously doubt that the White House mailed lesson plans for teachers in conjunction with this lightly-covered address.

By contrast, it should be remembered that the tripwire for the Obama controversy was the politically charged “lesson plans” created by the Department of Education. It asked young children to “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president”—a directive omitted after the uproar it precipitated.

Revised lesson plans still contained questions like these: “What do you think the President wants us to do? Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?” and “Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything?”

One commentator recently opined that teachers are fair-minded folk who don’t inject their own politics into the classroom. Anyone who believes that assertion should be confined to a home for the criminally naïve—or sentenced to attend an NEA convention.

Schools have been politicized for decades and are full of passionate leftists eager to indoctrinate youngsters on everything from global warming to the evils of capitalism. A recent example is the infamous Youtube video of New Jersey elementary students learning to praise Barack Hussein Obama: “He said that all must lend a hand, to make this country strong again…Barack Hussein Obama. He said we must be fair today, equal work means equal pay…Barack Hussein Obama.”

The song goes on, as does the cult of personality that surrounds this President—a Dear Leader mentality deeply embedded in government lesson plans and in Obama’s staunch NEA supporters.

Note to local school officials: Stop back-pedaling!


Anonymous said...

I find it a bit strange that you, who was among the most moralizing teachers I had at Bishop's, are so quick to denounce "indoctrination" in education. Is it that you were teaching timeless truths while the rest teach rubbish? How is it that you have so much invective for the supposed indoctrination so rampant in universities when you were shaping the far more impressionable minds of high-school students?

RKirk said...

The "moralizing" to which Anonymous refers is the rigorous presentation to high school students (mainly seniors bound to prestigious universities across the country) of philosophical views that cover the broad spectrum of Western Civilization--with a few Chinese thinkers thrown in for good measure.

Anonymous has apparently not gotten over the fact that philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Lao Tzu and Confucius, from Locke, Kant, Bentham, and Mill to C.S. Lewis, all have the annoying habit of believing that there really is an objective right and wrong--that morality is not (as turd-for-brain leftists would have it when they aren't dictatorially pushing their own moral agenda) merely social constructs.

Apparently Anonymous sees some similarity between indoctrinating grade schoolers with explicit political beliefs (a la the Dear Leader cult in North Korea) and exposure of high school students to ideas that they might find discomforting.

Anonymous won't tell you (and perhaps doesn't know) that the ideas of Marx and Nietzsche were presented in my class with great forcefulness and that the I never demanded acceptance of any particular philosophical position. Indeed, and Anonymous surely wouldn't know this, I always went out of my way to provide extra credit to papers that did not reflect ideas that I embraced or sympathized with.

What I did in class was present and debate ideas in an open and vigorous way--in a manner that is almost nonexistent on "politically correct" campuses where ideology is pushed shamelessly by professors and non-conforming students punished for their non-conformity.

The one big idea that I pushed in my ethics classes was the "timeless truth" that what Hitler did in the Holocaust was "really" bad--not just bad in the opinion of x or y. To this very day, over a decade later, I suspect, this idea upsets Mr. Anonymous--whose "freedom" to declare that nothing is "really" bad means more to him than the moral obligation of denouncing the most horrific of human acts. As I frequently asked my ethics classes: Which is more important to you, telling a mother whose child was murdered and tortured by sadistic Nazis that that action was wrong and horrific--or asserting that nothing is really good or bad.

Teaching of this sort is denounced by Anonymous as moralizing--because, no doubt, the questions make him feel bad.