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Hammer and Sickle High: 'Obamunism' Indoctrinates the Schools

The communist plot to infiltrate America's schools is almost complete. 

At least, that is, according to Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party who recently testified, "As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology"-referring to the commander in chief's scheduled address of the nation's schools on Tuesday, September 8th

Right-wing talk-show hosts like Glenn Beck have made Obama's speech to the children their vein-popping tirade du jour and ABC News reported that some school districts in six states--Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota--are refusing to air President Obama's speech to students. A small but noisy set of parents have pledged that they will keep their kids home from school on Tuesday rather than allow their children to be brainwashed by 21st century Bolshevism. Racism simmers beneath much of the vitriolic opposition to Obama and has even boiled over into open bigotry, as Teresa Kopec, a parent from South Carolina reported, "I just got anonymous phone call calling me a ‘n*gger loving communist' for giving pro-Obama statement to local paper." 

What sedition is Obama planning to spread that has conservatives frothing at the mouth?

The White House released an outline of Obama's address that reveals he will take up such known socialist themes as getting good grades.  The administration has also prepared a Leninist lesson plan to accompany the speech that suggests, "Teachers might conduct a ‘listening with purpose' exercise based on the themes of inspiration and challenges."

Regardless of how cross-eyed with rage they get, the right-wing couldn't be more erroneous when they spittle about Obama's desire to paint the White House-or the schoolhouse-red.  I should admit that I haven't read all three volumes of Das Kapital, but I don't think Marx ever said anything about workers of the world uniting to bailout bankers with hundreds of billions in taxpayer money. Jettisoning even his tepid public option, Obama is poised to cave to the for-profit health insurance companies.  But it's in education-through his relentless push for the privatization of the public schools in the form of charter schools-where Obama's dedication to the free market put him in a class of his own. 

The public schools represent one of the last free public government services guaranteed to all-and one of the last great frontiers for corporate America. With the right-wing school voucher programs discredited, the school privatization movement has reinvented itself with a liberal veneer in the form of the charter school lobby.  Charter schools operate by taking public money and placing it in schools that are outside of public oversight, and are run by independent charter associations or for-profit entities.  Often times the CEOs of these charters garner bloated salaries and-just like health insurance companies-they often deny applicants deemed "high-risk." 

Obama's charisma and liberal credentials have helped put the charter school movement on the fast track-along with his Race to the Top Fund, designed to pressure school districts around the country to turn significant portions of their schools into these unaccountable charters or be cut off from the desperately needed federal dollars. As the Washington Post reported, "President Obama is leaning hard on the nation's schools, using the promise of more than $4 billion in federal aid-and the threat of withholding it-to strong-arm the education establishment to accept more charter schools and performance pay for teachers." It seems the plan is working with the recent news that the Los Angeles Unified School District board voted 6-1 to authorize opening up over 250 schools to bids by charter schools and other outside entities.


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Obama defended the Race to the Top Fund saying, "It's not based on politics, it's not based on who's got more clout, it's not based on what certain constituency groups are looking for, but it's based on what works."

But the fact is, charter schools rival investment banks for best example of the failure of the free market.  In the largest study on charter schools to date, Stanford University found in their Walton Family (of Walmart infamy) funded study that students in more than 80 percent of charter schools either performed the same as-or worse than-students in traditional public schools on mathematics tests. More damning, thirty-seven percent of charter schools students posted gains that were "significantly below" what their students would have realized if they had enrolled in their local traditional public schools instead.

For Obama to truly earn the socialist moniker his right-wing antagonists have branded him with, this is the speech he would need to deliver to the children of America:

As another school year begins, I have chosen to address the nation's children because dramatic changes are needed if we are to ever attain a society fit for you to grow up in. 

I have come to realize the hypocrisy of scolding America's youth for not taking more personal responsibility for their future when we don't ask the same of America's elite. 

Today, I pledge to nationalize the banks that took hundreds of billions of dollars from your parents in the form of taxpayer bailouts after sabotaging the global economy. I will use the proceeds to provide a single-payer "Medicare for All" health system that can ensure students come to school healthy and ready to learn. Furthermore, I will withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and with the money and morality saved from not killing people around the world, build the strongest public school system the world has ever seen. 

Remember to always study hard-with all the new jobs I am creating in healthcare and education we will soon need smart young people like you working to meet the needs of millions who previously were neglected. 

If Obama delivers this speech on Tuesday, I would be happy to write an apology to Glenn Beck requesting forgiveness for not heeding his warning of creeping socialism. 

Jesse Hagopian

Jesse Hagopian

Jesse Hagopian teaches history and is the Black Student Union adviser at Garfield High School, the site of the historic boycott of the MAP standardized test.  Jesse is the editor and contributing author to, More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (Haymarket Books, 2014). Jesse is an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, a founding member of Social Equality Educators (SEE), and recipient of the 2013 “Secondary School Teacher of Year” award from the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences. Follow Jesse on his blog at or on Twitter: @jessedhagopian

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