Guarding the Classroom
Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school . . . .
- Wm. Shakespeare, Henry VI, Act IV
Vigilance. Without it who knows what sorts of insidious messages would slip into the curriculum of public schools throughout the country.
The prospect of President Obama encouraging students to study and stay in school terrified many on the right who believed that if their children learn to think for themselves they may eschew the likes of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk and even, in some cases, their parents. They feared that the president, being both articulate and intelligent would, in the brief time allotted, emulate the Pied Piper and lead children from the classroom into the muddy waters of socialism or fascism, depending on which commentator was believed.
Florida's Republican Party chairman, Jim Greer, gave voice to the terrified parents. "As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power. . . . The address scheduled for September 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the President's agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates. . . .The Democrats have clearly lost the battle to maintain control of the message this summer, so now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves." (In fairness to Mr. Greer it must be pointed out that he made his comments when he didn't know what he was talking about. When he got around to reading the speech he said he planned to watch it.)
Mark Steyn of Canada, a political commentator and classroom defender, told Rush Limbaugh that in wanting to speak to children in school Mr. Obama was like North Korean leader Kim Jong-il or Saddam Hussein in that he was creating a cult of personality albeit on a smaller scale than those two men had done. In case the Greer and Steyn messages failed to resonate with those concerned with protecting the classroom from the President, Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota joined the defenders.
According to Politico the governor told the Minneapolis Star Tribune the speech could be disruptive. He worried not only about content, which was adequately addressed by Mr. Greer, but motive. The lesson plan sent to schools encouraged the students to write to the president. It first suggested that students write letters saying how they could help the president but reacting to criticism, the plan was amended to suggest the students write letters about what the President's goals should be. Either is a subtle form of indoctrination and, as Mr. Steyn told Mr. Limbaugh, "slightly unhealthy". The Governor told a radio show that: "There are going to be questions about-well, what are they going to do with those names and is that for the purpose of a mailing list?" The governor has put his finger on a very significant point. Although it was possible that in 18 minutes Mr. Obama would not cover all the topics anticipated by Mr. Greer, if the students write the President, Mr. Pawlenty believes the government will compile a list of names of students that it can later contact to further propagandize them. The president's speech was not the only perceived threat to the classroom to rear its head in September.
In California Governor Schwarzenegger has been given a piece of legislation to sign that would create a "day of recognition" for former San Francisco Board of Supervisors member, Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1977. Under California law a "day of recognition" means that schools "conduct suitable commemorative exercises." Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, described all the problems inherent in allowing such a bill to become law saying that: "The bill is so broad it could encompass all kinds of things. Remembering the life of Harvey Milk could allow for gay pride parades on campus or mock gay weddings or cross-dressing. There is no prohibition of what the bill calls ‘suitable commemorative exercises.' The sky's the limit."
Public education has been seriously threatened with the start of the new school year. We can only be grateful for the likes of Messrs. Greer, Pawlenty and Thomasson who are attempting to ensure that ideas won't find their ways into our classrooms.