UPDATE, 8:17 P.M. EST: ABC News is reporting that some school districts in six states (Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota), are refusing to air President Obama's speech to students.
Yesterday, I noted that Florida's GOP Chair Jim Greer had heard about President Barack Obama's intention to address the schoolchildren of America on the occasion of the start of a new school year, and went quite mental, warning darkly that the address was nothing more than a dastardly inculcation into socialism and a viral spread of liberal propaganda. Naively, I imagined this would be a derangement confined to a few weird nobodies, but, duh, I forgot: everyone is crazy now. So, this matter has thus become a Thing. Let's dispense with the highlights!
Glenn Beck hit this early, in a hurry, announcing that he would be countering Obama's address by airing a "special one-hour broadcast next Tuesday on television on the indoctrination of your children." Naturally, new wacko-target Van Jones figured into Beck's remarks, along with a warning that the "republic is under attack" from a video that encourages kids to do homework and stuff:
The National Review's Mark Steyn told Rush Limbaugh's audience Wednesday that the video address was Obama's attempt to extend his "cult of personality." It should be noted that Steyn was willing to concede that the tactics didn't quite rise to the level of Saddam Hussein. Restraint! The conservative fringe may paradoxically refer to Obama as a socialist or a fascist, depending on the direction the wind is blowing that day, but they've thus far drawn the line at Baathist.
Newsbusters' Mark Finkelstein likened the move to Maoist China, the regime that taught Dick Cheney how to stop worrying and love the waterboard!
Say, here's an idea. Pres. Obama's quotations on a variety of topics could be assembled in a small book, and every citizen given one -- free of course -- by the government. Citizens would then be encouraged to meet and discuss "what can we infer the President believes is important" in every aspect of life.
Right, or, you know, alternately, the White House could just do a video where the President talks about the importance of setting educational goals and advises against dropping out of school.
Michelle Malkin worried that for the first time in human history, schoolchildren would be motivated hypnotically to rise up and seize the means of production through the assignment of pointless busywork:
So when the Department of Education directs schools to gather children 'round the TV monitors for Obama's pep talk and then do this...
* Create posters of their goals. Posters could be formatted in quadrants or puzzle pieces or trails marked with the labels: personal, academic, community, country. Each area could be labeled with three steps for achieving goals in those areas. It might make sense to focus on personal and academic so community and country goals come more readily.
* Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.
...parents have every right to worry about their children being used as Political Guinea Pigs for Change.
No, Michelle, they pretty much don't! If we could all think practically for a moment, let me tell you how all of that stuff is going to play out. Students will be invited to maybe do some of this work, but within 24 hours, it will all be mostly forgotten about and never brought up again. Students will be concentrating on the actual schoolwork for which they receive actual grades. Teachers won't have the time to monitor the progress of any of this because they'll be too busy teaching to a battery of evaluation tests, to save their jobs and their schools' funding. A few students, real brownnosey types, might follow through with these ancillary assignments because they figure that doing so might help them get into college. They'll be wrong about that.
Oh, and there are also examples of fringey types equating the outreach effort to the Civilian National Security Force and "Hitler youth brigades" and admonishing, "Leave our kids alone!" It's like the right wing blogosphere went home, dosed themselves with mescaline and sat around watching History Channel reruns on mute while Pink Floyd's The Wall played in the background.
And now, conservatives are encouraging parents to keep their kids home from school that day. From Newsmax:
The fascist in chief is taking his special brand of brainwashing to the classroom. Keep your kids home. I think this man is a threat to our basic unalienable rights. I don't want him indoctrinating my children. Seriously.
Anyway, here are a lot of actual facts, that Jake Tapper rounded up by doing sensible reporting.
The part of the busywork materials that scared so many right-wingers, where kids are encouraged to "Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president," has been changed. Instead, kids are encouraged to "Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short‐term and long‐term education goals." Tapper reports: "The idea, [White House spokesman Tommy] Vietor said, was that students should think of how they could help the President in terms of reducing the national dropout rate."
And the content of the speech? Uhm...it's all pretty innocuous, actually!
"The goal of the speech and the lesson plans is to challenge students to work hard in school, to not drop out and to meet short-term goals like behaving in class, doing their homework and goals that parents and teachers alike can agree are noble," a White House spokesman tells ABC News, "This isn't a policy speech. This is a speech designed to encourage kids to stay in school."
And the kicker? Watching the speech will be an optional activity. You know... like so many other aspects of totalitarian regimes!
Anyway, that's the state of the world today. If President Obama reminded people tomorrow to brush between meals, thousands of people would allow their teeth to rot right out of their heads, because OMGZ TEH SOCIALISM! The upside to all of this is that after Tuesday, every teacher in the world will know precisely what students are going to need remedial help.