Claremont Elementary School in North Carolina, among other schools, refused to air President Obama's back-to-school speech earlier today. The rationale: what children hear should be up to their parents. (It's probably not a coincidence that most schools making this choice are located in districts where Obama lost to McCain.)
The irony is overwhelming. Obama, the socialist dictator with his evil health care plan . . . let's censor everything he says. Including the part about getting educated and informed. (The basic message of the speech was: stay in school and work hard. Give up on yourself, and you give up on your country. Incendiary stuff!)
There are a few basic points that need to be made here. First, Obama is the President already. Even if you disagree with what he says, it matters. Instead of refusing to allow your children to be up to date on current affairs, it's possible to tell them why you disagree with the President. For instance: "Honey, I know President Obama said today that it's unlikely you will be a basketball star or a famous rapper. I know how talented you are, though. You're the next LeBron James. So I support you spending more time shooting hoops and less time finishing your homework." It wouldn't be my choice, but it can be yours.
Second, freedom of speech is in the First Amendment. There is a nice opportunity there to teach your kids about letting people say what they have to say, even if you disagree with it. It's one of the bedrock principles this country was founded on.
Finally, are we so cynical right now that we distrust the President to deliver a basic back-to-school welcome? We knew in advance what his message was. Did we really think he had a secret plan to lobby for a public option or talk about the war? I know George W. Bush would not have done that, and there was not much I would have put past him.
I understand what it feels like when you just want to turn off the television. I did it myself, when W. talked about gay marriage and told yet another lie about weapons of mass destruction. But parents have responsibilities to make sure we raise children who are educated and capable of basic civic engagement. I like to think that if I had kids, I would have said to them: "Honey, President Bush thinks gay marriage is wrong. I strongly disagree, and here is why. What do you think?" If we can't have those conversations--even on uncontroversial subjects like staying in school--we're going to have no chance of solving health care, global environmental crises, and the other massive problems we face. We have to be informed, and we have to speak to each other, to tackle these challenges. Let's not stop our kids before they get started.