I'm so glad my children aren't in elementary school anymore. Otherwise I'd be spending the whole Labor Day weekend fretting over next Tuesday instead of cleaning the ashes out of my ears.
Tuesday, as you all know, unless you've been preoccupied with your house burning down or ominous mushroom clouds like we have here in LA, is when President Obama is set to give his "socialist" talk to the nation's schoolchildren.
Mind you, no one has actually seen a copy of the president's speech. But that hasn't stopped right-wing crazies and Republicans from insisting that Obama is going to brainwash our kids with his radical ideas about health care, banking, and taxes. All in the span of a few propaganda-packed minutes.
Some parents have demanded that their children be excused from hearing the president speak. I'm taking a wild guess, but I'm pretty sure that African-American parents won't be joining them.
You'd think Obama was showing kids on live TV how to slip a condom on a banana.
Clearly, none of these people has ever never taught a group of squirming six-year-olds like I have, much less a class of smart-mouthy fifth graders or opinionated 16-year-olds in AP U.S. History or they wouldn't be so alarmed. I know this comes as a shock, but students don't hang on every adult word. They're also curiously able to think for themselves.
But tell that to Jim Greer. Greer, the chairman of Florida's Republican Party, has been the most vocal, if not the most literate, opponent of Obama's speech. (An aside here: Notice how it is always Florida and Texas that cause such a political ruckus?)
If you didn't have the pleasure of seeing the Senate hopeful on the news, here's what Greer said in a press release:
As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. President Obama has turned to the American's [sic] children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's [sic] youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves.
Asked repeatedly where he got the notion that Obama was going to talk about health care and other policy matters when he hadn't actually read the text, Greer strangely couldn't answer.
But strangely Education Secretary Arne Duncan could. And here's what he said about the content of Obama's speech in an interview with AP:
What's so fun about working for the president is this is so personal for him. He did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. His father wasn't around much....And here he is, the president of our country, the leader of the free world, because he received a great education and worked so hard. He's challenging all of us, but he is absolutely going to challenge students and parents to take their education seriously, to really have personal responsibility.
Now critics are saying that it's not the phantom speech that has gotten them riled up. But the lesson plans the Department of Education sent to teachers suggesting, among other ideas, that younger students write Obama letters offering how they can "help" the president. Or that high schoolers answer such cult-of-personality questions as, "What is President Obama inspiring you to do?"
That's it. I am never sending the teenagers to school again.
Since the Education Department's lesson plans caused such a fuss, I'd like to propose my own essay questions that teachers can use in conjunction with the president's speech. (Caution: They are not organized according to grade level.)
1) Who is Jim Greer? And why doesn't he know basic rules of grammar?
2) What is a socialist? (Parents must answer this question, too.) Name a current leader of a socialist country or one from the 20th century. (Hint: It is not an American president.)
3) Why do you think Obama gave this speech to the nation's students? What was he trying to say?
4) What did you think about it? Did you like it? Why? Why not?
5) Write your own speech as if you were addressing the nation's students. (Hint: Avoid all socialist rhetoric or points will be deducted.)
6) Why do you think some students' parents (not yours, of course) wouldn't let their children watch the president speak? Do you believe they had that right? Why or why not?
7) What is the high-school dropout rate in Texas and Florida?
And finally, for extra credit: As a young person, what can you do to make America better?
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