The commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Education ordered a review on Friday following the posting of a YouTube video depicting school children singing the praises of President Obama.
Video of the students at the Burlington, N.J., school shows them singing songs seemingly overflowing with campaign slogans and praise for "Barack Hussein Obama," repeatedly chanting the president's name and celebrating his accomplishments, including his "great plans" to "make this country's economy No. 1 again."
One song that the children were taught quotes directly from the spiritual "Jesus Loves the Little Children," though Jesus' name is replaced with Obama's: "He said red, yellow, black or white/All are equal in his sight. Barack Hussein Obama."
There were apparently death threats sent to the principal; of course, such threats are crimes, and should be punished. But I would hope that those responsible for the school project are properly disciplined as well; public school classrooms shouldn't be used to sing the praises of any sitting (or recent) political figure, whether Bush or Obama or anyone else.
That's not a constitutional matter — there's no Establishment Clause for political speech, and of course schools do routinely glorify past political figures, whether Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, or what have you. They also rightly express a calm respect for current elected officials; when an official comes to visit, for instance, it's proper for teachers to give the normal praise offered such visitors, and for students to join in.
But that some degree of ideological indoctrination and glorification is inevitable in government-run schools, and is in fact one of the purposes of such schools (which have long been justified as means of assimilating children into American democratic culture), doesn't mean that it's proper to lead children in songs praising the current President or particular aspects of his political agenda ("Hooray, Mr. President we honor your great plans / To make this country's economy number one again!"). I would have thought that this was pretty clear, and it probably is to most teachers in most schools — but not, unfortunately, in this instance.
Incidentally, the 2006 "Congress, Bush and FEMA / People across our land / Together have come to rebuild us and we join them hand-in-hand!" schoolchildren's song to First Lady Laura Bush is pretty bad, too — not quite the same, even if it was organized as a public school activity (which I suspect would indeed be so), since it didn't involve such extensive praise of a particular current political figure, but also not the sort of thing that schools should be doing.