Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Republican Todd Weiler: Party Lines - How should parents/schools respond to Obama?

Add ImageBy Todd Weiler, Republican

When President George H.W. Bush decided to make an address directly to children in schools in 1991, Democrats accused him of making it into a campaign commercial. Eighteen years later, the tides have turned. Some conservatives, who are manifesting a deep seated mistrust of the current administration, see something “Orwellian” about President Obama trying to circumvent them and speak directly to their children. Hopefully Rob Miller and I can agree that taxpayer dollars should never be used to spread a socialist ideology through the public school system.

While the White House claims the President’s message is “simply a plea to students to really take their learning seriously, find out what they're good at, set goals, and take the school year seriously,” the written materials released last week (before the controversy erupted) tell a slightly different story.

Some of the language in those materials seemed to play into the critics’ contention that the address was about building Obama’s image more than about educating our children. For instance, teachers were prompted to ask the children, “What is the president inspiring me to do?” They were also encouraged to make posters of Obama’s notable quotes about education.

The lesson plans, available online, originally recommended having students “write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.” This comes on the heels of a video shown to elementary school students in Farmington last week that contained messages from celebrities who pledged to “serve Barack Obama”.

Isn’t the President a servant of the people? Isn’t he supposed to be serving us? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children to serve their neighbors and the country as a whole, rather than one individual who happens to already be the world’s most powerful man?

The story has legs because there is a ring of truth in the charge that Obama may have tried to use the opportunity to promote his political agenda while overstepping the boundaries of federal involvement in schools.

I have reviewed the text of the speech that was released 24 hours before it was to be given and found nothing objectionable about it. But the question will linger as to what revisions may or may not have been made after some parents started announcing they would be pulling their kids from schools.

One Arizona state school superintendent said the lesson plans released for teachers “call for a worshipful rather than critical approach.” Other school officials have expressed concern that Obama is “cutting out the parent” by speaking to kids during school hours.

As a result, school districts in states like Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students.

Like Gov. Gary Herbert, I have no problem with our nation’s president addressing our school children. While I strongly disagree with some of President Obama’s political positions, I respect him and the office to which he was duly elected by the American people. I do not believe his speech is an attempt to commence political indoctrination or to mold impressionable young minds into his left-wing rationale.

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