I am not at all pleased that Obama is going to descend upon an impressionable and captive audience on September 8. While I don’t expect him to do much more than mouth “lame” platitudes about education and service (meaning, of course, service to liberal causes not, God forbid, military service), I’m offended on principle to a highly partisan president speaking directly to all children without their parents there to mediate.
Making it worse, of course, is the “course material” all the schools are receiving. This material encourages the adminstration — the same people we instruct our children to respect — to have the children read bios about Obama (and perhaps some other dead white presidents), and to figure out what Obama wants them to do. In my school district, which is heavily liberal (the bumper stickers are the giveaway), this is a problematic window of opportunity for both express and implied bias.
Unsurprisingly, there is a movement afoot for conservative parents to keep their children at home:
In impossible times, the only way to be a responsible parent is to do the irresponsible thing. If my son were in a public school…
I’d call him in sick next Tuesday. I’d keep him home. I suggest you do so. I urge you to do so. If pressed, be honest about your reasons — but be reasonable about presenting them. Otherwise, don’t offer an explanation. Make it a silent protest.
And while your kids are home, think up some patriotic games to play. Rent the delightful (and true-in-spirit-if-not-in-fact) musical, 1776. Set off some fireworks. Make it a mini Fourth of July.
Can’t take the time off work? Well, I’m sure you have at least one patriotic neighbor with an older child, who might jump at the chance to play a little sanctioned hooky — and make some babysitting money, too.
Spread the word. Pass the link around. And see if the President’s face is still smiling, when he realizes he’s talking to half-empty classrooms. Do make it a teachable moment — one where the would-be teacher does the learning.
I actually have a different idea (although I still recommend 1776). You see, what we’ve got here is one of those incredibly rare opportunities when we know in advance the Progressive political material heading for our children. Those moments are so rare. I know, of course, that my children’s public school education is permeated by liberal-think but, short of attending school with them and reading every bit of material put before them, I have no idea what, precisely, that material is or when it’s going to be funneled into their absorbent little minds. At home, I try to keep the kids grounded with a global conservative perspective (patriotism, self-reliance, capitalism, a strong self-defense), but those general principles may not protect them against some insidious little seed planted in their fertile brains.
The most common situation is that which parents in Utah faced. After the fact, those parents learned that their children had been exposed to a blatantly propagandistic film urging them to pledge themselves to serve Obama. At that point, parents are left with nothing more than damage control. The kids can’t understand why Mommy and Daddy are getting so red in the face, and they’re embarrassed by those calls to the principal.
It’s so much better to teach our children prospective critical thinking so that they can put this whole thing — Obama’s inevitably vapid speech and the faculty’s equally inevitable swooning — in perspective. We all have the tendency to shelter our children from ideas we don’t like but, when we do, we become exactly like our Progressive counterparts. By barring from the classroom anything but PC thought, they are steadily destroy critical thinking in multiple generations of American youth. I can’t shelter my children forever. They have to go out in the world and learn how to analyze facts and arguments on their own. If I don’t teach them these analytical skills, they will forever be prey to every ugly trend and evil demagogue.
So rather than keeping your kids at home on Tuesday, spend the Labor Day weekend talking with them. In age appropriate language, you can talk to them about their responsibility as students, a responsibility that includes, not just learning, but also thinking.
Explain to them that public schools are meant to serve all people in America, whether they like the president or not. Ask them to observe whether the faculty at their school seems to like Obama or not. Explain that someone’s likes or dislikes may color the way that person presents information. I frequently give my children detailed data about my dislike for Obama, but I’m always careful to add: “Remember, I don’t like Obama. That’s going to color what I tell you. Talk to your father for the other side.” (So far, Dad hasn’t convinced them, but he doesn’t have much to work with, does he?)
We can also remind our children that, just as a stopped watch is right twice a day, a politician whose ideas offend us (as Obama’s do me) can still have some good ideas. If Obama really is encouraging children to work hard in school, he’s right.
Since we know Obama’s going to make a call for service, and that he will either say or imply (as will most school faculty), that this service requires abandoning the private sector and propping up government, explain to your children your concern that too much service from government saps individual self-reliance, and leads to weak and unhappy people. (And if you need examples for this premise, open any British newspaper on any day of the year.) Ask your children to think about types of service that make us strong, or that are so necessary to a nation’s survival that they are worth the risks. For example, military service requires strong troops, but it certainly leads to a population that has abdicated its own role in its defense. Israel, of course, circumvents this Catch-22 by making service mandatory of all citizens.
Although the whole idea of an Obama lecture to America’s youth is unpleasant, I think we’ve been handed a golden opportunity to engage our children before they get hit by a Progressive education bomb. The lessons in critical thinking that they take away from this moment may prove a useful building block to a more meaningful education, one in which they are able to separate educational wheat from Progressive chaff.
UPDATE II: Bob Owens thinks as I do:
[F]orbidding your children from hearing his empty platitudes gives the impression that there is something in his speech that constitutes a threat to what they are being taught at home. It makes him forbidden fruit, instead of merely a fruitcake. It also teaches them that they should quit or skulk away when they encounter a bad idea of a problem, instead of taking it head-on. I want my kids to face life by taking on challenges, not shirking them.