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Obama speech linkJISHOU, HUNAN — I am now convinced that a certain segment of the US population is now certifiably insane.

I have blogged about parents squawking about teachers who used to be porn actresses, about teachers taking kids to art museum to see statues of nude people, about schools allowing creationism to be taught in science classes, about students talking about God and Jesus in commencement addresses. These concerns are understandable, even if I don’t always agree with the parents doing the complaining. Sex and religion are after all touchy subjects.

But to object to their children hearing the President of the United States talk about the importance of education? I just don’t get it. They must be crazy.

Hey, people! He’s the fucking President of the USA! He won by majority vote. He’s YOUR president. It’s not like he’s Charles Manson or that whacko who held a girl hostage for 18 years in his backyard.

Barack Obama, a guy who rose from a low-income, single-parent family to become the leader of the Free World, wants to talk to schoolchildren on Sept. 8 on the importance of staying in school and getting an education. It apparently worked for him just fine.

Some parents, the kind who hang on every word Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin utter, the kind who use WorldNetDaily as their primary source of information, believe, however, that Obama will “indoctrinate” their children into becoming socialists, Marxists, Muslims, or I don’t what else.

So they are writing emails and letters and phoning schools saying they don’t want their kids to hear Obama’s speech … on the importance of being in school. [Cue Alannis Morrissette: “Isn’t it ironic?”] Some parents say they will keep their kids home from school, even.

In response, some school officials are issuing some the most wishy-washy policy announcements I have ever read, like this one from the Richardson (Texas) Independent School District (RISD):

Presidential Address
The U. S. Department of Education recently encouraged school districts to show a live address by President Obama intended for students across the country. The address is scheduled for Tuesday, September 8. According to the Department of Education, “the President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take on responsibility for their learning. He will call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible.”

This address is not part of the regular RISD curriculum, so viewing the broadcast is not a planned activity on September 8. RISD will make it available for optional student viewing on September 9, with parental permission required for grades K-8. Viewing of the entire speech will be in the auditorium, library, or central site in the school building. The option is available because of:

* the historic educational context,

* respect for the Office of the President of the United States, and

* the value of learning civic responsibility

As with any outside media event, the RISD respects the parent’s right to choose and advise their child.

Here’s an email from a superintendent in Minnesota:

Dear Staff,

A late notice has arrived that President Obama will be addressing the nation's school children at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8th and while I welcome any public figures effort to inspire our children to study hard and do well in school, the political climate of the nation, and based on the phone calls I have received the community, is such that not everyone is in support of the President's well meaning intentions. So please be informed of the district's position on the matter below. We all need to be on the same page on this.

The District Position on the Presidential Address:

The address will be taped and made available to buildings for showing at the appropriate time and after parents have been informed and offered and opportunity to opt out.

Rationale:

1. Late notice makes preparation and parent notification difficult
2. Broadcast time is during lunch hours creating a logistical problem
3. This is, unfortunately, a politically charged event and without the aforementioned parent notification we could be alienating some parents and children. Not the way we want to start the new school year.

Not part of the curriculum? So, current events I guess are out, too. Well meaning intentions? So, telling kids to stay in school is code for what, go bomb churches? Late notice? The broadcast is next week. Tornado warning are late notice; do you keep the kids in class then? A politically charged event? Only because crazy people are making it that way. A logistical problem? You can put the damned speech in the school PA system! AAGH!

This school district in Nebraska considers the presidential address the same as having a guest speaker appear at school. So, it has a parental opt-out form on line, in case parents want to pull their kids out of class. To avoid hearing the President of the United States. Dwell on that thought, while I tell you this guy is upset that the school district in question changed the form from a permission form to an opt-out form.

The columnist writes as his lede,

In a virtually unprecedented action, Douglas County School District (DCSD) Officials altered and rewrote a key document to greatly expand the number of impressionable children exposed to the direct influence of President Obama on September 8, 2009.

The direct influence. {Twilight Zone music plays in the background.} Watch out, parents, Obama’s got the Evil Eye! He will bewitch your children, and steal their souls.

In an earlier time, say when George W. Bush or even Bill Clinton were president, no one would even bat an eyelash about making kids watch them on TV. History teachers would fire up the TVs, classes would listen (in)attentively, then teachers and students would discuss what they saw. Bo-ring.

Now, however, we have a small but very loud minority who are convinced the sitting president is either the Anti-Christ or his closest living relative, and moreover, believe in the conspiracy theorists who say Obama is plotting to overthrow the US, toss Christians into concentration camps, euthanize their grandmothers, and turn children into automatons.

School officials are among the most wishy-washy individuals on Earth, preferring not to antagonize parents and quell any sort of controversy (except when the school officials are rightwing nutjobs, too). But I am one of those who believes educators have a higher calling than being complacent mouthpieces for their school districts. They should stand up for a free democracy, for a broad, open education. After all, Thomas Jefferson (third POTUS, I wonder parents would let TJ talk to their kids; Jefferson seemed to like his slave girls a little too much) said the foundation of a free republic is a well-educated populace.

“. . . whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right.”

I just wish somewhere in the United States some school officials would stand up for what is right, and tell these nutjob parents, “Our job is to educate your children. The president of the United States wants to tell them they need an education. So, we are going to let them listen to him. Any problems? There’s the door.”

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