Free Markets, Free People

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Why Obama’s Kiddie Speech Is “Creepy”

In all honesty, I don’t have a big problem with Obama’s impending speech, primarily for tactical reasons. If he gives the speech that the right is worrying about (i.e. indoctrination towards his policy preferences such as universal health care, cap and trade, etc.) then his political world will crumble. Obama is smart enough to realize this. And I, as I expect are most American parents, am vigilant enough not to let such a message get too far with my kids. However, it’s the fact that any of us have to be on guard to such a speech that makes it creepy. Well, that and the President’s track record of seeking to use children to advance his own goals.

However, there is a current of thought that thinks it’s hypocritical to challenge Obama’s address to the nation’s children while ignoring others:

All this over a video address to kids telling them to stay in school.

I’ve got to wonder how these people felt twenty years ago when a Republican did it:

President Bush pleaded with young people around the nation today to stop using drugs and ”not to look the other way” when others do.

In a 15-minute nationally televised plea from the White House library, the President presented the latest round of an anti-drug campaign that began a week ago with another nationally broadcast message announcing a $7.9 billion package.

(…)

In the speech, Mr. Bush said that saying no to drugs ”won’t make you a nerd.”

”Presidents don’t often get the chance to talk directly to students,” Mr. Bush said. ”So today, for each of you sitting in a classroom or assembly hall, this message goes straight to you.

”Most of you are doing the right thing. But for those of you who let drugs make their decisions for them, you can almost hear the doors slamming shut.”

Equating drugs with death and displaying the badge of a slain 22-year-old rookie policeman, Mr. Bush said, ”I keep this badge in a drawer in my desk to remind me of that.”

Yea, I’m guessing they were pretty quiet back then when Bush 41 was advancing his ideological agenda and fighting the War On (Some) Drugs.

While I understand Doug’s disaffection with the Republican Party and its die-hard adherents (with good reason), I really don’t understand this line of attack. Is it really the same thing for a president to encourage kids to stay off of drugs as it is for a president to encourage school children to contemplate the many ways that they can fulfill the government’s wishes?

When Bush 41 was delivering his speech to the nation’s youth, he was at least spreading a message that had individual importance. There’s no question that avoiding recreational drugs is healthy way to live one’s life. It doesn’t justify the War on (Some) Drugs, but it’s not necessarily a message advocating fealty to government authority. In fact, the quotes above speak more to individual responsibility rather than respecting the president’s wishes: i.e eschewing drugs won’t make you a nerd, don’t let drugs make your decision for you, etc.

Again, I’m not trying to condone the destructive policy pursued by the federal government with respect to certain drugs. But when a president encourages our children to stay off them, I’m hard pressed to see that as some sort of intrusion into the realm of the parent or individual, much less a blatant call for nation’s kids to ponder what it is they can do to further the president’s goals.

Therein lies the rub.

President Obama has already shown that he’s not above using children to advance his political agenda, so it’s not surprising that those opposed to his aims would be a bit skeptical of his speech. Adding to the wariness is the fact that he only seems to make these speeches when he needs help with bolstering his political capital (e.g. the “race speech” after Jeremiah Wright blew up in his face). After the battering his health care insurance reform plans took in August, it almost seems too convenient that he would suddenly want to address all the school kids in the nation, right about when he’s planning to try and save the one program he truly wants to enact.

On top of all these legitimate worries is the fact that Obama’s administration has prepared lesson plans for the kiddies to absorb in the afterglow. Surely it’s not the first time that a president has done so, but have any other post-speech plans been so blatantly pro-subservience? I mean, look at these suggested lessons:

What do you think the President wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?

What, no questions such as “do you agree with the President’s position? Why/Why not?” Or how about, “Why should you do anything the President says?”, or “What are the pros and cons of the President’s proposals?”

Some of these wouldn’t make any sense if all Obama is going to do is encourage kids to stay in school and try theor best. But, then again, neither do the administration’s lesson plans. Nor the fact that Obama intends to do a live address rather than a taped PSA of some sort. All of which, again, provides plenty of reason to be skeptical of Obama’s speech.

In light of all the above, and regardless of whether anyone is being hypocritical or not, shouldn’t we all be a bit skeptical when the President of the United States decides to address our children when, at the same time, he is politically vulnerable and seeking some means of righting his listing ship? Maybe Republicans who are complaining now should have had more to say 20 years ago (if they were even politically aware back then), but that doesn’t mean they are wrong now. Charging hypocrisy does not negate the potential ill that may result from being less vigilant to government indoctrination. It only make that ill more possible