Friday, September 04, 2009

C-J Smacks Holliday; H-L Channels KSN&C; Obama not the First; WH to release text; Other reactions

This from the Courier-Journal:

A bad decision

In our hyper-heated political times, this inspirational talk is being turned into a major controversy, with some parents demanding that their children not be subjected to the President's message.

How sad it is that we have come to the point in this country where the President of all the people cannot talk to children about taking responsibility and working hard. Could the outrageous demonstrations of hate and prevarication that have dominated health care forums this summer now move to the schoolroom?

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has knuckled under to parental requests and told school officials that they must provide alternative activities for children of the objectors. This isn't just sad; it's outrageous.

The President of the United States — be he Barack Obama, Dwight Eisenhower or Theodore Roosevelt — ought to be able to speak words of encouragement to young people without being subject to parental censorship. Have we become so splintered in this nation that we can't unite over something as fundamental as the subject Mr. Obama will discuss? We hope Mr. Holliday has the good sense to reverse this bad decision.
This from the Herald-Leader:

Message from the president

The president of the United States will urge the nation's youth to work hard in school, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning.

Unless you're getting a paycheck from the Republican Party or for trashing Barack Obama, there's no reason to see anything sinister about this.

If anything, Obama should be thanked for using his bully pulpit and popularity with youth to communicate the value of education and persistence.

The right-wing backlash speaks volumes about Obama's detractors. The ranters are wound up after a season of red-faced anger, lies about health care and guns displayed at public events.

They go beyond the pale, though, by saying the nation's children need protection from our president's words.

What do they fear? That in a 15-minute speech Obama can hypnotize the nation's youth into forgetting everything their parents ever taught them and ... what? Do their homework?

It's especially repugnant that Kentucky Republican Party chairman Steve Robertson uses imagery associated with pedophilia — "circumvent parents . . . gain direct access to our children . . . creepy" — to demonize Obama. Robertson plays on the fear of black men, an old and ugly racial stereotype, and he should be ashamed...

Susan weighs in at Prichard:

The president and the children

I wish President Reagan had thought of an annual opening message and every president since had followed his example. It is not just an opportunity for a president can give voice to our shared national respect for education. It's an opportunity for the students to experience our shared national respect for the leaders chosen through our democratic process, including those for whom we (or our parents) did not vote.
Turns out...Reagan did. So we should shine a little light on this from PolitiFact:

Barack Obama is not the first president to address school children.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged the nation's principals to allow their students to watch a Sept. 8 address on the importance of education from President Barack Obama...

We rated that claim Pants on Fire! ...

President George H.W. Bush gave an address to schools nationwide in 1991, from a junior high school in Washington, D.C. News reports from the time said the White House hoped that the address would be shown at schools nationwide, and Bush began his remarks by saying he was talking to "millions" of students "in classrooms all across the country."

You can read Bush's complete remarks via the Web site of his presidential library...

You may have guessed this already, but news reports from the time indicate that Democrats criticized Bush for giving the speech.

"The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students," said Rep. Richard Gephardt, then the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives."And the president should be doing more about education than saying, 'Lights, camera, action.'" ...

Republicans, though, defended the right of the president to address students. "Why is it political for the president of the United States to discuss education?" asked Newt Gingrich, who was then the House Republican whip. "It was done at a nonpolitical site and was beamed to a nonpolitical audience. . . . They wanted to reach the maximum audience with the maximum effect to improve education." ...

We also found that Ronald Reagan took questions from high school students at the White House in 1986, and the question-and-answer session was broadcast nationally.

Reagan urged the students to stay in school and say no to drugs, but he also discussed overtly political matters, such as national defense funding, nuclear disarmament and -- in suprising policy detail -- taxes. (Read Reagan's complete remarks.)

This from Politics K-12:

Flap Continues: Rep. John Kline Asks Obama to Release His Remarks

Rep. John Kline, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, sent a letter to the White House asking President Barack Obama to publicly release the text of his back-to-school address to kids, to be delivered next week. (According to this Washington Post story, Obama already had planned to do just that). UPDATE: And indeed, the White House said today that the text of the speech will be available on Monday at

As you may know, some Texas districts have expressed qualms about letting kids listen, because of language in one of the lesson plans accompanying the speech that gave students suggestions for how they could "help" the president, prompting claims that the speech would politically indoctrinate kids...

And this from Justin at EdJurist:

The President's Speech to Students and the Craziness that Ensued

Okay ... approaching the edge of sanity today with the public outcry against the President's upcoming address to students returning to school. This whole thing, the politicization of this event by some, makes me a little sick to my stomach....the common trend I am seeing from administrators today is to a) either don't interrupt the schedule for it, or b) allow students to opt out. I am seeing some administrators on the various listservs I belong to requiring their students to see it - and I commend them for it - but they are the exception. The safe route here is to permit students to opt out. In fact, the new Commissioner here in KY has said that schools need to "provide alternatives." So, as long as you are providing an alternative (hello, study hall) to students or parents that are on the edge of the deep end, then you school administrators should be fine.

This, too, shall pass.

There was plenty of reaction in letters section of the Herald-Leader as well.

This from Jeff Worley in H-L:
Incited perhaps by WLAP 630-AM's conservative talk-jock Leland Conway, who called such a direct address to students "creepy," 25 to 50 parents phoned the Fayette County school district to complain about the president's noontime Tuesday speech to their kids. What are these parents afraid of?

Kentucky GOP chief Steve Robertson knows: The talk is an effort by Obama "to circumvent parents" and "gain direct access to our children."

Yes. Can't you just hear the president now (in a sonorous, hypnotic tone): "Now you kids be sure when you go home tonight to tell your mommies and daddies to support Uncle Obama's health-care plan, OK?"

Fueled by unfounded fear, parents who refuse to allow their kids to view this presidential talk are depriving their children of an exciting, unique and historical event.

This from Dave Woods:

Please tell me that the reporter incorrectly quoted Steve Robertson, Kentucky GOP chair, in the Thursday article regarding President Barack Obama's speech to the nation's children.

Having been an educator for 30-plus years in Kentucky, I am starting to realize why some children come to school with unfounded fears, prejudice and a reluctance to think thoughts other than what has been said to them by authoritative figures in their young lives.

"Kind of scary," an effort "to circumvent parents," and "gain direct access to our children" are statements that frighten me in relation to the president of the United States speaking to children.

Please have Robertson announce the candidates he is endorsing so I can vote for the opponents!

And from Tom Ringley:

So, it appears that the official Republican talking-points word for President Barack Obama's address to schoolchildren is "creepy."

You have to hand it to them. Republicans may despise every good and decent thing this country has ever stood for, but they have the best message discipline of anyone since the American Communist Party of the 1930s and 1940s.

And Dan Wu knows satire:

I couldn't agree more with Steve Robertson of the state GOP and talk-show host Leland Conway. An adult speaking directly to children without their parents present is very creepy. This is why I attend school everyday with my daughter; that way she's never alone with other adults trying to educate her.

As for the content of President Barack Obama's speech, I happen to have a copy of the agenda right here so parents can decide if they want their kids exposed to it.

Barack Hussein Obama will begin the broadcast with a reading from the Koran, followed by a visual lesson on gay marriage using two Ken dolls. Then he will decree a ban on slingshots and water guns then institute a tax on milk and Tater Tots. He will then conclude with a singalong to the socialist anthem The Internationale.

As you can see, conservatives' fears are well founded, as always.

Apologies for the fonts. I used Firefox on this post. It's a lot easier than IE is some ways but I'm having real difficulty controlling the font sizes.


Anonymous said...

This entire flap is generally a result of the growing mistrust of our President. His poll numbers have decreased quicker than any president in history. He has earned this mistrust and now has less than 50% of the people in his corner.

Anonymous said...

The President of the United States — be he Barack Obama, Dwight Eisenhower or Theodore Roosevelt — ought to be able to...

In the clip I copied here from the Courier Journal they just couldn't bring themselves to say " he Barack Obama, George W. Bush,..." could they. ;-)

Hey CJ...your clever attempt to hide your hypocrisy by jumping back to Eisenhower isn't fooling anyone ;-)

Anonymous said...

The president is the president. He was elected by the people and he should have the same respect. We are a country of free people who should have enough sense to allow our students to watch the president speak. Then the students could debate on what each student has heard on the merit of what was said. Censorship is now at its highest form if we as educators allow this type of censorship in our public school systems. How sad that we have come to this.

Anonymous said...

A tweet on Saturday from Commissioner Holliday:

RT @kycommissioner Suggestion to parents who ask for their children to opt out of President speech - watch the speech with children at home and discuss speech

It is unclear if the commish is asking for parents and students to view the message after school or to pull students out of school to view it live.

Richard Day said...

One of our commenters forgot that we try not to do name-calling at KSN&C. But that person said of Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, "He has no stake in the President's speech. He should mind his own business."