All right, I'll wade into this controversy manufactured by right-wing subversives over President Obama's planned telecast speech to school kids next week. Because, yes, the nut cases have sufficiently hyped their paranoid hysteria such that I received a robo-call from Pomona High School in Arvada this morning offering all the details for that school's airing of the Obama address.
The big picture observation for me is that this is yet another little piece of evidence that the social contract and the cultural consensus that has kept us functioning as a civil society in this country is pulling apart. The cynicism is furrowing so deeply now amongst the populous that any incident is immediately ripe for exploitation by those promoting racism, resentment and rebellion -- namely the lunatic right-wing. The direction of this decline in rationale thinking will be a degradation of civil behavior as well. If this bitter minority does not come to its senses soon, there will be violence and chaos.
On the level of day-to-day political maneuvering, I'll make four or five points.
First, I wish President Obama were keeping his mouth shut and not wasting our children's classroom time next week. On the other hand, students listening to his platitudes about studying hard means that at least they will not be undergoing standardized testing for thirty or forty minutes. Really, public school is so filled with non-learning activities that kids would derive greater benefit if teachers kept their own teaching time to themselves instead of handing it over Obama.
That highlights, I think, the triviality of this 'controversy'. President Obama's address to students isn't sinister indoctrination, its actually just another waste of time.
Second, however, there is the other point that Obama's education policy is at odds with what he will be exhorting the kids to do, that is, learn and succeed. The accountability/testing/standards schooling theory that Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are advocating is destructive of the impulse of children to learn, investigate, think, explore and grow. So, the words President Obama may speak will undoubtedly sound wonderful and inspirational -- but his policies and proposals as president for education are debilitating and demoralizing for students, teachers and parents.
Third, the right-wing's attacks on the President for this speech are certainly ironic considering Obama's python-like embrace of George W. Bush's 'No Child Left Behind' scheme. In other words, on substance the extreme right doesn't have a clue what they are upset about except that frothing-at-the-mouth radio talkers and sore loser Republican 'leaders' are telling them that they need to be outraged.
Fourth, even on the superficial level the charges and accusations and hysteria coming out of the mouths of the right-wing demonstrates that they don't have a clue what they are upset about. What more proof do you need that public and private education -- for conservatives anyway -- has been a failure. Such a lack of critical thinking and the manifestation of blatant ignorance is, well, astounding. No wonder the Republican Party is experiencing death throes. It takes a genuinely mush-filled mind to repeat radio talk show mantras about Obama being a Nazi and a Marxist both at the same time. If there ever was a national herd of sheep in the American political culture, it is the teabagging, townhall screamers, "where's the birth certificate" mob.
Finally, well, how can you feel any sympathy for the Obama White House for having to endure this insanity? They rolled out the red carpet inviting this kind of abuse. When you win a great electoral victory promising 'change' and purporting to offer 'hope' to average Americans, but upon taking office you deliver hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts to corrupt bankers; you don't end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; you run-up nine trillion dollars of federal debt and don't repeal the Bush tax cuts and actually increase the military budget; when you stand on the verge of making your 'principled' stand for what amounts to the Republican version of health care reform ... well, nobody is going to respect you.
What this means for us specifically is that the Obama speech to students controversy elicits a "pox on both your houses" attitude. For the future of the nation it is simply a sign of the coming times.
Arne Duncan and the Chicago Success Story: Myth or Reality? Jitu Brown, Eric (Rico) Gutstein, and Pauline Lipman/Rethinking Schools Online