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Chelsea Schilling

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Sept. 3, 2009

Objections to president's speech

Several bloggers discussed their thoughts on the president's address to schoolchildren on the Free Republic website. The following are some comments about the upcoming speech:

  • I'm so mad right now, I think my head will explode.
  • You don't mess with people's kids! There's a line, and he'd better no cross it or he will cause a revolution in this country.
  • This idea reeks of Bill Ayers.
  • He is treading on very dangerous ground.
  • Thank God we live in Alaska. That's 8 a.m. up here, and most of the students are still eating breakfast. I'll read the transcript later in case I want to experience nausea.
  • Why does this have to be a live broadcast? Why must all schools halt at the appointed time to listen to our dear leader? It doesn't accommodate children or the families very well.
  • Isn't it time for parents to organize a national campaign to pull their kids out of school on that day?
  • Have you called your local school today to express your opinion about the Obama propaganda video and lesson plan? If not, now is a good time. Even if you do not have children in school, you pay taxes to support it and you have to live with the results of its teachings, so you have a stake in the outcome.
  • I would keep my kid out for the whole day instead of just a couple of hours – the school districts receive an amount per student based on their daily attendance, so the thing to do is to hit them in the pocketbook, where it hurts.
  • I will be keeping both of my children out the entire day. Our school district has said they will be airing the speech and also have other activities planned around it. Knowing what some of these school boards and administrators are like, those activities could be more damaging than an Obama speech.
  • I assume brownshirts will be taking the names of those who opt out.

Several people referred to Sept. 8 as "National Keep Your Kids at Home Day."

The Nationwide Tea Party Coalition announced its "Hall Pass on That" website, with several suggested actions for parents who do not approve of their children participating in the presentation. The coalition offers the following suggestions:

  • Contact the child's school to find out whether it is participating in the program.
  • If your child's school is participating, ask what alternatives there are for the children of families who wish for their students to learn about the establishment of the country respective to the Founding Fathers' intentions. Discussions may focus on the Constitution, the definition and actions of a republic and the responsibility of elected leaders to their constituents.
  • Ask if the school can excuse your child from the presentation and instead receive a DVD of the address and copy of the activity directives to be evaluated by parents at a later date.
  • Request a meeting with the school board, superintendent and principal to inquire as to why parents were excluded from the decision-making process of this event.

Pre- and post-speech lesson plans

The Education Department has been encouraging teachers to create lesson plans around the speech, using materials provided on the department website.

As WND reported, worksheets provided by the U.S. Department of Education encouraged teachers to ask pre-K through 6th-grade students the following questions:

  • What is the president trying to tell me to do?
  • What is the president asking me to do?
  • What new ideas and actions is the president challenging me to think about?

Students may be asked to write down "key ideas or phrases that are important or personally meaningful, make posters of their goals, create a "supportive community" by sharing those goals with one another.

Junior-high and high-school students may be asked to brainstorm answers to the following questions before the speech:

  • Why does President Obama want to speak with us today?
  • How will he inspire us?
  • How will he challenge us?
  • What might he say?

They are encouraged to take notes while Obama speaks about personal responsibility, goals or persistence. As part of a "guided discussion," they may talk about what Obama has inspired or challenged them to do.

Fox News reported that the White House is now "rethinking" its course recommendations for students and rewriting its suggestions for student assignments on how to "help the president."

Among the activities suggested for pre-K to 6th grade students were to "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president" and discuss what "the president wants us to do."

According to the report, the suggestion about writing letters has been changed to: "Write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals."

Lessons prompt concerns about 'illegal activity'

The Texas Justice Foundation warned the proposed '"classroom activities'" for teachers as to how they should handle the president's Sept. 8th speech to American schoolchildren, reveal that illegal activity may occur, if the recommendations are followed."

"The questions, comments, evaluations and analysis that occurs before, during, and after the president's speech will clearly 'reveal information concerning political affiliations' and probably, 'critical appraisals of other individuals with whom the child(ren) has/have close family relationships' (such as parents)," the foundation said in a press release. "This is perhaps one of the greatest invasions of personal privacy and injecting political affiliation into the public school system in the history of the United States."

The group said the speech may violate protections provided in the Pupil Rights Amendment.

"It also violates 34 Code of Federal Regulations Section 98.4[c] [1] and [2] that defines psychological testing as:

(1) Psychiatric or psychological examination or test means a method of obtaining information, including a group activity, that is not directly related to academic instruction and that is designed to elicit information about attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs or feelings; (emphasis added)

(2) Psychiatric or psychological treatment means an activity involving the planned, systematic use of methods or techniques that are not directly related to academic instruction and that is designed to affect behavioral, emotional, or attitudinal characteristics of an individual or group. (emphasis added)

Texas Justice Foundation warned that the group activities suggested by the Department of Education "are not directly related to academic instruction and that are designed to elicit information about attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings."

"At this time of intense controversy over the president's far-reaching plans to transform America, it is incredible that he would consider using children to advance his political agenda," Justice Foundation President Allan Parker said. "It violates the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children, federal law and is perhaps the greatest intrusion of a president into the education process in the history of the United States. In the opinion of the Texas Justice Foundation lawyers, it is both morally and legally wrong."

'Public relations tactic gone too far'

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom, objected to the Obama administration message to schoolchildren in a Cato Institute article titled, "Hey Obama, leave those kids alone."

"It's one thing for a president to encourage all kids to work hard and stay in school – that's a reasonable use of the bully pulpit," McCluskey wrote. "It's another thing entirely, however, to have the U.S. Department of Education send detailed instructions to public schools nationwide on how to glorify the president and the presidency, and push them to drive social change. Frighteningly, this is what President Obama has done."

McCluskey objected to Department of Education-suggested classroom activities for pre-K-6 students encouraging children to make posters setting out "community and country" goals.

"Perhaps even more frightening is the lesson schools are pushed to teach that it is important to listen to 'the president and other elected officials,'" he wrote. "Possibly most distressing of all, though, is guidance that appears explicitly designed to glorify both the presidency and President Obama himself …"

He said the White House is trying to use its power over education to "indoctrinate children, something completely antithetical to a free society."

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder condemned Obama's speech as a "public relations tactic" that has gone too far.

"I believe that if parents choose to keep their children at home during this presentation, they should be able to do so without any consequences being imposed upon their children," Kinder said. "And if local school districts across Missouri choose not to make this speech mandatory for students, they should not face any penalties for the state or federal government."

Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, said in a statement that he believes Obama's speech may be a platform "to spread" his "socialist ideology."

"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the president justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other president, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power."

He continued, "While I support educating our children to respect both the office of the American president and the value of community service, I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda. The address scheduled for Sept. 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the president's agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our president's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates."