I live in North Carolina, and although we voted for Obama in 2008, it would be a mistake to consider this Obama Country. He still has a lot of support in the cities, but in working class neighborhoods and rural areas he’s seen with the same disdain as Jimmy Carter. Probably worse, since Carter had the good graces to be a southerner.
This morning Obama spoke to school kids across the country via television from Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School in Philadelphia. The address was about what you’d expect from any president on such an occasion, nonpartisan and motivational. He urged students to “dream big” and “stay focused” on their education. Pretty harmless stuff, which maybe a few students found moving and probably many more found boring, school kids being who they are.
But wherever Obama goes, controversy follows.
Here in North Carolina, many parents objected to their children being exposed to our president in this manner. Despite assurances from the White House that the event would be “nonpolitical,” many parents seemed to suspect he would use the occasion as an attempt to indoctrinate their children into the politics of the left. Because of this, the school board here in Forsyth County decided to excuse students from watching the event if their parents requested.
This decision bothered me. After all, Obama is our president and watching this address could very well be considered an educational experience, if only because it would allow students to witness a moment of history that involved them. Would this mean we’d now allow parents to pull their students from science class where they’d learn the theory of evolution instead of the “fact” of biblical creation? It didn’t seem to me that this was a very good door for the education board to be opening.
Then I thought back a quarter of a century.
What if it was 1984 and President Reagan was going to give a similar television address to the country’s school kids? Would I object if some of my liberal friends wanted to pull their children from this event, fearing that the hand of conservative big brother might be coming into play? As much as I hated Reagan, probably not. And I’d probably be pretty indignant at the school board if they forced children to sit through a speech by the Teflon president regardless of their parents wishes.
So I quickly changed my mind. It’s all right, I guess, for parents to attempt to shield their children from viewpoints from the perceived opposition. However, if it was 1984 and I had children, I’d happily let them sit through an address from “the great communicator,” as much as I was opposed to nearly everything about him. After all, it would have been a moment in history, and I would have trusted a child of mine to think critically and not be swayed by charm and a weak argument. It would also have given us something to talk about over dinner.
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