Still Lessons To Be Learned From The Obama School Address Controversy
Lincoln is credited with saying that the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. Likewise, totalitarian movements such as Nazism and Communism expended considerable resources on efforts designed to sway the youth of their respective countries into embracing ideologies inimical to the self interest of the student.
Viewing himself in the pantheon of historical figures by which entire eras are remembered, Barack Obama also realizes the necessity of claiming the hearts and minds of the young if he is to transcend the chasm between that of mere government administrator or even head of state to that of an adored icon an entire culture or way of life is built upon.
Though the administration distanced itself from the original lesson plan and disavowed any purpose for the President's broadcast address other than to tell students to stay in school, the fact that such a document was even formulated provides a glimpse into the worldviews of the influential at the highest levels of the bureaucracy and administration. Therefore, even if the misbegotten memorandum is scrubbed from the Internet and its existence denied to the same extent as the Star Wars Christmas special, it must still be scrutinized as part of the documentary history of the United States.
Despite however White House operatives might spin it now, the President and his handlers intended this speech to be more than a simple welcoming of the school year. Each section of the lesson plan revealed even more about the intent of the section that preceded it.
According to the section titled “Before The Speech”, teachers were instructed to have students read books about Barack Obama. For high schoolers, would the President’s operatives in the Department of Education endorse and applaud works of a contrarian perspective such as “Obamanation” by Jerome Corsi and “The Culture Of Corruption” by Michelle Malkin, or is the suggestion merely euphemism for laudatory tomes of a worshipful nature?
Another study question read, “Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials?...Why is what they say important?” Just let the tone of that one mull around in your brain for a moment.
From the way that is formulated, what the question is calling for is unquestioning obedience. For if it didn’t, it would also be accompanied with a question sparking the realization that it is also important for elected officials to also listen to citizens.
In the section “During The Speech”, it is suggested in a roundabout way that, instead of looking critically in terms of what the President as a politician is trying to get over on or swindle from the American people, students should readily embrace whatever it is that the President is asking them to do. No where were students asked to question whether or not it is proper for the President to ask anything of them beyond the purview of his delineated constitutional authority.
It is bad enough for agents of the state to guide the student through a mental exercise with the largely predetermined goal of increasing the student’s fidelity to a particular presidential administration. It is even worse when plans are made to determine and catalogue the degree of compliance on the part of students.
In the lesson plan, teachers were instructed to have students record their thoughts on sticky notes and to write down their goals on index cards. Big deal, some might say, as such a format is quite transient and easily discardable.
Don’t be so sure. Often in the workplace, when management wants to gather intelligence on the mere laborers, workers are compelled to scribble our thoughts on post-its that are then collected after a staff meeting.
These are then either tacked on a flipchart for everyone to see or transcribed for later distribution as the minutes of the meeting. Had the original lesson plan been adhered to, what the students jotted down wouldn’t have been something simply graded in terms of how well it was thought out in terms of content or mechanics but something ultimately forgotten about as the educational process moved on, but these might have come back to haunt the students at a later date.
For example, in the section of the lesson plan titled "The Extension Of The Speech" teachers are instructed to collect what the students have written and to post these around the classroom where all can see them. Students are to interview (or in other words interogate) each other in order to create a supportive COMMUNITY.
In other words, educators are to establish subdued reeducation camps where students either denounce their classmates failing to live up to the expectations of the Obama regime or out of fear of peer pressure enunciate aspirations that are in compliance with the prerogatives of the group rather than their own or those of their respective families. In a system of secularized government education, even if I have no goal other than sitting on my rear-end after I come home from work and stuff my face with bonbons hour after hour, who is anyone to criticize me whatsoever?
Two of the greatest threats to the sanctity and authority of the family is a peer group and a government that do not uphold the corpus of Biblical values. As destructive as questionable companions can be as a bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, at least these won’t usually keep extensive files for decades to come used to determine future educational and occupational opportunities.
Had these assorted sticky notes, index cards, and related scribblings been collected as suggested in the original lesson plan they would have likely been forwarded surreptitiously to the Departments of Education and Homeland Security. For starters, they were already to be kept until a later date and redistributed so that teachers might be able to hold students accountable to these so-called “goals”.
But beyond academic criteria such as grammar and the application of facts to a formulated question, should public educators be given the authority to evaluate aspects of the life of the student beyond the classroom? Some might respond that concerns of the ruminations of students being turned over to be catalogued by the government is paranoid. But is it really?
One provision in the lesson plan suggested that students should be encouraged to submit two minute videos to the Department of Education's "I Am What I Learn" contest "explaining why education is important and how their education will help them achieve their dreams." And what if the student responds that education --- provided one is able to rise above the swill urging intellectual conformity --- will assist them in realizing that the vast majority of politicians are frauds and full of it?
Despite the fact that the government acting through educational institutions exercises a degree of power to the extent of altering the course of students' lives, some are disturbingly blasé about Obama’s desire to wrap his tentacles even tighter around the minds of as many students as possible. This attitude can shockingly be found even among those claiming to be Conservative that really ought to know better.
In his 9/7/09 column titled "The Obama Controversy --- What To Think", Albert Mohler proved just how quickly some Christian leaders are willing to turn on their more discerning brethren in order to appease the sophisticated and curry favor with elites. In his opening paragraph, Mohler questions, "Why would a speech calling for students to remain in school and set personal goals for themselves incite any controversy at all? Is this just another eruption of the culture war?"
For a theological historian or historical theologian, Mohler exhibits a disturbing misunderstanding regarding the past, the so-called "orders of creation", and the public role of believers in society.
Though an understanding of the Culture War has had to advance beyond belief in the infallibility of the Republican Party, shouldn't Mohler realize that there are things worth fighting for and that much of the acrimony characterizing American culture today is not the fault of believers or other kinds of conservatives and libertarians wanting to mind their own business and to raise their children in a spirit of individuality and a religious adoration of the family's own choosing.
The fundamental issue at hand here is just whom has God entrusted children to regarding those matters beyond mere survival. Ought a child's worldview to be molded primarily by largely law-abiding parents or by a federal government that ultimately does not know the child and can only care about the child in the most detached and abstract manners?
Mohler writes, "At this level, the controversy is a national embarrassment. Conservatives must avoid jumping on every conspiracy theory and labeling every action by the Obama administration as sinister or socialist. Our civic culture is debased when opposing parties and political alignments read every proposal by the other side as suspect on its face.”
Is Mohler’s enthusiasm for gentility and manners going to do him any good when his children are forcibly hauled off for mandatory national service? Mohler might be willing to swallow the party line that the President intended nothing more for the day than to encourage students to strive for their best (efforts for which these youngsters will actually be penalized for as adults by Obama’s own policies), however, there is indeed evidence that the Obama regime did indeed have other intentions for the occasion.
The day President Obama enunciated his scholastic oration, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would be infiltrating the Girl Scouts. As part of the President’s “My Education, My Future” initiative, Secretary Janet Napolitano and the Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scouts of America unveiled a new emergency preparedness merit patch.
To earn this honor, scouts must identify and prepare for potential emergencies, learn about local alerts and warning systems, and engage in community service. By themselves, these things are neutral.
However, what should concern the astute American is that the involvement of the Department of Homeland Security goes beyond the publication of a few pamphlets and workbooks. The initiative is to be administered by Citizen Corps, a division of FEMA.
Does anyone honestly believe the program is going to remain limited to memorizing public safety platitudes that are the contemporary equivalent of either "stop, drop, and roll" or "duck and cover"? Eventually, in the name of defending the Motherland and public health, at first girl scouts and eventually all children irrespective of whether or not they belong to these organized youth movements will be compelled to reveal to authorities what their parents prepared for supper, how far they drove the car on the weekend, and even if they have enunciated any reactionary perspectives such as salvation being found only through belief in Christ and marriage only being between a monogamous man and a monogamous woman.
Unsettling as Obama's power grabs are, even more disturbing is the ease with which some grant Obama a free pass for the most ludicrous of reasons.
Contemporary mainstream Evangelicalism holds that since all people are equal ontologically irrespective of race, all people should be held to the same standard. From that flows the corollary that individuals should be held to the very same criticism.
However, according to Albert Mohler, our response should not so much be based on the objectivity of a specific truth but rather tailored to pander to the preferences of a particular group. Of the President’s remarks on education, Mohler said, "Let's be honest here. Most middle-class white kids get plenty of these messages, starting at home. But might this message be particularly helpful for a child struggling for a role model or looking for justifications for his studiousness?"
In other words, middle class White parents should be made to feel guilty for actually taking care of their progeny instead of pawning them off on the social welfare system while they go off clubbing in pursuit of the parent of their next bastard child. If minority parents deliberately neglect their children, that is their own fault and White people are not obligated to take this unfortunate reality into account when formulating their own parental decisions. It is just as immoral for church officials to play on racial guilt as those in government.
It has been said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Provided a certain level of physical care is maintained, parents (not government officials, credentialed educators, or even eminent theologians) should be the ones to determine through what form in what manner values and the precious heritage of this great nation should be passed on to their respective offspring.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.