Today I plan on filing a lawsuit against the estate of Ronald Reagan for making me endure his propaganda as a child. I mean, if wingnuts are so upset about the PRESIDENT telling kids to STAY IN SCHOOL, the least I can do is sue the fucker attempted to get schools to consider ketchup to be a goddamn vegetable or who “used” his Alzheimer’s disease to hide selling missiles to Iran.
Don’t forget the threat of nuclear annihilation I’m on board let’s go class action.
How is “using Alzheimer’s disease to hide selling missiles to Iran” an example of propaganda?
Iran Contra was more about treason than propaganda. I should be more clear in the post. Thanks for pointing that out!
(Fair warning: I will be sliding around this one with analogies and stuff in an attempt to articulate the way I reacted to this.) The people I’ve seen who wanted their kids to sit the speech out seem to be squicked less by the speech and more by federally produced “How to Help President Obama” documentation and lesson plans. I don’t blame them in the slightest for the emotional reaction; I think it’d be best to send your kids and talk it over with them later, but then I’m talky. 🙂 (Out of curiosity, how would you have reacted to a W. speech to the schoolchildren of the nation? With or without accompanying lesson plans?)
As an analogy, my biological father was pretty abusive. I’m over it and angst-free, but I’m very, very good at spotting possible dangerous behavior as a result. When I see a man behaving in ways that typify abusive relationships, I get antsy and start looking for ways to minimize the damage. I also read voraciously and have a decent grasp of 20th-century history. When I see a political leader behaving in ways that the nastier dictators of recent history have behaved, I go on my guard and start looking for ways to minimize the damage. I’d have been fine (OK, I’d have rolled my eyes in annoyance and then gotten on with my day) with a speech, but not with a concerted Department of Education “let’s think about the speech and work on Ways to Help Our President” program.
Now, by no means do I think Obama’s got a killing-people dictatorship in mind, BUT I have a slightly-better-than-layman’s grasp of history, and no matter what I think of the current president, my hackles go up and stay up at “let’s broadcast a speech to the schoolchildren and then talk about how we can help our leader”. Shades of Mao and Kim-Jong Il…it’s been a sign in the past of Very Bad Things, and therefore it puts me on my guard when I see it happening nearby. (You wanna talk “bad reactions”? Ask me about Shepard Fairey and his poster sometime.)
Boiled down, the reactions I’ve seen from most people have been “The speech is annoying pablum, the cult of personality is scary and keep it the hell away from my kids plx”. As a loving mommy wingnut (who has not discussed this with the daddy wingnut, who may have a totally different take), I’d have totally sent my daughter to listen to the speech, with a heads-up that I’d be discussing it with her afterwards and would want to know what SHE thought, not her teachers or classmates. (One of the proudest moments I’ve had this year was when her three-year-old self announced “she’s WRONG!” about a pontificating character in a book we were reading, and did her best to back it up.)
Every president has, in some way shape or form, addressed school children The Dept. Of Ed’s lesson plan “how can we help our leader” is no less offensive than the lesson plans I remember doing as a child during the Reagan administration. “How can we help our president. Here’s a thought exercise on how to survive a thermonuclear war!”
Bush’s education department, through No Child Left Behind, established a series of unfunded mandates that encourage less critical thinking and more teach to testing than any other federal program in the past 20 years.
The right is scared of Obama and, to be fair, I think the idea of “He’s trying to take over our country” is as absurd as the birth certificate and the Muslim question.
The difference between Reagan, Bush and Obama is the degree of politiciation and the Fox New’s unbalanced and crazy attacks on the left.
“When I see a political leader behaving in ways that the nastier dictators of recent history have behaved, I go on my guard and start looking for ways to minimize the damage.”
So did your hackles go up when Bush did the whole, “you’re with us or against us, we’ll have an eternal war with a shadowy enemy AND we can arrest people indefinitely and hide them from all legal processes?”
“lesson plans I remember doing as a child during the Reagan administration. ”
I alternated between private and home schools, so I have no earthly idea about those. There’s an emotional twist to the Obama/help the president stuff that squicks me to hell and gone, but I’ve done the best I can at putting my finger on it and don’t think I can refine it any further.
As for Bush, yes, my hackles went up. More along the lines of “this could be easy as hell to abuse, and probably will be”. My current case of hackleitis is…hard to nail. I respect Obama as president, but trust his goals only a little and his methods not at all.
Rashona: I thought I posted a comment a few days ago. I remember typing it out (Shannon, as my witness, can tell you I asked her about her Reagan Lesson Plans).
You’re the only one to the right of me who has ever mentioned feeling a bit squeamish about the Bush rhetoric. Blind loyalty to a candidate or a cause is a scary thing. Feeling that way is healthy. It shows, however, how much damage has been done to the institution of government since the 70s. We should be able to have some faith in our elected leaders.
As for the Reagan lesson plan, there was one in 1988 which I vaguely remember (and google pointed out). More vividly, I remember having lesson plans on, “how the president has to chose who would survive the very possible nuclear war scenario. ” I remember distinctly thinking that the Russians were going to kill us all and that I was going to be fried by a nuclear bomb. This occurred in 5th graded, as I remember looking in the encyclopedia about what would occur if Chicago got hit by a nuke.
I’ve thought that this lesson plan was standard for 5th graders in Catholic school. Turns out it was just my wacky suburban school.
We had this drill three or four times, discussing how we could save the American Catholic™ way of life in the threat of Russian Aggression™. I blamed this on Reagan. Turns out I should have blamed my old, old Pastor.
I’m sorry, but did I just read a comparison between Kim Jong-Il, Mao Zedong, and Barack Obama?
Why, yes I did!
Mommacow, you just blew my mind.
“When I see a political leader behaving in ways that the nastier dictators of recent history have behaved, I go on my guard and start looking for ways to minimize the damage. I’d have been fine (OK, I’d have rolled my eyes in annoyance and then gotten on with my day) with a speech, but not with a concerted Department of Education “let’s think about the speech and work on Ways to Help Our President” program.”
I really struggled with this one…it seems that you (MommaCow) are equating Obama’s speech directed at schoolchildren with state directed propaganda intended to manufacture a cult of personality. My basic question is: why? A cult of personality seeks to deify a figure, suggesting they are incapable of error and worthy of abiding faith. The only way in which Obama’s speech even mentions him is when he admits to sometimes disliking school and to feeling isolated.
If this speech were propaganda for a cult of personality, then admissions of errors and failings would be an odd inclusion. But then, it should be obvious that the speech comes nowhere close to propaganda if you hear or read it. It is simply a charming, compelling plea to students to take responsibility for their own education.
“Ah!” you say. “It’s not really the speech, but the lesson plans that come with it! Indoctrination! Indoctrination!”
Well, I cannot speak to the “let’s think about the speech and work on Ways to Help Our President” program you seem to think the Dept. of Education has issued, but that’s only because it doesn’t exist. A “How to Help President Obama” lesson plan might be a little worrisome, I suppose, depending on the content. Those titles for lesson plans are just (propaganda) figments from the wingnut echo chamber. The proper title is a duller “Menu of Classroom Activities: President Obama’s Address to Students Across America.” There are two versions, one for K-6 and one for 7-12. Neither version even contains the words help, assist, or aid. In fact, each version focuses on a primary goal: analyzing the President’s speech. Horrors! The closest they might come to indoctrination is in the 7-12 version, which uses language that might suggest that Obama can be inspirational, challenging, and possibly historic, but the only way I can see anyone objecting to this is if someone is unaware that he’s our first black President who is very popular and is asking students to do something difficult.
From my reading, your vague assertions of concern seem to boil down to one thing: Obama is popular, persuasive, and you don’t really like his political goals as a democrat. Which is fine. You’re allowed to not like him for those reasons. What’s unreasonable is when you and others then try to blur the line between being a popular democratically elected President and being a demagogue bent on seizing power. The two are scarcely synonymous, and to suggest that Obama’s behavior in any way recalls that of past dictators in their rise to power is an abuse of language and history. Mao, Kim Il-Sung, Stalin and Hitler were all riveting speakers, it is true, but by that standard almost every major political figure we have ever had in our country can be equated with villainy. The critical difference is that those dictators used the language of violence and revolution, and used the tools of the state as they gained control to suppress dissent through violence and intimidation.
So, you can dislike the President. You can even choose to distrust him. But don’t compare his methods or goals to history’s greatest villains without cause. It is disrespectful to history, if not Obama himself.
On a side note, the emphasis on developing a metacognitive understanding of learning and the importance of education is a core part of modern educational training. A variety of researchers have indicated it might actually be critically important. Pabulum it is not. Further, Obama’s address was notably nonpartisan. On the other hand, Bush II asked kids to write in and tell him how he could best achieve his goals, and Regan used one of his school speeches to defend tax cuts.
I just found your blog because you made the front page of WordPress … and I believe I have a new favorite! LOVE this post and I dig back a little deeper for those who are aghast at the idea of a President talking to our children about the importance of getting a good education (which SOMEHOW translates into Obama trying to brainwash the children into serving him and the Government (wait, while I laugh AGAIN at this idea) to recall JFK’s famous statement “Ask not what what your country can do for you, but for what you can do for your country.” Where was the uproar then? Isn’t that very idea what some folks are so upset that Obama is supposedly brainwashing into our kids heads?
Seriously … some folks in this country have gone insane.
I’m sorry, but did I just read a comparison between Kim Jong-Il, Mao Zedong, and Barack Obama?
Why, yes I did!
I did my very best to explain the level of comparison I was using and why I’m squicked. I know it’s a “vague assertion of concern”, and I wish I could make it less vague.
But don’t compare his methods or goals to history’s greatest villains without cause.
Um. I wasn’t comparing either of those and tried very hard to make that clear. To go back to the analogy about my idiot father, I do NOT expect every man to treat me badly, but if I see certain behaviors, I get uneasy. I do NOT expect Obama to set up a dictatorship, but If I see certain behaviors, I get uneasy.
I was trying to explain that “wingnuts” might have actual reasoning behind their wish to keep their kids un-speeched. Not necessarily reasoning that you would agree with, but disagreement does not mean blind hostile stupidity on the part of the enemy. Really.
You’re the only one to the right of me who has ever mentioned feeling a bit squeamish about the Bush rhetoric.
Well, no, it’s not the kind of thing one mentions in a debate. I’m not trying to debate because I don’t like debating, I was just feeling randomly talkative. 🙂 The general consensus at the one counterprotest I attended was “no, we don’t like everything he does, but we close ranks when people are yelling in our faces”. Whether this was an intelligent consensus or not, I don’t know. *shrug*
I apologize if I came off as hostile or condescending. I certainly didn’t intend you any disrespect. Quite the contrary. You’re posts are even tempered, usually well argued, and worthy of our attention. The point I was trying to make was that the comparison of Obama to ascending or established dictators is historically inaccurate. If this is true, then that comparison cannot be the basis for the general sense of unease and distrust.
However, I do not doubt that many people including you are reminded (if distantly) of some of history’s worst despots by President Obama, but it seems to me that the reasoning is backwards. is not compared to Hitler because he is like Hitler, and should therefore be disliked. Obama is disliked, and therefore is compared to someone everyone dislikes: Hitler. I think your own unwillingness to state that Obama is like despots is an indication of this. You’re being intellectually honest, in that there really isn’t a comparison. You’re also being emotionally honest, in that you vaguely sense that there is a comparison, and that Obama shouldn’t really be trusted.
The problem is, an emotional dislike doesn’t really seem to justify the outcry against his speech. Neither does a reading of the speech, or a review of the lesson plans on the Dept. of Ed’s website. So while you have successfully articulated the vague unease and mistrust that motivates parents, we are left with a gut level animosity. With all due respect, how does an emotional and unreasoned dislike meaningfully differ from “blind hostility”? Further, if the justifications for the innate dislike/blind hostility are provably false, like a comparison of Obama’s speech and actions to those of dictators, how is that not ignorant, if not outright stupid?
I am acutely aware that disagreement with me or anyone else does not automatically render one party morons, or evil, or unworthy of my respect. In this case, though, I do not think the objections to Obama speaking to schoolchildren are rational. They maybe heartfelt, and genuine, but they are not the outcome of a valid argument. They are an outcome of a basic dislike, and the distrust that it entails.