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On September 8, in what the Department of Education is touting as a “historic” speech, President Obama will be talking directly to students across the U.S., live on the White House website. But some parents and conservatives are blasting the president, calling the speech an excuse to brainwash American children.

Last month, in an interview with 11-year-old student reporter Damon Weaver, the president announced his big back-to-school plan:

“I’m going to be making a big speech to young people all across the country about the importance of education; about the importance of staying in school; how we want to improve our education system and why it's so important for the country. So I hope everybody tunes in.”

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to the nation’s principals, inviting schools to watch the speech and included suggested classroom activities. But Jim Greer, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, came out swinging against the planned speech. An excerpt from his statement:

“The address scheduled for September 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.”

NBC spoke with Katie Gordon, a spokeswoman for the Florida Republican Party, who said the party’s “beef” is with the accompanying lesson plans. The guide for pre-K through grade 6 suggests questions students think about during the speech, such as “What is the President trying to tell me? What is the President asking me to do?”

The plan for grades 7-12 includes a “guided discussion,” with suggested topics: “What resonated with you from President Obama’s speech? What is President Obama inspiring you to do?”

The Cato Institute, a public-policy research foundation, issued a press release entitled “Hey Obama, Leave Those Kids Alone,” criticizing the “troubling buzzwords” in the lesson plans:

“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. 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.”

Across the blogosphere, comments covered the spectrum, from critical to supportive, and from one student, a little anger:

“I sent my children to school to be educated NOT indoctrinated.” — justamom

“The fact that people want to keep their kids from hearing the President of the United States encourage them to do well in school shows a true level of ignorance.” — Firefey

“As an [sic] 9th grade student, I’d like to say that 1. I’m not sure why everyone is so scared that we’ll all be brainwashed by the President ... 2. My school is one that is not allowing us to watch the speech, and quite frankly, I’m pissed.” — Willbw

Both Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan both gave speeches aimed specifically at students that were nationally televised. In 1989, Bush delivered a televised anti-drug speech, and Reagan’s 1986 commencement speech and Q&A session was “beamed over public television into 171 school districts,” according to the L.A. Times.

It’s worth noting that schools are, encouraged, not required, to air the speech. The Houston Chronicle reports that one Dallas school district is leaving the decision to individual teachers. Susan Dacus, spokeswoman for the Wylie school district, says parents who don’t want their children to see it can opt out.

In an ironic twist, one Missouri school won’t be airing the speech because of a lack of funding. Michelle Baumstark, spokeswoman for Columbia public schools, told the Columbia Daily Tribune, “We don't have the funding or the equipment to support that type of broadcasting."

— Lili Ladaga

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Member Comments

    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote Sep 3, 2009
    • I just got this on Yahoo news....

      I really don’t see anything wrong with the President (any President) addressing the young nation.
      I think kids should be encouraged to think and ask questions. Afterall it affects their future too



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    • -1 votes vote up vote up

      (華娃娃) ChinaDoll wrote Sep 3, 2009
    • Ditto to you both.  Some people just simply like to critize others, esp. those in authority.  (Sigh)



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote Sep 4, 2009
    • Annie I would love to know what your kids think after they have seen it.



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    • -1 votes vote up vote up

      Mztracy wrote Sep 4, 2009
    • If it was any other other pres... no one would say a thing!
      No matter what he does, the ignorant buffoons will try and demean it!!

      GO OBAMA!!!



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    • -2 votes vote up vote up

      Mztracy wrote Sep 4, 2009
    • Annie, was not aimed at you.

      My comment it aimed at those who cannot just talk about it in an adult manner. Instead, and yes many here, resort to bashing others for their beliefs.  

      Just as anonymous did, no wonder anonymous!!  

      I am tired of being called and extremist, or a leftist as that is sooo far from the truth. I am here to support my president which means supporting my country.

      I hated Bush as was a terrible president, but I supported him because he was my president. If I did not agree with him, I tried to find ‘right’ ways to overcome it.  

      The country became barely recognizable in the last 8 years, not because of Obama.

      Unless people stop acting like they know how we should think nothing will happen. I see some bringing czars, calling him nazi, hitler...REALLY. Stop it and grow up.

      Wacky lefties....pmsl give me a break.  

      My comment was due to being as quiet as I can, then seeing the nazi terms etc, so I called it as it is for anyone that talks that way, you are an ignorant buffoon.    

      Annie, in another blog you added a gr8 line.... what happened to ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. It was a Kennedy that made that statement and a Kennedy that believed in Obama.



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    • -2 votes vote up vote up

      Mztracy wrote Sep 4, 2009
    • I know which kennedy said it and i know which kennedy was for Obama! I figured others did as well, didn’t need to be specific.

      Get over yourself already!! rofl Read up on History while you‘re at it!



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    • -2 votes vote up vote up

      Mztracy wrote Sep 4, 2009
    • You can try picking a fight all you want. But I will not lower myself to your baiting.  

      But will answer one of your questions:

      As for the country being unrecognizable 8 yrs ago, (and of course, he was not perfect and made mistakes) Bush was taking over for Clinton about then, had only a few years where he wasn't a lame duck because the country was RULED by a democratic majority; so...Your point???

      WRONG!! He already ran our country into the ground, why do you think the dems were voted in!! The people spoke and wanted change! rofl

      now I am done...



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Cindylouwho1966 wrote Sep 4, 2009
    • The term “czar” for admin posts is not new with the Obama admin; it’s been used for years, esp with whoever headed up the DEA, they were often referred to as the “drug czar.”



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Doreen XoXo wrote Sep 4, 2009
    • For whatever it’s worth Mz Tracy, I knew which Kennedy’s you were speaking about and for when!!  

      muah



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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Dynette wrote Sep 5, 2009
    • No man is perfect... Nor is any president perfect... and will never be.



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    • +2 votes vote up vote up

      Tamra wrote Sep 5, 2009
    • Tracy, do you really hate Bush?  Or do you disagree with his policies/actions?  Like Annie said, many of us do not agree with what Obama is doing to this nation, but we do not hate him.  Like Dynette said, Bush nor Obama is perfect.

      I like the idea of broadcasting the event so that parents can view it, too.  I have the right to reinforce or dispell the parts of it I want to address with my children.  Fortunately, I have internet access where I will be able to see it most likely, but many poor families do not.

      Just another example of how this administration says it wants to help the underprivileged but ignores their needs, if this speech isn’t aired on public TV or radio.



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    • -1 votes vote up vote up

      Sharman G. Lawson wrote Sep 5, 2009
    • I do not know exactly what will be in President Obama’s speech to the schools, but I’m pretty sure it’s one of encouragement and hope. I seriously doubt our President has a hidden agenda to brainwash kids regarding morals and religion or propaganda. And even if he did, kids learning morals, values, and religion couldn’t hurt them anyway. My goodness the country lacks all of those anyway, that’s part of our country’s problem.

      That said, why such division amongst Americans? Like Rodney King said, “Why can’t we all just get along?”



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Tamra wrote Sep 6, 2009
    • According to the Secretary of Ed, Arne Duncan, the text of the speech is going to be on the Whitehouse website tomorrow.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Missunderstood wrote Sep 6, 2009
    • Just like a the bills in congress are supposed to be there for 5 days for us to read! Pass the kool-aid right along I am not thirsty right now! The whole government not just the President is / has been taken over by lifetime politicians and special interest groups!



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Anonymous wrote Sep 8, 2009
    • Well it’s been an interesting weekend I’d say from all the comments posted on anything Obama related.
      For me....if my kids were still school age I would be sending them to school with the advice of listening to what is being said and to form their own opinion.
      I am not interested in teaching my kids only one version of reality. I want them to see as many sides as they can in the hopes that they can help make the world a better place by being well informed.

      Again Annie I would love to hear what your kids take is on the speech.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Sharman G. Lawson wrote Sep 8, 2009
    • Well, all the uproar over our President’s speech at schools was uncalled for and pretty senseless. Like I thought, the message was one of hope, motivation, and encouragement. Are the parents that didn't allow their children to attend school the same parents that keep their children home when the fireman, policeman, motivational speaker, or librarian speaks at school? How do you know their true agenda or what they are trying to push down your children's throats? Sounds silly right? But the President of the United States who is our leader should be ostracized, disrespected, and made to seem like a criminal when he wants to speak to American children.  

      People really do need to examine their hearts and motives with all the confusion, division, and chaos that is being orchestrated. America has a very sad history and so the shame and embarrassment seems to continue.  

      Like I said earlier, as a country we should be praying for our President and leaders. Regardless if our leaders are democrat, republican, short, fat, black, white, red, or yellow, who cares? What we should not do is be openly defiant, belligerent, and fight against our leader like a bunch of heathens. If you feel you have the right to dishonor and disrespect those that have been put in authority over you, I feel sorry for you. Don't think that your children are questioning your example.

      Bottom line, you do not have to like our President, but as an American he is your President whether you like him or not. Therefore, express your opinion, but show respect and honor to whom God and our American citizens have put in authority over you. I’m done!



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