Calls to boycott Obama's speech to kids offer a disturbing lesson in paranoia

Tim Rutten Los Angeles Times 09/04/2009 10:33 PM
Calls to boycott Obama's speech to kids offer a disturbing lesson in paranoia - USA - politics - Barack Obama - opinion - education

While it long ago crossed the borders of reason and civility, the hysteria over healthcare reform is -- at some level -- understandable, because wellness and infirmity are really just stand-ins for those most terrifying of issues, life and death. But there is no similar way to rationalize the bizarre controversy now raging over President Obama's plan to deliver a brief televised address on Tuesday to the nation's grammar school children.

According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Obama will "challenge students to work hard, set educational goals and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens."

Sounds innocuous. Who, after all, could be against good study habits, personal responsibility and productive lives? As it turns out, quite a number of people who seem to believe that Obama intends to induct their children into -- well, it's not quite clear what they're afraid of. The Web and talk radio are abuzz with various attempts to organize a boycott of Tuesday's speech. One group is urging parents to demand that their children be excused from watching the president and be sent instead to the school library to read the Founding Fathers. (The theory, one supposes, is that a good dose of the Federalist Papers will inoculate the young against Obama's attempts to subvert the republic through good grades.)

On Wednesday, Fox News devoted a substantial portion of one of its prime-time newscasts to a discussion of whether Obama is, in fact, trying to seduce schoolchildren to some darkly obscure personal agenda. The sole guest, a spokesman for the libertarian Cato Institute, reported that "we've gotten a lot of calls from people asking, 'How do I keep my child from being indoctrinated?' "


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