Evoking Pink Floyd’s “Another brick in the wall” lyrics, conservatives have lambasted President Obama’s upcoming Web address on education. The President will use the opportunity to speak directly to students across the nation on Sept. 8. But right-wing political leaders and think tanks have dubbed this a lesson in brainwashing and a carefully orchestrated propaganda campaign targeted at America’s youth. The Cato Institute even issued a statement saying: “Hey Obama, Leave Those Kids Alone.”
While tempting as it is to blog about the irony of the right wing deploying Pink Floyd quotes for social change, let’s focus on the larger issue. In the words of the one of the latest Facebook apps: “Should President Obama be allowed to do a nationwide address to school children without parental consent?”
The answer is absolutely.
Beyond the convenient First Amendment argument, President Obama is free to broadcast through the Web anything his heart desires. If concerned parents truly believe we’ve elected a fascist dictator, they can leave their kids at home that day or make arrangements for a study hall in the library. That’s what my mom did when my fourth-grade teacher showed “Dances With Wolves” and, albeit embarrassed at the time to be the only kid in the class who was prohibited from seeing a PG-13 movie, I turned out just fine. Besides, his address — like any presidential address — is completely optional. Institutions, educators and students can tune into as little or as much as they’d like.
From the onset, Obama made it clear through his campaign that he would speak to the electorate in an unprecedented way. From the unveiling of the new White House Web site, Facebook status updates, the recent declassification of White House visitor logs and town hall style lectures over healthcare reform, he has continued this unusually communicative method of governance.
To be fair, the post-address s encouraged in the classroom by the White House do include some Exerciseed questions that elude to Obama as an “inspiring” figure and they invoke a high degree of patriotism. But if the right masters patriotic rhetoric to justify war (9/11 anybody?), why can’t the left offer such speech to keep kids in school? Weight
Furthermore, past U.S. Presidents have used non-traditional means of speaking directly to the public. One could argue that President Nixon’s infamous “Checkers” speech, which featured his wife, was a means of brainwashing women into trusting him fiscally. And the Los Angeles Times reports that President Bush delivered an anti-drug address to students in 1989, while Ronald Reagan addressed classrooms across the country in 1986.
The attacks on Obama’s Web address is nothing more than another mounted effort by the GOP to derail the President’s policy initiatives. Whether you agree with the policies championed by this Administration during its first eight months in office or not, the last thing the right wing should be worried about is a President with a 50% approval rating brainwashing the masses.