President will speak to students

President Obama will deliver a speech to students on Sept. 8 at noon (Eastern). He “will challenge students to work hard, set education goals, and take responsibility for their learning,” says the Education Department.

But some see it as indoctrinating kiddies to venerate the Great Leader.
Stephen Green and Dana Loesch are urging parents to keep their kids home from school that day.

The advice to teachers from the White House Teaching Ambassador Fellows is raising hackles. Before the speech, they’re urged to prep students by asking them:

Why is it important to listen to the president and other elected officials like the mayor, senators, members of Congress or the governor? Why is what they say important?

Too respectful of authority, write Green and Loesch.

After the speech, suggestions include discussing “main ideas from the speech, i.e. citizenship, personal responsibility, civic duty.” That doesn’t seem sinister. But there’s also:

• Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:
What do you think the President wants us to do?

Does the speech make you want to do anything?

Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?

I think the president is going to ask kids to work hard in school and teachers will try to get them to pledge to work hard in school and most of them will work just as hard this year as they did last year. (The law of inertia is the supreme law of the universe.) If parents think their kids are being turned into Obama Youth, they can tell them at home not to trust politicians.

Update: Rick Hess thinks the president’s remarks probably will be innocuous, but he warns of hubris. The president isn’t superintendent-in-chief.

Students will be urged to take personal responsibility for their education, Arne Duncan tells Ed Week’s Michele McNeil.

About Joanne


  1. Charles R. Williams says:

    Of course we have no way to know what President Obama will say. Is there some reason this can’t be done at home on Tuesday evening? How can an educator even make a professional judgment about the educational value of this exercise without seeing at least the text in advance? It will, in fact, disrupt normal school activities and there are too many disruptions like this already. Even if the content is innocuous, this has all the qualities of a political stunt designed to build the President’s stature. The president is NOT educator-in-chief of the United States. His office has no educational responsibilities at all. Finally, there IS something fishy about a political leader using the public schools to reach students without their parents’ explicit consent. Some of us do not consider this man to be any kind of role model for our children. I would keep my children home from school if their school agreed to this.

  2. Solution: Cancel the president’s presidential address to students during school. Parents and students can choose to watch him 8pm on Sept. 8th the special guest that same night on Get Schooled

    LOS ANGELES, NEW YORK — On Sept. 8 at 8 p.m., all of Viacom’s (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B) U.S. television properties will join together to simultaneously air Get Schooled: You Have the Right, a 30-minute special that highlights education challenges and breakthroughs experienced by three leading figures from the world of entertainment, sports and politics; along with the stories of three of their most trusted professional colleagues. This is the first programming “roadblock” of any kind across all Viacom networks including BET, MTV, VH1, CMT, COMEDY CENTRAL, Spike TV and Nickelodeon.

  3. “Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?”

    I’m okay with this question only if the following question is permitted:

    “Should we always trust elected officials to tell us what to do or serve as role models for good behavior?”

  4. 1Mom4Freedom says:

    I have 1 of 3 children that will be affected by this. (8th grader-safe, 4 yr old-safe) My 4th grader told me yesterday to please let him go to school, let him listen to Obama, and then he would tell the teacher what he thought of the president (which is not much, because he hears about this from his father and I). Part of me wants to let him go and stand up for what is right, the other part of me wants to spoil Obama’s goal of indoctrination and in doing so, I will be making a statement to our school. We must take stand.

  5. I have no children of school age. However I have contacted all my relatives & friends who do. Most are considering keeping their kids home that day. I sincerely hope many families will do just that.

  6. Phillip Jones says:

    I am in agreement with Charles on this. Educators and parents should be allowed to preview the speech text (you know he’ll use a teleprompter) and make a judgment as to whether or not the children should participate. I also agree with Charles in that this is probably a political stunt. Seeing that his ratings are tanking, his motives here are questionable.

  7. Aruanan Sandoval says:

    Why not have the President talk to the kids about:

    1. The importance of eating breakfast before school.
    2. The importance of washing their hands before eating and after using the lavatory.
    3. The importance of not taunting other kids because of their physical characteristics, such as their big ears.
    4. The importance of wearing a bicycle helmet.
    5. The importance of staying away from illegal drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex.
    6. Etc.
    7. Etc.
    8. Etc, etc, etc, etc.

    Because all this is way BELOW his job description (harkening back to an interview in Saddleback Church before the election), a job which he’s never done very well, and doesn’t seem to be showing any on-the-job learning.

  8. I see nothing wrong with this. Maybe it will teach kids a greater appreciation for politics and government. With so few kids understanding civics anymore, I think this will be helpful. Those who are paranoid about “indoctrination” probably have more serious issues in life to consider. I mean, come on! Letting children watch a speech from the President is a good thing in the educational world. It’s not wrong just because it’s a President you don’t happen to like.

  9. Nick Danger says:


    “All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing…”

    However the question is: Are there any good educators in the USA?

  10. How wonderful that our President has taken such an interest in our children! This little lesson will be followed by him using our children for the Census, the civlian army, and who knows what else?

    Exciting times are upon us!

    But, for some reason, I feel like I’ve heard all this before.

    hmmm…could it be this writeup about Stalin?

    “This public portrayal of Stalin is highly selective. The many, many millions who died in the Gulag, in mass deportations or in mass murders are mentioned only as a kind of aside. Stalin’s purges of his closest colleagues and revolutionary comrades are given short shrift. The terror that made people afraid to speak their minds openly, that made children turn their parents in to the police, that stunted families and friendships, is absent from most contemporary accounts.”

    Good work, Comrade Barack Hussein Obama!

  11. Our kids DO NOT need to hear from the propagandist in chief. If there ever was an Orwellian example of big brother here it is.
    There is no possible benefit in this for anyone, not even the Liar in Chief. The Presidents poll ratings will drop even more as a result of this stupidity (not a bad thing).
    “I think the president is going to ask kids to work hard in school and teachers will try to get them to pledge to work hard in school and most of them will work just as hard this year as they did last year.” So are you saying it’s pointless, you confess, or are you saying it’s harmless?
    Are you saying he won’t mention anything about health care or speak any lies, he won’t mention anything related to community organizing and volunteer work. He’ll never say a word about global warming or energy related topics or green jobs? He’ll just say do a good job, work real hard and God Bless?
    Okay we’ll see what he says.

  12. There are multiple problems with this. The 2 most egregious ones are:

    1. They aren’t releasing a transcript in advance so parents can judge content and appropriateness to decide on participation.
    2. There are specific references in the syllabus to “new ideas” and “Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?”

    Just these 2 reasons are enough for me to pull my children out of participating.

    They say this is unprecedented. It is unprecedented because it is inappropriate and sinister. Yet again, the President is plumbing new lows.

  13. Did my son just cough? oh my, I guess i’ll have to take him to the Dr’s on Tuesday.

  14. HOMESCHOOLING is wonderful, and every passing day reaffirms this belief for me and mine.

  15. Sorry to conclude that you are

    a) profoundly ignorant of the history of liberal indoctrination, and
    b) profoundly gullible about this particular scumbag-in-chief and his history of dishonesty and propaganda.

    You’ll learn.

  16. I agree with Mr. Williams.

  17. Combine this stunt with his aims for the NEA (arts endowment) to illustrate his pet schemes and this is really creepy, as it Nazi-style, dear-leader creepy.

  18. A rather shocking array of comments. President Obama has been very consistent in his message to students so far: Work hard and don’t make excuses. Maybe it will have an effect; Maybe it won’t.

    But propaganda? Please…. If the President of the United States can’t use his office as a bully pulpit to instill the values of hard work in children, then things have come to a sorry pass…. That’s not a partisan issue, folks.

  19. Claus, you obviously are pretty naive, or else you are an Obamabot.

    There is absolutely no reason for the President to intrude in every classroom with a mandatory lesson to children. There is even less reason for Whitehouse operatives to send out lesson plans to local school systems to insure that teachers make the appropriate points.

    This goes far beyond anything we have seen; and it is not only creepy, it is chilling.

    An early poster said that two children were exempt, one being 4 and the other 14. Wrong. If the 4 year old is in pre-kindergarten that child will receive the indoctrination, er message. The 14 year old definitely will.

  20. The bully pulpit should not point at kids in the coercive environs of school.

    Put it this way, no matter how nice the message, the camel’s nose is now under the tent.

    So successive speeches:

    1. Stay and school and try your best.
    2. Stay and school and try your best.
    3. Stay and school and try your best.
    4. Stay and school and try your best.
    5. Stay and school and try your best.
    6. Stay and school and try your best. Oh, and let is know if your mommy or daddy came from Mexico.
    7. Stay and school and try your best. Make sure to tell a teacher if your parents own guns, or don’t drive a hybird.
    8. Stay and school and try your best. Don’t forget: All good Americans support cap and trade. Are your parents good Americans?
    10. Stay and school and try your best. You could get sick and die soon if your parents don’t help Obama pass national health care. (Also, remember you can start voting when you’re 18!). You know what the RIGHT thing to do is, right….?


  21. Bill Leonard says:

    Had a Republican president — the last incumbent in the Oval Office, say — tried this stunt, the editorial snarls and denunciations would have been deafening. And rightly so.

    It is frightening that a President would try a stunt like this, though clearly there is nothing the Dear Leader won’t stoop to. It is perhaps more frightening that the only serious, respected editorial voice in the land that will speak out against this propaganda ploy will be the Wall Street Journal.

  22. RegularJoe says:

    I’d tell the school they have three alternatives: I join my kid to watch the speech and the discussion following; my kid goes to study hall and skips the speech and discussion; or my kid will have a Dr. appt. (and, to keep my integrity, I’d schedule a teeth cleaning, checkup, eye exam — whatever).

    I’ll make one comment about the notion that a “stay in school and work hard” speech from Obama won’t actually do any good. I think there is a group with whom it MIGHT actually have a positive effect: black kids. It is somewhat cliche — which happens when a thing is somewhat true — that a lot of black kids will face rejection from peers if they “act white” by studying, and so make little effort to become educated. Even when this is not the case, in poorer neighborhoods there may be very few successful, educated role models. Whatever I may think of Obama — and it isn’t very flattering overall — he finished school, went to college — he took advantage of his opportunity to become educated. If he manages to actually reach a few, or a few hundred, or a few thousand kids who would otherwise have dropped out and remained ignorant, and makes them productive members of society instead of drains on it, it will be a very good thing — maybe the only good thing he does in his (hopefully only) four-year term as President.

  23. Huh. I haven’t seen any lesson plans. You’d think they’d get the evil (stupid) liberal union-loving teachers in on this indoctrination thing.

    I also haven’t been told I’m doing anything about it. I’m not sure mandatory is the correct adjective here. I certainly have no plans to have the speech going (unless it is rhetorically interesting enough to use for a lesson plan).

    I know people hate Obama, but I’m wondering about all those calls to get underperforming urban students to value education and whether they think old middleclass white chicks like me have that much influence. Little black kids actually respect him and listen to him. Long-term effect? Hmm… I’ve seen a bit of it, actually.

    Maybe it’s creepy. Maybe it’s an attempt to get little black kids to get an education. Maybe it’s both. But the hysteria here is, well, sort of entertaining. Godwin’s law in how many posts? Are any of you requesting direct transcripts of everything every teacher utters in front of your child all day? How much of it do they actually remember? Right. I can guarantee one thing, once their parents make a big fat hairy deal out of it, they’re going to think that thing that was kinda boring and got them out of math is Really Important.

  24. RegularJoe says:

    BTW — I believe we need to be very careful about teaching our kids to be disrespectful of the President. Even if I think my countrymen have made a poor choice — and I do — he is the duly, constitutionally elected President of the United States. He is not a God, and he is not a King; but he is the choice of the citizens of the United States, and for that, if only for that, he should receive a minimal degree of respect. Just as we love the sinner but hate the sin, I can have a measure of respect for the President while having nothing but contempt for his policies.

    It’s REALLY tough with Speaker Pelosi, though….

  25. Maybe it will teach kids a greater appreciation for politics and government. With so few kids understanding civics anymore, I think this will be helpful.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight (my kids are homeschooled) but I am curious how you (anyone) thinks this will help kids understand civics.

    If it is available on youtube, I might watch it with my kids.

  26. Bill Leonard says:

    Regular Joe, the office may be deserving of our respect. The incumbent at any particular time may or may not. In personal terms, there have been only three in my lifetime (I was born in 1943, near the end of FDR’s reign) who are deserving of my respect.

    As to the real motives behind this latest propaganda ploy, I am ready to see a groundswell of “voluntary” student letters in support of the Dear Leader.

  27. O ye conservatives who worry about the fraying of America’s moral fiber and Protestant work ethic, why are ye complaining that the president is issuing a sermon about…the importance of hard work and education? Let me know if he goes off-script and advocates pot-smoking, gay sex and the seizure of rich folks’ mansions.

  28. This is a little bit creepy. Not so much because the President is addressing school kids per se, but because of the subservient tone of the materials surrounding it.

    Too few people in this country understand the nature of Presidency, and that the President is not the leader of the people but just of the Federal Government. Questions like those asked by the materials highlighted above debase that understanding.

  29. RegularJoe says:

    Then I guess you thought it perfectly appropriate for liberals to call President Bush “Bushhitler”? I just didn’t think that was at all fitting.

    Again, by “respect” I’m referring not to my opinion, but my attitude — my sense of decorum, if you will. The two are not the same. Think of it this way: in my opinion, adherents to religious faiths other than my own are wrong; but my attitude is respectful anyway. This is no different.

    Put another way: how I treat people with whom I strongly disagree says more about ME than it does about THEM.

  30. Mi-Him-En-Tow says:

    I think an inspirational video prepared by the White House and delivered to the schools extolling the virtues of education would be a fine thing.

    But I’m more than a little bothered about this being treated as an “EVENT” — and the supporting materials reinforcing the cult of personality.

    Video on education “good.”

    A nationwide diversion of the entire educational apparatus so that “Dear Leader” can speak directly to the children… ugh… turns my stomach.

    Sorry, but the hubris is the problem.

  31. If you’re against Obama’s health care plan, and have gullible children, then get ready: in a month or two, expect to start getting knocks on the door for ‘interviews’ from people in dark suits. “Hello, Mr. Anderson…”

  32. As a citizen and Patriot of America, I am calling for a NATION WIDE BOYCOTT OF ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN AMERICA unless those schools publicly state they will NOT air this broadcast in their school districts. Schools funding are based on an attendance record per student, per day. Money seems to motivate more than people’s opinions these days so we should hit them where they care, in the pockets. The schools will lose much needed funding on September 8 if they allow this administration to use our school systems and our tax dollars to promote their anti-American political agendas. We must take a stand and let them know we will NOT allow this to even start. If we say nothing this time, how do we know that next time he won’t be asking our children to “spy” on us, like he has already asked us to “spy” on each other? We don’t and that is exactly why we need to stand firm and tell Obama and his thug Communists ABSOLUTELY NO WAY WILL THIS HAPPEN!!!

  33. You haven’t seen a lesson plan lightly seasoned, allow me to educate you. (If the link doesn’t work just cut and paste the address in your bar. It takes you right to the government sight.)

    Oh and how’s that chope and hange as well as transparency in government workin’ for ya.

  34. It didn’t work of course, the address is

    So sorry.

  35. Holy cow, man. This thread is ridiculous. It is so sad that a disagreement about policy can result in such visceral hate for the policymaker, regardless of party.

    What happened to discourse, listening, reasoned disagreement? Instead we attack the race and heritage of the speaker, lobbing names like propagandist-in-chief, instead of delineating good reasons (of which there are some above) to record the presentation, review it, and then share it if you feel it is appropriate? My goodness people, no wonder our country is destined to collapse. We’ll never have a chance if the equation is always “you disagree with me” = “I hate you and call you names.”

  36. Gosh Mark, I think I missed the part where someone was making a racial attack. And you wonder why people don’t listen.

    I’m an independent, but I’ve seen quite a bit of teacher indoctrination from grade school through high school over the years. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s so blatant that every kid figures out that he needs to answer questions “correctly” to do well in the class. Teachers need to check their biases at the door, and many do not. Many don’t even see them.

    If some of the commenters are suspicious, well, maybe they have a reason.

    Personally, I’m fine with the president speaking to the kids as long as he keeps policy out of it.

  37. It’s not the policy, it’s the celebrity personality-cult package it’s wrapped in.

    The office of POTUS comes with a bully pulpit.  I think we can agree that it is appropriate to use it to comment on matters which aren’t functions of the federal executive.  I think we can also agree that this whole thing is becoming a little Nineteen Eighty-Fourish, with the left loving Big Barack and others getting off on their Three-Minute Hate.

    Can we agree that if you wouldn’t accept a president of the other party doing something, it probably isn’t a good idea for a president of yours to do it either?  A live presentation during school hours without a transcript isn’t the kind of thing we should consider to be a normal part of education.

  38. This president is such an egomaniac he thinks he should be involved in every single aspect of our lives. He is attempting to usurp what really is the responsibility of parents.

    Wouldn’t students be better served by teaching critical thinking skills so they could recognize indoctrination?

  39. I homeschool my kids. I’m thinking the speech could be a wonderful thing if it’s done correctly, but if my kids were in public schools, I’d see it first. Why can’t the White House release the speech to parents before it’s made? That bothers me. September 8th is the first day of school out here, so parents won’t have the ability to decide to take their kids out of school or give permission for this speech. The thing that bothers me about this (and YES it would equally bother me if we were talking about Bush) is that the parents are being taken out of the equation by the government. We foresaw this potential and have taken our kids out of the equation from the government. I suspect I’ll have a house full of other folks’ kids on Tuesday.

  40. Bill Leonard says:

    Regular Joe, I didn’t and don’t think much of the liberal “Bushitler” nonsense. FWIW, I suspect we aren’t all that far apart in our views.

    But I do believe it is possible to respect the office, and to have respect — or not — for the person occupying it. I have the utmost admiration for Harry Truman, for instance. He was a very good president and a decent and incorruptible man personally. Truman even paid for the postage on his own mail; contrast that with the Clintons, who when they left, apparently took everything that was loose, or Madame Pelosi, who demanded and got bigger and better jets to carry her than the government made available to her predecessor.

  41. Richard Aubrey says:

    It appears that a substantial number of students are in states or districts which start school a day or so later.
    Others have been at it for a couple of weeks.

  42. No-bama Support says:

    Has anyone seen THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE? Do I sense a bit of brainwashing here?

  43. SusanS…review the thread. You’ll see it. If you don’t then its the same subtle indoctrination you say teachers are guilty of.

    Maybe it would be best if we just got rid of all those pesky, opinionated teachers. We’re living in a world of absolutes, right? so all teachers are liberally biased and indoctrinating kids to the follow the Leader…

    See what I mean, this doesn’t move anything forward. 40+ comments on this story and probably 4 or 5 really show people with an interest in discourse, the rest (call me guilty of it if you’d like) are more interested in ranting, raving, complaining, attacking. We’re animals with the convenient anonymity of the web.

  44. Mark G,

    I reviewed the thread thoroughly, thank you.

    I also never said all teachers were biased. Perhaps you should read closer yourself instead of getting defensive.

    And I wasn’t “ranting” or “raving.” I was calling you on your pulling out of the race card. It was uncalled for.

  45. Richard Aubrey says:

    Specify who, besides yourself, mentioned race.

  46. You got me: I am going to do something I doubt happens very often in the blogosphere comment world…claim a mea culpa. The comments which were clearly racially charged were on another board discussing this topic. I went back and re-read every comment on this site looking for a very specific one which inspired my response… I realize that the comments are not on this site, but on the Vodkapundit site. I apologize. I’d do the same in person…

    But my point is bigger than this, and I’m not immune from the ills: in this medium, discourse is something we do not see…I’d hope we’d not speak to one another in person the way that it appears in these kinds of tete-a-tetes. The reasons for not watching the speech in schools should have nothing to do with cries of Hitler youth and marching in unison. To me, it should have more to do with content, parental mediation and moderation of the political messages their child receives. That, to me, is more productive a discussion than comparing any American leader to Hitler or Stalin.

    And SusanS, if you interpreted that I was accusing you or ranting or raving or claiming all teachers were biased, then the rhetorical structure of my post was flawed. I was intending to show that operating in absolutes does not advance the conversation and does not contribute to positive change…using my own post as an example. If you took it as an attack, that’s one more sign that perhaps these are not the kinds of forums where productive dialogue can take place.

  47. I’ve looked at the secondary lesson plan. Totally innocuous.

    Teachers are flawed human beings. We carry biases like everyone else. My building seems to contain a spectrum of political leanings, so, in theory, the kiddos get doses from all angles. Am I biased. Yep. I cannot be otherwise.

    We’ve been in school since the second week of August, so it wouldn’t be much of a kick-off speech. The kids are already shedding their good intentions and best behavior.

    Personally, I’d be far more worried about the unremitting and unfettered access corporations have to the kids in school than one speech by the president.

  48. Richard Aubrey says:

    Please tell us who lets the corporations into your school to mess with the kids.

  49. Education is entirely corporate. Somebody is making a lot of money in this business, and it isn’t the teachers. It isn’t like our material and supplies appear out of thin air.

    For a bunch of people who are sure they know the real poop on the president, I’m stunned by the lack of political savvy here.

    First of all, not all states calculate funding based on daily attendance. If all the kids stayed home in my district that day, it wouldn’t affect ours at all. (Not that they will, this seems to be a tempest in an internet teapot — nobody around here had even heard of the speech until they started seeing it online — I saw a LOT of parents last night, and none mentioned it).

    Secondly, legislatures can override special situations, and in fact do so all the time.

    Thirdly, the cuts are always made at the classroom level first, so if funding is lost, it isn’t the decision makers who suffer.

  50. Richard Aubrey says:

    So the unfettered access to the kids is the textbooks and other supplies.
    You had me scared there for a minute. I thought corporations were in there teaching stuff like capitalism. “Kids, the difference between gross profit and net profit is….” If that were the case, I could see why you’d be worried.
    So I guess I’ll be less worried that some corporation is making textbooks.
    My wife teaches high school Spanish. I follow the new textbook thing along with her. Didn’t see much celebration of the corporate state.

  51. None of you would object if W. or McCain wanted to speak to our schoolchildren, so it shouldn’t matter now. He is PRESIDENT of the United States. Of cousre he can make a speech to American kids in school. Duh! Presidents have done this before. People need to calm down and quit losing their minds over these things. Studying Civics and civil discourse is a part of education in a democratic society, and that means listening to the speeches leaders make, but still making your own decisions about them. What’s next? If it’s time to study a speech by Lincoln, all Democrat kids stay home, and when it is time to study an FDR speech, all Republican kids stay home? This divisive, fearful behavior is going too far when you think the President has no place in school. Have we forgotten that we are all Americans?

  52. I don’t follow you, Richard. Are you saying I’m against courses in economics?

  53. Richard Aubrey says:

    Geez. Pretending a metaphor is meant literally is so junior high.
    If there were unfettered corporate access to the kids, there would be a corporate sponsored econ class.
    Where, among other things, the subversive info that you can have a gross profit and a net loss would be explained.
    That would make it difficult to get over on kids the profit-is-obscene meme.
    That’s what unfettered corporate access would look like, along with Pepsi logos on the math books.
    That, when pressed, all you could come up with is that textbooks were made by corporations is risible.


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