School districts from Maryland to Texas are fielding angry complaints from parents opposed to President Barack Obama’s back-to-school address Tuesday – forcing districts to find ways to shield students from the speech as conservative opposition to Obama spills into the nation’s classrooms.
The White House says Obama’s address is a sort of pep talk for the nation’s schoolchildren. But conservative commentators have criticized Obama for trying to “indoctrinate” students to his liberal beliefs, and some parents call it an improper mix of politics and education.
“The gist is, ‘I want to see what the president has to say before you expose it to my child.’ Another said, ‘This is Marxist propaganda.’ They are very hostile,” said Patricia O’Neill, a Democrat who isof the Montgomery County School Board, in a district that borders Washington, D.C. “I think it’s disturbing that people don’t want to hear the president, but we live in a diverse society.”
The White House moved Thursday to quell the controversy. First it revised an Education Department lesson plan that drew the ire of conservatives because it called for students to write letters about how they can help the president.
Then Obama aides said they would release the text of Obama’s address on Monday, a day before his speech is to be beamed into the classrooms – an apparent attempt to show skeptical parents ahead of time what he plans to say.
Obama’s speech to students was first announced late last month but criticism grew this week, as conservative commentators including Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin said Obama was trying to improperly influence the students. Beck even urged parents to take their children out of school on Tuesday to protest Obama’s speech.
The forum – a presidential address to students, where Obama plans to encourage them to take responsibility for education and do their best – might seem an unlikely forum for conservatives to make a stand. But some of the commentators said it was improper for Obama to insert himself so visibly into a classroom setting.
And it shows that the conservative anger with Obama and his policies is moving beyond the congressional town halls in August, where many members of Congress were loudly criticized by conservatives opposed to Obama’s health care policies.
Republican strategist Rich Galen said he didn’t have a problem with Obama reaching out to schoolchildren because “he is everybody’s president. But you have to be very careful that it is not seen as literally propaganda. The original idea to have them write letters about how to help the president crossed the line and the White House realized that.
© Janet Crain
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