Monday, September 07, 2009

Obama's education speech: a quick one

So, Obama's upcoming speech to students is now online, and it looks as if all the right-wing hysteria about how this is going to be an exercise in Marxist Hitler Youth Indoctrination (or whatever scary buzzwords conservatives have figured out how to pronounce this week) is, surprise surprise, a tad overblown. It's a nicely composed pep talk about the value of education, not the tiniest bit controversial, not even — for me — in its standard-issue "God Bless America" signoff. I know that kind of language has earned a sneer from PZ and some other atheists, but I'm not the kind of guy to think seven words of boilerplate political-speech language detracts from the actual content in any way.

I'm hopeful that, once this speech is out there, more people will begin to wake up to just how out of control the right has become in their reactionary scaremongering over our Eeebul Socialist Kenyan President, and a few hot heads start to come off the boil a bit. I'm also hopeful I'll find 10 million dollars in a paper grocery bag abandoned in a ditch and that Chris Jansing will knock on my front door tonight wearing nothing but baby oil. We'll see which of these little hopes pans out first.

Now, I do think there is a legitimate objection to the idea of making the watching of this speech a mandatory class event. Let's be honest, if Dubya had prepared a speech for mandatory school viewing, those of us who were less than his most ardent fans would have objected too, and probably voiced concerns about possible inappropriate political proselytizing. Some bloggers have made the point that, where the students are concerned, this will merely be a boring interruption in an already boring school day, something lame that the grownups want them to take part in, like eating vegetables, that you've got to do because it's good for you. I'd say that, with YouTube and other internet sources set up to make a speech like this available on demand, into perpetuity, there's no reason for watching it to be some kind of class requirement. Indeed, to make it one would smack of demagoguery, regardless of how inoffensive the actual speech content turns out to be. Better perhaps to encourage students to watch it, perhaps at home with their parents, and maybe earn extra credit for doing so and writing a couple of paragraphs of feedback. Sure, there is that terror-stricken element of the ultra-right freak fringe who hear Obama's name and immediately think of The Scary Nazi Communist Black Man Who Wants To Kill Grandma. But those people are not exactly big on the whole education concept in the first place, are they? If they were, at the very least, they'd know that the Nazis and Communists loathed each other.


  1. As a matter of fact, the Nazi party blamed a bombing on Communists in order to foster fear against them and drum up support for their own party. Yeah, rightwingers don't seem to realize that the Nazis were actually their colleagues, not ours.

  2. Here ya go, Martin:

    Just in case Chris doesn't show up, this might get you through the night. (Note: She's wearing a blue dress, not baby oil. Sorry.)

  3. First, I've never heard of Chris Jansing, but i watched the video Woof linked to, and yes, I want her dressed in nothing but baby oil. Anyways, as far as the speech goes, I see what you're saying about Dubya giving the same speech, but I would guess that if he were to do the same thing, it wouldn't be quite as innocuous. No facts, just my own conjecture. On the contrary, I really don't see a problem with a by-the-numbers little gem like what you say Obama is giving. If it's the "lame" thing that the teachers put on the tube, then so be it. There's no right-wing proselytizing or propaganda, so I'm pretty ok with it. Yea, things like this should definitely be monitored. Even so, this one looks pretty tame. Good post.

  4. Sorry to disagree but when it comes to sexy news reporters, its Robin Meade all the way:

  5. @Archaneus

    It's actually a concentrated calculated move the right is doing to shift blame/assosiation (since obviously our right isn't related or to be blamed for any Nazis or the like) of the Nazism to the left

    Look up the book Liberal Fascism which basically seeks to redefine fascism and nazism as "socialism/fascism respectively. The entire book is a giant Godwins law form page one. The worst of it is that they have the pure gall to quote George Carlin in the opening to chapter one.

  6. Well, fortunately, even Newt Gingrich had to endorse the president's speech this am on the Today show (or whichever one it was). He was still desperately clinging to other speeches he made the last few days trying to trump up a Nazi-esque angle to them, but he did have to concede on the school speech as published.

    Meanwhile, it's difficult to inject facts into the radical right's rhetoric because, among other things, you have to read a bunch of dusty, dead Russian guys to see where they're slanting the story. Or otherwise, you just have to stop and think - a process that's anathema to the radical right platform.

    If they even know that "nazi" is short for "national socialist" they have no idea whether that corresponds to any one of the varieties of socialist theory out there or is related in any way to communism or any other political or economic theory for that matter.

    It's kind of like trying to inform the ignorant by speaking to them in a foreign language.

    Newt probably knows better as well but is keeping his mouth tightly shut about it all, preferring to let the propaganda spread unabated.


  7. ...I Googled Chris Jansing.

    And now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be in my bunk.

  8. Has anyone seen the video of Reagan's address in '88? Seriously, go WATCH IT right now. Even I wasn't prepared for the level of ideology in this thing. He's got stuff in here about low taxes, free markets, traditional moral values, jabs at the Soviet Union and how they can't make space shuttles well and don't let you pick your job, even some canned questions from kids that seem to just be nice segues to more ideological stuff. It really is a truly staggering amount of ideology for an address to kids. There's even a bit where he links the "religious values" thing to the Pilgrims and the "low taxes free markets" thing to the Boston Tea Party.

  9. People (including someone I know) are still clamoring about Obama's speech. From a stubborn right-winger: "To prove that he is not going to be politically biased he offers excerpts from his speech with socialist themes."

    Here's a list of the socialist themes written in Obama's speech:
    - being responsible for your own education
    - becoming a writer, inventor, or senator
    - curing diseases
    - developing energy technology
    - combating homelessness, crime, and discrimination
    - learning ESL, fighting brain cancer, or living in multiple foster homes and still going on to college
    - paying attention in class
    - community volunteering
    - standing up to bullies
    - Harry Potter
    - Michael Jordan
    - The American Revolution
    - The Great Depression
    - World War II
    - the 1960s Civil Rights Movement
    - space exploration
    - Google, Twitter, and Facebook

  10. @Olivia:

    Well, if those are socialist themes, then tattoo a hammer and sickle on my head and call me Marx.

  11. What's wrong with the word socialism in the US anyway? We here in the Netherlands have multiple parties that call themselves a socialist party. It's got nothing to do with communism/nazism or whatever. Just like liberalism.

    You're probably the most right-winged conservative country in the (western) world. So I don't know what your right-wingers are worrying about...

  12. @MJ:

    >What's wrong with the word socialism in the US anyway?

    >You're probably the most right-winged conservative country in the (western) world.

    How do these two things conflict with each other? You're right, Americans are by and large overly afraid of the word socialism, but...the fact that we are indeed one of the most stubbornly right-wing countries in the world has probably contributed to our apparently lack of understanding as to what "socialism" actually entails. I imagine most of these people probably think of Stalin or Mao when they hear it.

  13. I'm just starting on my US Gov intro class (fluff one I'm taking) and already I'm starting to worry that the very foundation of our nation is inefficient and run by tradition instead of what's best.


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