President Barack Obama plans to speak to the nation's schoolchildren on Sept. 8. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the speech will be about "the importance of persisting and succeeding in school," and the department is offering classroom materials to "engage students and stimulate discussion on the importance of education in their lives."
You might think that would be a harmless topic, and that people across the political spectrum could agree on the importance of education.
Not so for the Republican Party of Florida, though, which released a statement "condemning President Obama's use of taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda."
"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology," said Jim Greer, party chairman, in a news release.
"The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power," he added.
"The Democrats have clearly lost the battle to maintain control of the message this summer, so now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American’s children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American’s youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves," he concluded.
The release, which we received via e-mail, told us to click a link to learn more about Obama's speech.
We reviewed the study materials but didn't see any mention of controversial issues, let alone any attempt to indoctrinate students in socialism. The pre-K through 6th grade materials said the main ideas of the speech would be "citizenship, personal responsibility, civic duty." The materials for high schoolers mention "personal responsibility, goals, persistence."
We searched previous media reports to see if former President George W. Bush ever gave a nationwide address to school children, but based on our search, it appears he did not. He did, however, regularly visit individual schools and discuss the importance of education with students.
We wondered whether we should give Greer latitude for legitimate commentary on Obama's speech. But he crossed a line when he said that Obama intended to discuss "plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies" and other policy matters not germane to education. That is factually incorrect, and the party could not offer any support for the statement. For raising the specter of socialist ideology and indoctrination, the party takes its claim to an additional, absurd level. We rate the Republican Party of Florida's statement Pants on Fire!
Hey, if the GOP wants to see indoctrination of school kids all they have to do is look no further than Republican governance in Texas.
Just as a handful of the 15 members of the Texas Board of Education tried to hijack the educational review of the state science curriculum this past year (attempting to stack the panel of experts with anti-science activists and intelligent design advocates like Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute), the same board members are now trying to repeat the process with the social studies curriculum.
The outcome of these hearings will be used by publishers to determine what goes into their textbooks. As the second-largest bulk purchaser of textbooks in the country, Texas determines what students learn not only in Texas, but in many other states, where districts purchase the same versions.
The board members have appointed six experts, and, the choices appear carefully crafted to be fair and balanced to differing views: one side representing a commitment to sound education, and the other side representing an agenda of religious far-right extremism.
In addition to Marshall, who holds a seminary degree from Princeton and has no background in social science, they include:
David Barton, whose company, WallBuilders, helped spawn a cottage industry based on the concepts that “separation of church and state is a myth” and that our nation’s founding fathers wanted America to be a theocracy, governed by Christian principles. A self-styled historian, Barton only has an undergraduate degree in religious education. And Daniel Dreisbach, a professor in the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington DC, who earned a law degree and a doctorate of philosophy in politics. While unlike Marshall or Barton he does at least boast some credentials, Dreisbach also believes “separation of church and state is a myth.”
On the other hand, the three other board members, Jim Kracht, professor of teaching, learning, and culture and also of geography at Texas A&M University; Jesus Francisco de la Teja, professor and chairman of the history department at Texas State University-San Marcos; and Lybeth Hodges, professor of history and government at Texas Woman’s University, all provide the panel with solid mainstream advanced academic credentials and educational experience.
In their expert reviews, Kracht, de la Teja, and Hodges offer reasonable suggestions for curriculum updates; while the other three offer suggestions that reveal a bizarre political agenda of extremist ideology and biblical exceptionalism.
For instance, Barton (former vice-chairman of the state GOP, and a Republican National Committee operative) said that Texas children should no longer be taught about “democratic” values but “republican” ones. “We don’t pledge allegiance to the flag and the democracy for which it stands,” he wrote.
“It’s a little ‘R’ and a little ‘D,’” Quinn said. “But they’re not fooling anyone.”
Both Barton and Phillips recommended that César Chavez (labor organizer and civil rights leader) and Thurgood Marshall (the nation’s first black US Supreme Court justice who, as a young attorney, successfully argued the public school desegregation case of Brown v. Board of Education) be removed from textbooks because they aren’t worthy role models for students.
Perhaps most concerning, Barton also stresses the teaching of the Declaration of Independence and wants to see the state standards stipulate that the document is synonymous with the Constitution.
It’s interesting to note that nowhere in the Constitution is there a reference to God; but in the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson refers to a creator, as well as “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
From this, Barton says we can adduce—and children should therefore be taught—the five following principles: 1. There is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature; 2. There is a Creator; 3. The Creator gives to man certain unalienable rights; 4. Government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual; 5. Below God-given rights and moral law, government is directed by the consent of the governed.
Barton goes on to write that these five points are key to what he calls “American Exceptionalism”:Students must understand that American Exceptionalism is the result of the five distinctive ideas set forth in the first three lines of the Declaration and subsequently secured in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Im telling you, whenever you hear some crazy accusation coming from the GOP about Democrats you should immediately look around and see where in the country Republicans really are trying to do that crazy thing.