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Blasting Radical GOP Reaction to Obama's Education Speech

Cameron TurnerWow. And I thought the right wing backlash against healthcare was over the top. But the Republican leaders who’ve been raising Cain over President Obama’s planned speech to school kids have sunk to new lows of dishonesty and ridiculousness. All the President wants to do is take 15 or 20 minutes to talk to kids about the importance of education, setting goals and striving for excellence. He wants to get them off to a strong start this school year by telling them that being cool is smart and that learning is the key to the doors of opportunity. That’s a message that concerned parents and educators promote every day. But in the ruthless, paranoid, political-advantage-seeking, alternate reality of conservative pigpen politics, this speech by the President of the United States is not an effort to motivate and inspire kids; it’s a shadowy plot to manipulate children’s minds so that they become liberal automatons. And, as with healthcare, Republican Party leaders and conservative pundits are spreading this laughably false notion with uninformed opinions and outright lies in hopes of whooping up fear and opposition.

But this time, the extremists are even more ridiculous. Comparing Obama to Hitler because of healthcare is stupid as well as insulting. Comparing Obama to Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il because he wants to talk to kids about school is just plain stupid. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. And yet, that’s exactly what Steve Russell, a Republican state senator from Oklahoma did. Russell blustered, "As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality. This is something you'd expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein's Iraq."

To borrow that brilliant phrase from Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, Mr. Russell’s statement is “vile contemptible nonsense.” But Jim Greer, chairman of Florida’s Republican Party left Sen. Russell in the dust with his factually-wrong statement that “taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology” because “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.” Since the President never intended to discuss any policy issues Chairman Greer looks pretty idiotic standing up on his soapbox ranting like that. Conservatives had some concerns about the original teaching guides created by the Department of Education with suggestions for projects schools could create around the themes of the President’s speech. Apparently, the original version of the guide included something about having students "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the President." That was changed to "write letters to themselves about how they can achieve their short-term and long-term education goals." White House deputy policy director Heather Higginbottom told the AP that the original language "was inartfully worded, and we corrected it.”

Take a look at the teaching guides on WhiteHouse.gov and you’ll see that they do not force anything on anybody. What they do offer are a lot of great suggestions (not requirements) for classroom activities that will encourage students to think, discuss and form opinions.

I am thrilled that the President of the United States cares so much about the nation's children that he has planned to talk directly to them about the importance of education. It is a shame that some of the President's powerful opponents have mischaracterized and politicized this noble, nonpolitical effort.

President Obama's important, positive message will certainly inspire and motivate our kids! Moreover, the fact that the message is coming from he nation’s fi rst Black President will make it resonate even deeper with African-American and Latino students, many of whom are struggling to reach the higher levels of academic success. As a parent, I’m proud that we have a President who wants to do that.

Thanks for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.



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