Numerous conservative media figures have baselessly accused President Obama of trying to “indoctrinate” America's children with his planned back-to-school speech encouraging students to succeed and persist in their studies. Sean Hannity claimed that “it seems very close to indoctrination,” while Fox News commentator Monica Crowley said “just when you think this administration can't get any more surreal and Orwellian, here they come to indoctrinate our kids”; similarly, Michelle Malkin claimed that “the left has always used kids in public schools as guinea pigs and as junior lobbyists for their social liberal agenda.”
Secretary Duncan: Obama speech “about persisting and succeeding in school”
Duncan: Speech is about “the importance of education” and “persisting and succeeding in school.” In an August 26 letter to principals, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described Obama's September 8 speech as being about “the importance of education” and “persisting and succeeding in school.” Duncan also offered K-12 “classroom activities” to “engage students and stimulate discussion on the importance of education in their lives.”
White House aide: “This isn't a policy speech. This is a speech designed to encourage kids to stay in school.” In a post on his ABCNews.com blog Political Punch, ABC senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper quoted a White House aide responding to accusations portraying “the address as more of a policy speech rather than a specific educational address to children.” Tapper wrote that "[t]he White House says the intention of the speech -- and the lesson plans -- have been misunderstood." From his post:
White House aide said this has to do with meeting the goals the President will lay out about personal responsibility for students.
“The goal of the speech and the lesson plans is to challenge students to work hard in school, to not drop out and to meet short-term goals like behaving in class, doing their homework and goals that parents and teachers alike can agree are noble,” a White House spokesman tells ABC News, “This isn't a policy speech. This is a speech designed to encourage kids to stay in school.”
Showing the speech is not mandatory for schools. In the same blog post, Tapper rebutted accusations from Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer that students will be “forced” to watch the speech. Tapper wrote: “Schools districts across the country have the option to choose if they show the President's address to their students”:
“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology,” Jim Greer, Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida said, “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.”
The Department of Education though did not “force” -- as Greer claims -- schools to do anything. Schools districts across the country have the option to choose if they show the President's address to their students.
Greer goes on to say said that the President has turned to America's children to “spread his liberal lies” by “indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves.”
Again there is no evidence to support that charge.
Conservative media pick up meme; suggest Obama will “indoctrinate” children to carry out agenda
Drudge: “Obama to make unprecedented address to all public school students; September 8 ... Dept. issues a 'to do' list ...” On September 1, Internet gossip Matt Drudge linked to a Department of Education document that gives K-6 teachers suggestions for activities and discussions related to Obama's speech. Drudge linked to the document with the headline: “Obama to make unprecedented address to all public school students; September 8 ... Dept. issues a 'to do' list...”
Michelle Malkin: “School Indoctrination,” “No junior lobbyist left behind.” In her September 2 Creators Syndicate column, Malkin claimed that Obama's speech amounts to recruiting “junior lobbyists.” She also wrote that “parents have every right to worry about their children being used as Political Guinea Pigs for Change.”
Hannity: “It seems very close to indoctrination.” During an interview with Malkin, Hannity said on his show that the president's speech “seems very close to indoctrination.” In her reply, Malkin stated: [T]his is not merely a morale-boosting speech that he's giving. He's giving it in the context of his Obamacare plan completely under siege. We know that the left has always used kids in public schools as guinea pigs and as junior lobbyists for their social liberal agenda." Later, Malkin said Obama will “actually deliver a very innocuous speech. I can guarantee you that. But in these classrooms, which are living laboratories for left-wing activism, what you're going to get are overzealous teachers, teachers' union brass who are in the hip pockets of the Democrat Party, urge their kids to write letters, to demonize Obamacare opponents, and to call them opponents of change.” [Fox News' Hannity, 9/2/09]
Crowley: “This is what Chairman Mao did.” On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Laura Ingraham said the speech is "just another slick attempt to brand Barack Obama" and that “it's a message being sent out by the Department of Education with these questions that without a doubt lead to the further branding of Barack Obama as a savior of our school children.” Also during the segment, Crowley said, "[J]ust when you think that this administration can't get any more surreal and Orwellian, here he comes to indoctrinate our children," and, "[T]his is what Chairman Mao did, Laura. This is like Max Headroom, this is going into every single classroom. There is no escape from him." [Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 9/2/09]
Beck connects Mussolini to purported Obama “indoctrination next week.” Discussing a bas-relief supposedly representing Mussolini, Beck said: “Gee, who is having indoctrination next week? Oh, yeah, that's right, the president, completely unrelated. This represents, at the time this was made, Mussolini. This was Mussolini. By the way, the artist that made this -- his son, ironically and tragically died fighting the army of Mussolini years after this was made.” [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 9/2/09]
The Fox Nation: “Will You Keep Your Kids Home the Day Obama Speaks to Schools?” On September 3, the Fox Nation highlighted Obama's speech, asking whether he was “going after school children for help.” The FoxNews.com article the Fox Nation linked to includes the headline, “Critics Decry Obama's 'Indoctrination' Plan for Students.”
Lou Dobbs fill-in Stigall: “Obama has effectively called a meeting of your children ... [to] mold them into a discussion and a way of thinking without you there.” On The Lou Dobbs Show, guest host Chris Stigall said:
STIGALL: Folks, I'll say this in a different way. If Barack Obama wants time with our schoolchildren -- your children, my children, our country's children. If he thinks it's important to talk about the attributes of education, hard work, go getting a good job, nose to the grindstone, work ethic, education's important -- all those things. I didn't say the message was bad. Don't confuse his message with what's at issue here. At issue is Barack Obama has effectively called a meeting of your children with direction of public school teachers to guide them and shape them and mold them into a discussion and a way of thinking without you there. [...] He gets away with this once, it'll happen again and again. What other helpful piece of advice could President Obama disseminate at noon while you're not around. This is not his job, and it is sure as hell not his job when you're not around." [The Lou Dobbs Show, 9/02/09]
Limbaugh fill-in Mark Steyn: Obama's speech is part of “cult of personality.” On the September 2 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Steyn claimed: “What he's going to do apparently, is he's going to tell them to write letters to themselves about what they could do to help the president, which I find sort of slightly unhealthy. I mean it's all part of the cult of personality. Obviously it's not -- we're not talking about the cult of personality on the kind of Kim Jong II, Saddam Hussein scale.”
Steyn: Obama's speech based on view that education exists to make kids “good subjects” of big gov't. On Limbaugh, Steyn also said that “President Obama is going to beam himself into every schoolhouse in the country and give an address to school children. I don't know how you feel about this, but it doesn't seem quite right to me. [...] It doesn't seem entirely consistent with the idea of education, and it seems to be closer to what is a consistent part of the model here that he learned in Chicago from William Ayers, that essentially the public education system is a useful tool for getting children to be good subjects of the big government state when they grow up.” [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 9/02/09]
From the September 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
INGRAHAM: And the president's proposals are becoming increasingly viewed as controversial and then, presto, he's doing this online address that's going to be seen by hundreds of thousands of kids --
ALAN COLMES (Fox News contributor): Yeah.
INGRAHAM: -- across the United States. And people are like, well, this is just another slick attempt to brand Barack Obama.
INGRAHAM: Nothing is mandatory -- nothing is mandatory, but it's a message being sent out by the Department of Education with these questions --
COLMES: It is guidelines; it's up to local schools, up to teachers --
INGRAHAM: -- that without a doubt lead to the further branding of Barack Obama as a savior our schoolchildren.
From the September 2 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
HANNITY: I want to ask you, though, I would not normally have a problem with any president that wants to address schoolchildren, wants to encourage them to study hard, to develop -- to learn, to have a great education, to inspire them that America is the greatest country and they can be all they can be.
But when you read the specifics here -- what is the president asking me to do? How can I help the president? Now we're getting into an area where it seems very close to indoctrination, or at least has the potential. Your thoughts.
MALKIN: Well, my first thought is that people have to understand the context, the timing, and the culture of this speech. You know a lot of leftists and Fox bashers will make fun of us for calling attention to this event and say, what's the big deal? And they'll point to some sort of prepared text from Obama that looks very innocuous on its face.
But this is not merely a morale-boosting speech that he's giving. He's giving it in the context of his Obamacare plan completely under siege. We know that the left has always used kids in public schools as guinea pigs and as junior lobbyists for their social liberal agenda.
MALKIN: Yeah. Well, as I said, it's not about the text. He'll actually deliver a very innocuous speech. I can guarantee you that. But in these classrooms, which are living laboratories for left-wing activism, what you're going to get are overzealous teachers, teachers' union brass who are in the hip pockets of the Democrat Party, urge their kids to write letters, to demonize Obamacare opponents, and to call them opponents of change.
And we've seen this at the town halls. Obama is not above using an 11- year-old girl as his conduit for attacking a town hall protester's signs as, quote-unquote, “mean.” He did that in New Hampshire, and that girl was the daughter of an Obamacare acolyte. They are using these kids as political guinea pigs for hope and change. And we know what it's really all about.