Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

September 3, 2009


Washington Times - President Obama's plan to inspire the nation's schoolchildren with a video address next week erupted into controversy, forcing the White House to pull out its eraser and rewrite a government recommendation that teachers nationwide assign students a paper on how to "help the president."

Presidential aides acknowledged the White House helped the U.S. Education Department craft the proposal, which immediately was met by fierce criticism from Republicans and conservative organizations who accused Mr. Obama of trying to politicize the education system.

[The Review was a lonely progressive voice reporting the news]

White House aides said the language was an honest misunderstanding in what was supposed to be a inspirational, pro-education message to America's youths.

Among the activities the government initially suggested for prekindergarten to sixth-grade students: that they " write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president."

Another task recommended for students immediately after listening to the speech: to engage in a discussion about what "the president wants us to do."


Anonymous chi flat iron said...

The White House needs to stop giving credence to these outlandish claims by addressing their concerns. It's the only way to put them in their place.
chi turbo flat iron

September 3, 2009 8:52 PM  
Anonymous John said...

COME ON SAM! This is not a reasonable interpretation of what happened (or to be exact- what has yet to happen). It is a one-time event that had poorly crafted questions- it is hardly a propaganda attempt to subvert the country's youth. Asking the kids to write down personally what they can do for their president is a poor choice of words- but are they required to do this? Do they need to hand it in? Do teachers get penalized if they don't use this "activity?" I agree with you on a lot of things, but this interpretation strikes me as paranoid.

Furthermore, if you wanted to be responsible, you could cite your piece on Reagan's highly political address to school children in '88 (I assume you wrote something on this- if not there is a transcript available- I believe he said something about this country being ONLY for religious people). You could also mention Bush Sr's address to school children and Bush Jr's address to school children...

September 4, 2009 9:15 AM  
Anonymous don't blame me i voted for Cynthia McKinney said...

i betcha obama is going to stress that quality education that produces skeptical free-thinkers with strong critical-thinking skills is so very important to best interests of best-possible society that it should definitely be free to all who want to pursue it as far as their inherited and honed abilities will take them...and then i betcha he'll follow up with a few lines about how presidents must always remember they are civil servants paid to maximise equal justice for all, most especially the most important justice which is economic justice...and then i betcha he'll say it's wrong to focus children on the history of the presidents as if that was america's real history and the whole speech will end with obama encouraging every parent and teacher in the country to read Howard Zinn's People's History of the USA to kids.

yup, i'll just betcha...

September 4, 2009 11:15 AM  
Blogger Elderlady said...


You are better than this. "Propagandize"... good grief!
Obviously you don't read any Texas papers. Not only are they reporting the objections the nutcases have against the speech, they are also reporting that the nutcases are going to keep their kids home from the schools. Additionally, they are reporting on all the school districts that are ABSOLUTELY REFUSING to air the address.

"Stay in School. Do your Homework. Take personal responsibility. Set Goals you can reach."

What a horrible message to send our kids.

However, I was under the impression.... until I read this commentary... that this type of ignorant, un-educated, stupidity was more rampant where I live... than where you live.

All I know... is that some time ago I used up my " daily patience for ignorance quota".

You should be ashamed.

September 4, 2009 3:22 PM  
Anonymous robbie said...

Was Obama going to indoctrinate our youth on his Socialist agenda?

September 4, 2009 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Obamabots respond.

September 5, 2009 6:57 AM  
Anonymous pj said...

Leave the rightwingnuts out of the picture. Now, if you're not very seriously bothered by that crafty "menu of recommended activities", you must enjoy wearing your velvet chains.

STOP teaching kids to adore and obey ANY president or politician. Don't give respect where none is due. Start teaching them that ALL Governments are pirates if you don't watch them like a hawk, and question EVERYTHING. Teach them that we constitute governments as a necessary evil for the benefits we wouldn't have without them. Teach them the attitude that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest. Teach them that government has legitimate purposes and that as soon as you have group you're going to have government because people are always going to be trying to increase their comfort and safety and happiness. Teach them that the rightwingnuts' fear of big government is misplaced fear and it's a government devoured by superwealth that is to be feared!

Look, responsibility for egregious failures of an educational system that has been and is being purposefully centimated - is being devolved to our children...by devious projects like this latest from obama and his cadre of BAD EDUCATORS. Kids will ultimately get the message that if they don't "succeed" against all odds, it's their own fault. Ah, gee - they failed their president, those bad kids.

"If our children knew what we're really doing to them, they'd rise up and murder us in our sleep." - Frank Zappa

I urge you to have a careful re-think, Elderlady. You're living through Bush's third term and you don't even know it.

September 5, 2009 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

Elderlady, it's not necessarily the content of Obummer's speech that's the problem (tho, like his healthcare ...er, health-insurance "reform" ...er, modification program, we don't yet know what the content is).

It's the "suggestions" made by the Edu Dept for in-class propagandising that are the problem. See Sam's earlier article for details. Those "suggestions" involved *no* critical thinking whatsoever. Quite the opposite, in fact--they suppressed any possibility of critical thinking.

Just because the loonies don't like the speech doesn't mean the speech or its aftermath is any good. I'm sure you've long known that one of the major milestones in the transition to autonomous adulthood is being able to see that something is a good or bad idea even though our parents agree.

September 5, 2009 1:46 PM  

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