The President and the Classroom

President Barack Obama is scheduled to address students at a Virginia high school.  The speech will be broadcast on cable, and is supposed to focus on the setting of goals and working hard.  But of course where politicians and bureaucrats are concerned, it had to get more complicated than that.  Republicans complained that Democrats might seize this as an opportunity to indoctrinate students with the Democrats’ agenda.  That might seem a little paranoid, given the topics to be discussed, but as it turns out there is more to the story.

The speech was also intended to underscore the idea that education is still important to the President even with the wars, the economy, and the health care debate.  Any explicit focus on these issues actually could open the door to promoting a partisan agenda.  Also, at one point the Department of Education was circulating the idea that teachers might show the President’s speech in schools across the country and then give their students the assignment of trying to figure out how they might help the President.  Hmm, helping the President could definitely qualify as partisan.  The Education Department has backed off from this suggestion.

Interestingly, this is not the first time a President has gone and spoken live at a high school.  George H.W. Bush visited one as President and urged the kids to work hard and say “no” to drugs.  At the time congressional Democrats said this was a poor use of resources, according to an AOL article.  It wouldn’t be fair to accuse President Obama of hypocrisy on this issue because he wasn’t in Congress when the first Bush was President.   But I do wonder about those Democrats who did speak up back then, just as I wonder about the Republicans who thought it was a good idea for a President to make such an address until the President in question was a Democrat.  Ah, politicians.

In principle, I think it is a great idea that a President would talk to young people like this.  But Democrat or Republican, I believe the President should avoid partisan issues.  School should be focused on expanding the minds of young people, not indoctrinating them.