So, Obama’s upcoming speech to students is now online, and it looks as if all the right-wing hysteria about how this is going to be an exercise in Marxist Hitler Youth Indoctrination (or whatever scary buzzwords conservatives have figured out how to pronounce this week) is, surprise surprise, a tad overblown. It’s a nicely composed pep talk about the value of education, not the tiniest bit controversial, not even — for me — in its standard-issue “God Bless America” signoff. I know that kind of language has earned a sneer from PZ and some other atheists, but I’m not the kind of guy to think seven words of boilerplate political-speech language detracts from the actual content in any way.
I’m hopeful that, once this speech is out there, more people will begin to wake up to just how out of control the right has become in their reactionary scaremongering over our Eeebul Socialist Kenyan President, and a few hot heads start to come off the boil a bit. I’m also hopeful I’ll find 10 million dollars in a paper grocery bag abandoned in a ditch and that Chris Jansing will knock on my front door tonight wearing nothing but baby oil. We’ll see which of these little hopes pans out first.
Now, I do think there is a legitimate objection to the idea of making the watching of this speech a mandatory class event. Let’s be honest, if Dubya had prepared a speech for mandatory school viewing, those of us who were less than his most ardent fans would have objected too, and probably voiced concerns about possible inappropriate political proselytizing. Some bloggers have made the point that, where the students are concerned, this will merely be a boring interruption in an already boring school day, something lame that the grownups want them to take part in, like eating vegetables, that you’ve got to do because it’s good for you. I’d say that, with YouTube and other internet sources set up to make a speech like this available on demand, into perpetuity, there’s no reason for watching it to be some kind of class requirement. Indeed, to make it one would smack of demagoguery, regardless of how inoffensive the actual speech content turns out to be. Better perhaps to encourage students to watch it, perhaps at home with their parents, and maybe earn extra credit for doing so and writing a couple of paragraphs of feedback. Sure, there is that terror-stricken element of the ultra-right freak fringe who hear Obama’s name and immediately think of The Scary Nazi Communist Black Man Who Wants To Kill Grandma. But those people are not exactly big on the whole education concept in the first place, are they? If they were, at the very least, they’d know that the Nazis and Communists loathed each other.