Article published Friday, September 4, 2009, at Fox News.

White House Puts Parents In an Awkward Position

By John R. Lott, Jr.

Moms and dads who don’t think that it is appropriate for the president to address students shouldn’t be put in the situation where they will be forced to remove their students from school during the first day of school. Six, seven, and eight-year-old kids shouldn't be put in a position where they have to say that a particular president is inspiring and such a wonderful person. Next Tuesday, the opening day for many schools across the country, President Obama will give a speech to elementary and secondary students across the country. Having the US Department of Education designing curriculums for local schools is inappropriate as it is, but what is asked of teachers this Tuesday is particularly inappropriate.

Could you imagine the outrage if the president requested time to address adults during their work day even if it were simply to encourage them to work hard and be productive for the good of the nation? But why would they be upset? The very act of listening to a politician is a political act. It is no more appropriate than requiring that Americans to listen to a political ad. Some adults simply don't want to waste their time listening to a politician or they might simply dislike that person. Others might not be political and not care enough to watch such an address the politician. But this is less objectionable for adults than kids – kids are much more impressionable.

Among the questions the Department of Education is asking teachers to discuss with students from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade is: "Why is it important that we listen to the president and other elected officials... Why is what they say important?" "Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?" "What is the president asking me to do?" Older students from 7th to 12th grade are asked to discuss such questions as: "How will he inspire us?" "Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything?"

On Thursday, the Department of Education acknowledged that its lesson guide had gone too far in asking teachers to instruct students on what they can do to “help” the president obtain certain goals. But that is not the only reason the president’s speech is objectionable.

Public schools have no business telling young children that they should listen to politicians, let alone which politicians. Having teachers ask students “how will he inspire us” looks like the Department of Education wants teachers to put the president’s speech in a positive light.

Teachers are also given guidance to have students read books about President Obama. The instructions for 7th to 12th grade teachers includes: "Teachers may post in large print around the classroom notable quotes excerpted from President Obama’s speeches on education." But President Obama's Department of Education has no business spending a dime of taxpayer money suggesting that students read something by or about Mr. Obama.

The president just says that he wants to talk to the students about individual responsibility. True, it is something that the president has mentioned many times in other speeches. But it hardly seems like he really believes this. In many speeches this claims sure looks more like a smokescreen for promoting his government programs, programs where bureaucrats make decisions for you.

If one doubts that education can be used for indoctrination, just go watch the debate that school boards face when they decide what textbooks to adopt. Around the world, there is a lot of evidence that governments frequently use almost every opportunity that they have to instill the desired views in children.

Parents who don’t think that it is appropriate for the president to address students shouldn’t be put in the situation where they will be forced to remove their students from school during the first day of school.

*John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics.

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