George H. W. Bush made a similar address early in 1991, urging students to study hard and stay out of trouble, and George W. Bush and Education Secretary Rod Paige toured American schools in 2001 in a "Back to School, Moving Forward" promotion of the administration's "No Child Left Behind" agenda, but the Washington Post reports that a carefully-orchestrated "grass-roots" movement is calling Obama's planned speech, which will stress that students should work hard in school to achieve their goals, "an attempt to indoctrinate . . . young people." Many schools, fearing that heavily-armed protestors will show up on the day of the speech, have already canceled plans for students to watch it. "They'll have to watch it online at home," one principal said, but no one really expects children to rush home on Tuesday to turn on the CSPAN afterschool special.
The Department of Education has been holding a series of "Little Red Schoolhouse" meetings with speakers like Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Thelma Melendez to explain to parents the Obama administration's determination to continue the Bush policy of obsessive testing to hold schools accountable for educating America's children. Although the Republican base didn't seem to mind when the Bush Education Department told America's schools what to do, Secretary Melendez was surprised this week to encounter protestors at one "Schoolhouse" meeting toting signs that read "No to Obamaskool" and "Government out of schools now."
"We don't want the state running our schools," one tearful demonstrator shouted, adding, "I don't want no government standing between me and my kids' constitutional right to a public school education."
Meanwhile, her child sat nearby holding a "We want vouchers" poster -- despite the fact that critics are complaining that one of the educational activities associated with the president's speech is "have the children make a poster" -- while angry protestors pelted Secretary Melendez with apples and shouted, "Apples are red! Obama's a red!"
The Schoolhouse meeting calmed down after Melendez threatened everyone, including reporters from FOX-News covering the event, with a detention. Then, after some juice and saltines, protestors unrolled their carpet squares and settled down for a nap while Melendez drove off to her next meeting.
At noon on Sept. 8, with protestors outside yelling "Stay away from our children," Pres. Obama delivered a bland, uncontroversial 18-minute speech entitled "My Education, My Future," to an audience of Wakefield High School students in Arlington, Va. The students were electrified by his presence but ultimately disappointed to find out that he was like all the other grown ups who natter on about studying hard, staying in school, focusing on the future, and saying no to drugs. What the kids really wanted to do was take pictures of the president on their cell phones, send them to their friends, and get to the cafeteria.
Below: Students at Wakefield High daydream about their socialist future as they listen to Pres. Obama