September 14, 2010

Captive Audience

Category: Education,Politics :: Permalink

Did you hear about the protests today in connection with President Obama’s address to the nation’s schoolchildren?  It wasn’t related to the content of the speech; rather, it began even before he spoke.  What the protesters were objecting to, it seems, was not what the president said or even what the protesters thought he might say but the very fact that President Obama would say anything to their children.  And so, as one headline said, many conservatives were enraged over the Obama school speech.

Oh, wait.  That was last year.  This year, President Obama addressed schoolchildren again.  Were there protests?  No.  At least none that made the news.  Did some parents keep their children home?  Maybe, but certainly not in enough numbers that it drew the attention of NPR.

What made the difference between last year and this year?  Was it that conservative parents realized that President Obama was not the first president to address schoolchildren and concluded that they had no real reason to protest?  Was it that these parents heard last year’s speech, figured it was harmless, and though that today’s speech would be more of the same and hence not worth protesting?  Maybe.

But it occurs to me that what upsets people the first time it happens (in this case, the first time with a president some find particularly objectionable) barely makes them bat an eyelid the second time it happens.  If it happens often enough, in fact, it becomes a matter of course, not concern.  Before long, it’s just the way things are done.

The other thing worth noting, it seems to me, is that last year’s protests don’t appear to have had any significant effect.  They certainly didn’t deter the president from making another speech to the public schools.  Maybe some parents who protested last year or kept their children home have figured that their actions weren’t going to change anything and so they gave up.  Why bother?

Now I’m not saying that these parents ought to protest, whether by writing letters to the school board or by wearing anti-Obama-speech sandwich boards and parading up and down outside schools or even by keeping children home for the day of the speech.  If you’re going to hand your children over to the government to educate, then on what grounds can you legitimately protest when the government — in this case the president — procedes to do just that?

But what if you really wanted to make a statement?  Better, what if you didn’t care so much about “making a statement” or catching the attention of the government as you did about bringing up your children as Christians?  What if you didn’t turn their education over to the government, regardless of whether that government includes President Obama?  Then pulling your kids out of the public school for one day is hardly enough.  Why not make it permanent?

Posted by John Barach @ 2:06 pm | Discuss (0)

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