Pledging Allegiance to Whom?
September 8th looms large—like an executioner, for some—over the lives of New Jersey’s elementary school students. As the date approaches, the state’s school districts are diligently at work preparing for the arrival of those placed in their charge. Concurrently, some are concerned at how their children’s schools might shift from education to propaganda.
Two reasons for concern come to mind: one from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) which, through its Teaching Ambassador Fellows, has released a set of guidelines that schools may use to assist students in their response to Barack Obama’s address to students, at noon on the 8th of September. The other is a video that has already been seen in a school district in Utah, where school is already in session.
The DOE guidelines appear innocuous enough, for the most part, with questions such as Who is the President of the United States? and What do you think it takes to be president? However, other suggestions have been less so, including the following: [Have students] write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president.
Conservative pundits and citizens alike have been alarmed at what may appear to be an effort to go beyond “morale boosting,” as Michelle Malkin has put it. She and others have considered this sort of thing to be in the “activist tradition of government schools using students as junior lobbyists.”
That might sound far-fetched to some, but the uproar of the last couple of days, since the DOE guidelines have been circulating around the internet, has brought about a change. For example, the letter-writing suggestion above (as of this morning) no longer concerns “helping the president,” but instead asks students to write about achieving “their short-term and long-term education goals.”
It’s good to know that the White House can consider a change of heart, when citizens raise concerns about elementary-grade-level allegiance to the president. The nation will have to see just how much the president considers citizen concerns, when he addresses the nation on a different topic, on the evening of the 9th. That topic: health care reform.
Another reason for concern, regarding how students may submit to the propaganda placed before them, involves a video that hasn’t yet been known to be shown in New Jersey schools but in Eagle Bay Elementary School, in Farmington, Utah. The video contains many well-known celebrities, many of whom say laudable things—like standing up for motherhood and fatherhood (who wouldn’t?) or, as former New York Giant Michael Strahan said (at the 1:10 mark): to consider [him]self an American and not an African American.
Tucked in among the pledges—or platitudes, depending on one’s view—are other pledges. They include I pledge to be of service to Barack Hussein Obama (at 3:19) and I pledge to be a servant to our president (at 3:56). The Utah principal who showed the video to highlight service as the school’s theme for the year did not preview the video, and later apologized for showing the video. The specific word he used, when he viewed the video along with the students was “oops.”
New Jersey parents with school-age children can only hope that the state’s school districts do not realize the fears of the Michelle Malkins (and others), who wish their children to not be converted to junior lobbyists (and that the “I Pledge” video is kept away from their children). For many, or most, of the state’s school districts, the day of the president’s speech will be the first day of school, so how much time will be taken up with the speech and the DOE-directed response to the speech remains to be seen.
An informal poll of local (Ocean County) school districts indicates that they will participate in varying degrees though, for the most part, they are at this time reviewing what the DOE has in mind. Lacey Township, for example, has indicated that they will show the president’s speech, but the DOE input is under consideration; Berkley Township’s response was similar.
This effort by the DOE is seen by some as another reason to do away with the Department of Education altogether. To those who are alarmed at what has been handed down, it has the scent of attempting to build a loyalist following from the ground up, with the fertile minds of impressionable children.
The case can be made that their guidelines are just that: guidelines that need not be followed to the letter; they are mere suggestions. The case can also be made that this smacks of federal micromanagement of a process that has traditionally been handled at the local level—the process of educating our youth.
But this new presidential administration is looking to be progressive (some would say: activist), which translates to consolidating power at the federal level, and attempting, as never before, to exert its influence wherever it is able. Let’s hope that New Jersey schools get wise and resist the federal micro-managers that have, themselves, pledged to be of servants to Barack Hussein Obama.