Message Problem

Filed under:Mothering,Politics — posted by Anwyn on September 2, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

So the president will address schoolchildren at noon on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Let me stipulate up front that my child doesn’t start school till Wednesday, Sept. 9, by the scheduling of the school and not by me keeping him home. Which raises the question of whether or not his kindergarten teacher will record the speech and show it once school starts.

I’ve read a lot of opinions, from (I think) childless AP and Ace to Mama Venom and Daddy Vodka–one “Keep your kids home,” one “Really?” one “Yeah, I can sorta see that,” one “Pick your battles,” and Keep-’em-home Vodka’s follow-up answer to AP.

As Vodkapundit agrees in that last link, the problem is probably not the probably-pap speech itself. The problem is twofold: 1) The arrogance inherent in the president declaring himself the teacher for the time being and 2) The smacking–even if it is just a smacking without substance–of the Little Octobrists. This is not the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, with an impersonal established award for any student meeting the stated criteria. Obama doesn’t establish much, as a matter of fact, that he doesn’t then have to backtrack on, as the administration has already done once on this here speech. But what he does establish, or attempt to establish, is statist all the way. If the president really just wants to send a personal message to students to work hard and stay in school, that’s one thing, but when heavy statism is all you’ve shown yourself willing to sell, why should you be surprised when parents don’t like even the bare possibility of it being sold to their kids behind their backs?

And why does the president believe anybody’s kids need his personal message, even if it is just about staying in school and working hard? I think there’s a lot of merit to Kate’s point that if you make a big deal, the kids will make a bigger deal of it in their minds than you otherwise would. Fortunately I do not have to choose whether the Bean will hear the president in school or not … this year. Like so many things about statism, though, this could be, or try to be, the thin end of a wedge. And, as always, I can’t help but picture the outrage had Bush put an address into schools, something he did not do even right after 9-11. He did not appoint himself our children’s personal grief counselor. The president is not our kids’ teacher or nanny, either.

And: Nice Deb goes fairly nuclear.

And also: What I’m trying to say is that in this case, the message might well be the messenger himself. The essential fact that the president puts an address into the schools sends a message of statism, whatever the speech itself does or doesn’t say–that children should work hard because the president says so. That’s not why they should, and they shouldn’t be taught otherwise.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace