School districts deluged with phone calls from parents angry about Obama's speech

Rod Dreher heard about it anecdotally this morning, but what he calls the righty “crazybomb” has now exploded with full force:

Schools don’t have to show it. But districts across the country have been inundated with phone calls from parents and are struggling to address the controversy that broke out after Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to principals urging schools to watch.

Districts in states including Texas, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin have decided not to show the speech to students. Others are still thinking it over or are letting parents have their kids opt out…

“As far as I am concerned, this is not civics education — it gives the appearance of creating a cult of personality,” said Oklahoma state Sen. Steve Russell. “This is something you’d expect to see in North Korea or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.”

PTA council president Cara Mendelsohn said Obama is “cutting out the parent” by speaking to kids during school hours.

“Why can’t a parent be watching this with their kid in the evening?” Mendelsohn said. “Because that’s what makes a powerful statement, when a parent is sitting there saying, ‘This is what I dream for you. This is what I want you to achieve.'”

Presumptive answer to her question: Because far fewer kids (and parents) are going to want to watch in the evening. People get grumpy when an Obama speech on something important preempts the primetime schedule; does she really believe they’re going to turn off “CSI” to watch The One drone on about education? I think kids can handle 20 minutes alone with him. Besides, if the boss is right that the real threat here will be teachers using this as a pretext for more politicized lessons going forward, what does it matter if the kids watch Obama or not? It’s what comes later that’s the concern.

More from Politico:

“The gist is, ‘I want to see what the president has to say before you expose it to my child.’ Another said, ‘This is Marxist propaganda.’ They are very hostile,” said Patricia O’Neill, a Democrat who is vice president of the Montgomery County School Board, in a district that borders Washington, D.C. “I think it’s disturbing that people don’t want to hear the president, but we live in a diverse society.”…

Six districts contacted by POLITICO all said they would leave it to local school superintendents, principals and teachers whether to show the speech – but all said they would provide alternative activities for students whose parents didn’t want them to see the broadcast…

Obama isn’t the first president to be criticized this way. O’Neill recalled President George H. W. Bush made televised address to students in October 1991 as campaign season was heating up. A handful of Democrats denounced Bush’s address as pure politics. Bush asked students to “take control” of their education and to write him a letter about ways students could help him achieve his goals, strikingly similar to Obama’s messages.

Newsbusters remembered Bush’s address this morning — and also remembered that lefty darling Dick Gephardt was very concerned about it indeed (“The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president”). Reagan did it too, according to Tapper, although it’s unclear in both cases how widely televised the speeches were. The most amazing thing about this story to me is Tapper’s assertion that the White House was “caught flat-footed” by the outcry, which is certainly true given how quickly they moved to revise the prep materials. Do they not watch Glenn Beck or listen to Limbaugh? Is Andrew Sullivan really their primary source for how grassroots conservatives view the administration? They’re entitled to have as much contempt as they like for righty suspicions about creeping authoritarianism as government expands, but those suspicions are a fact of political life. Seven months into The One’s term, only a moron would fail to anticipate the reaction at this point.