Illustration by Jordy Kirkman

Illustration by Jordy Kirkman

On Sept. 8, President Obama gave a speech before the nation’s K-12 public school students to ring in the new school year on a high note. Or at least he spoke before most of them.

You see, some people didn’t think schoolchildren should hear the president speak – after all, he is a pinko-commie-socialist community organizer and these innocent minds should not have to be unwittingly subjected to the political indoctrination of The Party.

Take for example the Alpine School District: A memo was sent out among teachers instructing them that they had to allow students whose parents were politically opposed to the president to leave the classroom. All this, despite the fact that the speech (the contents of which were available before the actual delivery of the speech) amounted quite literally to an extended lecture on doing their homework and staying in school (and washing their hands).

Such silliness over so little! The speech read like a page out of William Bennett’s Book of Virtues; it was entirely conservative in its contents, dripping with advice about “personal responsibility” and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.

The only indoctrination I saw in it was the dogma that getting an education is all about stimulating the economy, a dogma almost unquestioned by either the American right or left.

If you were opposed to the contents of the president’s speech, think about this: Were you also in support of the No Child Left Behind Act? If you were, why? In my view, the NCLB act has been demonstrably bad for students all around the nation. But Obama’s address was just that – an address and nothing more. Nothing like the vast and corrosive initiative that was NCLB.

Perhaps this is the strongest criticism possible. Obama only made an address. It is accompanied by no big policy initiative, no attempt to right the many wrongs evident in our current public education. There were significant sums of stimulus money thrown at education, sure, but no fundamental reforms. No real “change.”

Perhaps the president and our other political leaders can be forgiven this, seeing as they are all currently lost in the great health care wilderness. We can only hope they find their way out soon.

If only the citizens of Utah had better public educations to begin with, they would A) have been able to properly analyze the address, B) know what socialism really is and therefore C) recognize that our president and his speech to schoolchildren are anything but left-wing or socialist.

Given the obviousness of the above deduction, I can only conclude that the reason for all the fuss was less about opposition to Obama’s politics than opposition to Obama himself. Sadly, I bet if Obama were to walk out on the Rose Garden tomorrow and publicly push for total privatization of education, somehow Utahns would find a way to label it socialist.