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Obama school speech suddenly a prickly topic for educators

By Matthew Shaer / September 3, 2009

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan looks on as President Barack Obama speaks at the Department of Education in Washington on July 24. Conservatives have reacted angrily to news that Obama will give an address to students on Sept. 8.

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Update: White House says resistance to speech is just plain 'silly.'

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And the Great School Speech Debate of 2009 roils onwards.

As we noted yesterday, President Barack Obama is slated to give an address to the nation's school children on Sept. 8. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the speech will "call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens."

The address will be streamed live on the White House's website, and the Department of Education has distributed lesson plans to help stimulate debate in the classroom. But many conservatives claim that Obama is attempting to "indoctrinate" the nation. Here's commentator Michelle Malkin writing on her website:

Schools have used students as little lobbyists on everything from illegal immigration to gay marriage to anti-war activism, and most recently, [c]ensus collection. Will Obama be able to resist issuing a call to youth arms to marshal help in passing his legislative agenda?

Of course, Obama is hardly the first president to speak directly to school children. In October 2001, George W. Bush urged kids to donate a dollar to America's Fund for Afghan Children. And in 1991, George H.W. Bush was criticized by Democrats for conducting a teleconference with students on the topic of math and science. (Hat tip to MSNBC's First Read and Michael Roberts of Westword.)

Yesterday, a White House spokesman said that there was nothing subversive about the upcoming Obama speech.

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