making sense of public reaction to (the not yet aired) president obama's speech to kids about education

neal mccluskey, of the cato institute, explains what some parents find objectionable about the speech president obama is scheduled to deliver this coming week. the focus of the proposed address: the importance of education and staying in school. mccluskey notes that some parents are worried that this speech will espouse 'socialist' ideas, and more specifically that the curriculum guides provided by the dept. of education - intended to scaffold discussion following the president's speech - may encourage "national service and things like that..." when asked whether, if the speech turns out to be on the order of a 'pep talk,' mccluskey may soften his view toward the speech, mccluskey responds by posing the question: 'do parents have legitmate concerns that their kids will be exposed to?'

now, i've tried - against my initial reaction of disbelief - to understand the concern and grassroots-like antagonism that has spread and is being reported across news outlets in response to this scheduled speech. but i keep returning to a gnawing feeling that what may really be at the heart of this response - beyond the knee-jerk and politically motivated reactions - has to do with the meaning and purpose of education. this is not new nor earth-shattering, but brings to the surface the disdain towards an approach to schooling (and perhaps education, more broadly) that transcends the scripted teaching and learning opportunities that many adults are familiar with from their schooling experiences. the invitation that will purportedly be extended to children to consider their own role in their education - as connected to the wider global realities of employment demands of jobs that don't yet exist and innovations yet to be imagined - does not strike me as quite the tinderbox some folks are making it out to be.

still, mccluskey's response - primarily aimed at the curriculum guides - seems less obtuse in light of the conservative pundits and elected officials featured in the following clip:

and then there's the clip that includes this curious quote:
"obama shouldn't force anybody to make decisions...for themselves. that's the right of the individual."

some argue that this is about parents' rights to protect their children and to know about what children will be exposed to in school. but is that what this 'controversy' is really about?


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