Monday, November 23, 2009


From the New York Times back in September:

Some Parents Oppose Obama School Speech

President Obama’s plan to deliver a speech to public school students on Tuesday has set off a revolt among conservative parents, who have accused the president of trying to indoctrinate their children with socialist ideas and are asking school officials to excuse the children from listening.


The White House has said the speech will emphasize the importance of education and hard work in school, both to the individual and to the nation. The message is not partisan, nor compulsory, officials said.

“This isn’t a policy speech,” said Sandra Abrevaya, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. “It’s designed to encourage kids to stay in school. The choice on whether to show the speech to students is entirely in the hands of each school. This is absolutely voluntary.”


Of course, this controversy was bullshit from the get-go. Obama's bland "stay in school" and "get good grades" address was the same sort of pablum every student gets every day, all day long, year after year, in various ways, in various forums. Only the paranoid, psychotic, and marginalized far right wing can "see" communist indoctrination embedded in such traditional go-school rhetoric. I mean, the conservatives never even had an argument, just a bunch loony raving.

I've filed this one away with black helicopters, New World Order fear mongers, "Birthers," and gun-toting Tea Baggers. You should, too. Like I said, it was total bullshit.

On the other hand, in one of the great ironies of this era that virtually no one caught, Obama's speech, while not socialist or communist in nature, was definitely indoctrinational. Long time Real Art readers may remember my countless assertions that, very contrary to conventional wisdom, American schools serve primarily to indoctrinate children into the culture of obedience and authority. Indeed, when the US public school system was just starting to get its shit together in the nineteenth century, famous education "reformers," such as Horace Mann, pitched the heavily militarized Prussian school system to the new super rich class of industrialists as the ideal way to create a docile work force for factories. The rest is history.

Today, you can get a high school diploma and be stupider than shit, but you fully understand, down to your bones, that there are rewards for obedience, and punishments for disobedience. Really, the entire debate about whether we have good schools or not misses the point: we have great schools, all of them, as long as it's understood that their function is to teach obedience, which they do extraordinarily well.

Part of the game, however, is that we all have to believe that what the schools are really trying to do is facilitate learning, which, of course, they do pretty badly for the most part--I mean, this doesn't really matter in a lot of ways because actual learning is only a secondary or tertiary goal for the schools; as long as teachers crack the whip, they're doing great. But because we're freedom-loving Americans, we just can't admit that one of our most invasive government institutions, education, runs utterly counter to our most cherished principles. We Americans, especially liberals, tend to glorify educators, mythologizing them in movies, television shows, books, and casual conversation. It's pretty sick, actually.

Anyway, it is in this context, the glorification of public education in order to divert attention from the schools' actual function, that the President made his speech. Really, one can interpret Obama's address as a plea to students to obey because obedience is the only way to "succeed" in school. That is, the speech was straight-up indoctrinational propaganda, totally sinister, just not in the way that the right-wing freaks understood it.

It's like I keep telling conservative friends: you have nothing to fear from Obama; he's here to save the establishment, not destroy it. I mean, c'mon. Right wingers ought to like all this Nazi obedience shit. It's totally up their alley. But why should I be surprised that large groups of Americans are stupid fucktards? They're just a product of their schooling.