Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Does the President Belong in School?

Like newspapers across the country, our local paper had a story about all the controversy surrounding a speech by U.S. president Barack Obama to school children today. There is even a piece about how former first lady Laura Bush supports Barack Obama's address to school students.

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

I think the partisan motivation of conservatives who are opposed to Barack Obama speaking to school children is largely misplaced. Their issue is not so much with the president speaking to school children, but rather a left-wing Democrat president doing so. If this were four years ago and the president of the United States happened to be George W. Bush, these same people complaining would be pleased to have the speech, and they would be indignantly decrying left-wingers who did not want their children watching it as un-American or unpatriotic or some such.

If the motivation for parents being angry is only their partisan rancor, I disagree with them.

However, I believe that no president of the United States ought to be speaking to school children, period. It is none of his business. Public schools are run by local governments. The presiding officer of the executive branch of the federal government simply has no business interposing himself into the area that is run by local and state governments. Barack Obama has as much business speaking to school children in American local schools as the prime minister of India would. Neither one has any constitutional jurisdiction over local American government. It is an inappropriate for President Obama to speak to South Louisiana school children as it would be for the Jefferson Parish sheriff to have a personal audience with school children in Portland, Oregon. Laura Bush is wrong. We are not compelled to respect any president of the United States. The president of the United States is, rather, supposed to be compelled to respect the Constitution, which precludes his usurpation over local matters.

And this is across the board, regardless of party and no matter what his ideology is.

The federal government is simply too powerful and intrusive. And the federal government is doing a lousy job of running the federal government itself - bloated, in debt, inefficient, bursting out of its constitutional limitations, and intrusive (if not oppressive) of the states and local governments. One would think that Barack Obama would have enough to do regarding his own job and his own executive branch within the federal bureaucracy - without sticking his nose into the business of local governments, teachers, and parents. Local governments are often the only ones run with any kind of efficiency and responsiveness to constituents. To have the president of the United States getting involved in how local government is to be run is a joke. Let him get his own house in order.

Some argue that the president's speech was harmless cheerleading, being non-partisan, and basically just telling kids to stay in school. I don't care. The prime minister of India could have said the very same thing - it is still none of his business. The Jefferson Parish sheriff could just as well tell Portland kids to stay in school. And it would be equally ridiculous.

Everything the president does (whether Democrat or Republican) costs money - our money. He does not pay for his own vacations, transportation, nor does he bear the costs of security details every time he goes someplace to speak. He ties up roads, air traffic, and productive commerce; and for many teachers and students today, he ironically caused real teaching and real learning in the flesh to stop while he read from a teleprompter over a TV screen to millions of children he will never see, and who will never see him. One has to wonder how much this speech cost an already overextended and bankrupt federal government.

We Americans have turned the presidency into a monarchical cult of personality, as though his giving a speech is more important than the constant, productive, and unsung labor of parents, teachers, and other people who are actually doing the real work, day in and day out, of raising and educating children. Let us not forget that the president of the United States is a bureaucrat - whether Republican or Democrat. He produces nothing in exchange for his ample salary and the wealth and prestige he will enjoy the rest of his life. He has his job because of politics - not because he is qualified to teach anything to anyone.

Barack Obama chose not to be a school teacher. It apparently was not his calling. So he should butt out. He should not tell children how to learn, teachers how to teach, governors how to run state governments, nor janitors how to sweep floors.

I'm hoping that Americans one day grow up and see the federal government and the president as their servants with limited authority instead of worshiping them as masters with almost boundless might. It was good to see conservatives rise up and refuse to treat the president like a demi-god.

But if conservatives were to treat a Republican president the same way, or better yet, if the president of the United States were to say that such frivolous and expensive speeches are not his job - now that would be real progress.


Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I agree wholeheartedly.

Jonathan said...

But, how many federal dollars get pumped into those state-run schools in the cash-strapped states? And we do have a Department of Education in the Federal Executive Branch. So, like it or not, Uncle Sugar gets his say when he pays the way.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Jonathan:

Problem is, they're not "federal dollars" - they have been seized from the local people for redistribution (of course, after a good bit of the loot has been kept for themselves).

It's kind of like the Mafia's "protection" racket. The feds steal from us, then give us some of the money back, all the while telling us how much we need them.

There is no Constitutional mandate for a Department of Education. The only pertinent parts of the Constitution that addresses education are the ninth and tenth amendments - in other words, it is none of the federal government's business.

The states are "cash-strapped" because the people of those states are overtaxed. And now, with soaring federal deficits and heavily inflated federal reserve (paper) "money," the purchasing power of the people is rapidly decreasing.

"Uncle Sugar" doesn't pay for anything. *We* pay for it. Uncle Sugar is a goon right out of a Joe Pesci movie. Every penny our dear Uncle has to spend on us was confiscated from someone else doing real productive work.

The states could certainly refuse the "federal dollatrs" - but it's money that has been taken from the people of the states to begin with - all with no Constitutional authority to oversee education. It is a catch-22.

The more the federal government is involved, the worse education is. It will continue to get worse, just as healthcare will.

It's time for Uncle Shyster to butt out.

fooser77 said...

Well done. I don't think I could have stated this any better myself. It is as though we shared a "mind-meld" together on this one. What I think was most incredulous about this, is that it was clearly propaganda and indoctrination.

To think that our current "usurper in chief" would impress to convince "young minds full of mush," that Dewey and compulsory education existed at/before the time of the Declaration of Independence. Goebbels would have been proud...

P.S. Don't let the photo fool you. I'm more radical than Ted Nugent. And, I'm older than FH. The music is NOT too loud for me...

Jonathan said...

Rev. Father,
I don't disagree with your position on whose money's at stake and whether feds have any business in education in the first place. However, to me it seems a real chunck of the beef here lies with the states; not that states "could" refuse to take the money, I think they "should" refuse if they want to uphold pure federalism. Instead, what we have is a destructive co-dependent relationship where the states have become drug-addicts dependent on occasional handouts from their sugar-daddy. The states bear as much of the blame in that regard as the feds. Now, neither one has a clue or a care how the 10th Amendment was intended to operate, and we are the worse for it. How do you detox the states?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I commented to some of my liberal friends that there were people who were opposed to President Obama speaking. . . not because he was a Democrat, but simply because they didn't think he or any President should be speaking.

They didn't believe that people who thought like this existed.

Stacy McDonald said...

Good words!

Past Elder said...

At my younger son's public school 6th grade class, as a project they were given a few written questions to ask their parents to answer as if they were president -- what would you do for the schools for funding, equipment etc.

I wrote back a single answer -- that Congress, not the President, passes legislation.

Federal subsidies may come from taxes indeed -- and, the Revolution opposed not taxation, but taxation without representation -- but the functional fact is, state and local governments depend on them, and the federal government depends on them too, to make sure their strings are attached.

dad said...

Schools should not be run by any government, whether state, local, or federal. Back in the days of the former USSR, a few people were permitted to visit the USA. These people were not impressed by our schools - they too had government-run schools. They were impressed by our supermarkets!

Alexis de Toqueville was very impressed with the state of education in America - and in that day, there was not one compulsory attendance law anywhere in America! There was no Federal Department of Education. Some governments ran schools, but they were very local, attendance was voluntary, and they charged tuition of all but the poorest.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear dad (not my Dad...):

I agree with you, and I would also argue for the separation of school and state and abolish mandatory attendance laws.

Government at all levels messes things up - though a local school board comprised of one's neighbors is easier to oust (and more responsive) than a faceless, appointed, national bureaucracy hundreds of miles away steeped in patronage.

Homeschoolers and those who send their children to private schools should not be taxed to pay for government schools.

Competition is the only way to get quality. And ultimately, even with magnet schools, you can't get that in a government monopoly.