Some friends of mine whom I respect and admire have been posting newspaper editorial headlines on Facebook declaring:
It’s difficult to react to the substance of the speech to be broadcast to America’s classrooms on Tuesday, because the text of the speech hasn’t been released yet (wait ’til tomorrow). But the government’s lesson plans for teachers in grades K-6 and 7-12 have been made available by the Department of Education. In these plans, the Obama administration encourages teachers to ask these leading questions before and after Obama’s speech:
Why is it important that we listen to the president and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor?
How will he inspire us?
How will he challenge us?
What do you think the president wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
What resonated with you from President Obama’s speech?
Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything?
These questions are worded with fawningly positive assumptions regarding Barack Obama and his speech, assuming inspiration, assuming resonance, assuming a bracing challenge. Closed questions assuming some desired attitude don’t promote critical thinking; they promote herd thinking. If you’re a Democrat and don’t understand what the problem is, try substituting “Bush” for Obama, imagine it’s the year 2004. Now see how you feel about the questions.
I don’t appreciate our government encouraging hero worship among children with these kind of leading questions, not when it’s done for a president who I mostly disagree with and not when it’s done for a president who I mostly agree with. I don’t think it’s “paranoid” or “sinister” for people to object to it either. It’s amusing to me that the same folks who demanded we follow the president as a test of patriotism have found their spines with their party out of power. It’s sad to me that the same folks who four years ago declared that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” demonize dissent now.