When President Barack Obama gave a speech last month that was written for the school children of America, certain politicians and pundits threw a fit.
Jim Greer, the Florida GOP chairman, called the speech “liberal propaganda.” Fox News commenthater Glenn Beck said the president's goal is the “indoctrination of children.” The list goes on.
And what were these detestable messages being propagandized by President Obama (or, as I call it, probamaganda)? Do your homework, stay in school, apply yourself—you know, the kind of ideas that could destroy a society should they ever catch on.
Recently, a video was posted to YouTube showing educators in a Burlington, N.J., elementary school teaching students a song about President Obama: “Mm, mmm, mm! Barack Hussein Obama. He said that all must lend a hand, to make this country strong again. Mmm, mmm, mm!”
Well that really irked the righties. They saw it as a direct result of Obama's address to students. Many compared the video to the youth-targeted propaganda of such fascists and despots as Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.
I, too, found the video a tad disturbing. For one reason: Anytime you have kids in groups of four or more reciting creepy incantations, you've got a potential Children of the Corn situation. I also found it quite unnerving to observe this group of mini-automatons chanting “Mm, mmm, mm,” as though they had all just been hand-fed some Body-of-Obama transubstantiation wafers and the wafers were really yummy.
All kidding aside, the conservative politicians and pundits are correct. Of course the kids are being indoctrinated. It's all indoctrination. The speech, the pro-Obama songs and just about everything else they do or teach in every school in every city in the world is, by definition, indoctrination: “To teach, or inculcate; to imbue with learning”—that's what indoctrination means, and isn't that what the education system is? A giant indoctrinatorium designed to train kids how to behave in our society and instill within them enough cultural wisdom to give them a fighting chance as they move on to adulthood?
Indoctrination, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing, and expressing outrage over it is just another red herring designed to befuddle the substance of the argument—which is not whether it's right or wrong to indoctrinate children but, rather, what are the appropriate doctrines to indoctrinate them with in the first place? This is what we should be talking about. This is the substance of the discussion. Of course, the substance will never be discussed because you have to be a blithering imbecile to believe that staying in school and trying hard are inappropriate doctrines to indoctrinate. Since they can't bitch about the substance of the indoctrination, they bitch about the act of indoctrination itself. Because the game isn't substantive critique about the Obama administration. The game is to criticize the president at every turn, for any reason, even if you have to invent a reason—hence Indoctrination Outrage Theater.
When Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, saw the Burlington school video, he sent an e-mail blast seeking donations to help stop the probamagandizing of the children.
“Dear Fellow Conservative, I'm so outraged and stunned by [this video] that I had to share it with you.... It is the indoctrination of our nation's greatest treasure—our children.”
Wow! Coming from a Christian conservative crucifix hugger, you've got a lot of nerve bellyaching about child-indoctrination. Wasn't it you and your pals who wanted to post the Ten Commandments (progodaganda?) in every public schoolhouse? How dare you portray Obama's “Stay in school” message as propaganda when you tried to post the Holy Mother of propaganda posters on the classroom walls? Haven't you heard? Not everybody wants their kids brainwashed to believe in an invisible man in the sky who protects us from harm and takes sides in wars and football matches. Spare us your indoctrination accusations, Mr. Chairman, because you religious fundies wrote the book on brainwashing.
I mean, c'mon: Remember the Sabbath? Have no other gods!? Don't speak the Lord's name in vain. Don't masturbate. Don't use condoms. Believe in only one holy Catholic and apostolic Church. Gays are an abomination, and so is shellfish, and so is John Denver. The Pope is infallible. Say your prayers. Grace the collection plate. Go to confession. Get baptized. Get confirmed. That's some seriously hardcore indoctrinatin' right there.
Now let's look at the doctrines promoted in both the Obama speech and the song that it inspired. In the song, there are basically three lines that sum up the messages: We all must lend a hand / Equal work means equal pay / Make sure everyone gets a chance. In the speech, the message was: Stay in school and try hard. That's pretty much the whole of it: action, equality, empathy, diligence and effort.
So tell me, between probamaganda and progodaganda, which is more appropriate for a schoolhouse? Which is least likely to offend? Which seems less like the creepy, cultish type of mental manipulation that people think of when they think of indoctrination, when they think of a commune of Armageddonauts luring their son or daughter into some jizz-soaked compound and brainwashing them with outrageous ideas about returning messiahs and approaching end days? It's not even a contest. So cut the crap.
Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. For more prodeckaganda, visit http://www.edwindecker.com/.
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