Indoctrination! Brainwashing! Propaganda! Are these the words being used to frighten Americans about Healthcare Reform? No. They’re Jim Greer’s words to describe President Obama’s upcoming speech to American students. Greer, Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), would have us believe that listening to the President talk about his own education, his own story of success, and his plans for our nation’s education system is a terrible thing. Mr. Greer would surely hate the idea of having students listen as the President answers what will invariably be some tough questions on healthcare, spending, the economy, drugs, and other important issues.
But is Mr. Greer truly worried about letting the President “indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda”? No. He’s just playing politics as usual. Mr. Greer, who has spoken to numerous schools in his role as Chairman of the RPOF, simply doesn’t want students to hear the President’s opinions or policies because he is afraid that students might actually agree with the President. He’s read the polls. He knows that young people trend Democratic. He knows that RPOF teen outreach efforts are anemic at best (a recent youth conference featuring Olympic champ Bruce Jenner) and late-night punch lines at worst (the same recent youth conference featuring dethroned Miss California, Carrie Prejean).
Anyone who says this isn’t about politics is wrong. But politics is important. Young people vote in lower numbers than ever. But most young people don’t work on a campaign. Most young people don’t apply to spend a year in Washington, DC as a House of Representatives Page. Most young people don’t get the real up-close-and-personal view of politics that Mr. Greer’s children get by virtue of his position within the GOP.
How could we better inform students about the issues they learn about in civics class then by letting them hear what President Obama plans to accomplish? How could we better encourage real thought-provoking debate among young people than by letting them hear from the duly elected President of the United States? If you agree with him, great! If you disagree with him, that’s great too! At least our students would be opinionated. And it’s obvious that only opinionated people can find solutions to our problems. The unopinionated ones stay home from the polls.
This year at the Community School of Naples, we’re not shying away from politics. The Upper School Student Council has embraced real political discourse by inviting all of the major party candidates for the US Senate seat and Florida’s governorship to speak to the student body. We want our peers to hear what Congressman Kendrick Meek and Speaker Marco Rubio have to say. We want our peers to agree or disagree, question or support AG Bill McCollum and CFO Alex Sink. We’ve realized that it’s only through exposing students to politics and politicians that we can get them to care about politics and politicians.
Showing this speech in civics class will not indoctrinate America’s youth in President Obama’s policies anymore than showing an Adolf Hitler speech in history class will indoctrinate America’s youth in Nazi policies. But not showing the speech denies students a crucial chance to get interested in the political process set forth over two hundred years ago by our founding fathers and denies students a crucial chance to get engaged in their own futures.