White House aides say conservatives have misrepresented the President's planned address to students next Tuesday but the Education Department has changed plans for a suggested lesson that would have had elementary kids write essays on how they can "help the President."
That proposal drew strong objections from conservatives. Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer accused the administration of trying to "indoctrinate" students in a "socialist agenda." Even supporters of Mr. Obama agreed it was politically insensitive to suggest students write about how to help him, given the controversy raised by his proposed health care reforms, bank and auto company bailouts and budget deficits. Opposition to the speech spread faster over the internet and conservative talk shows than the White House could contain it.
Aides insist the President never planned to talk about political or policy matters. Officials say the speech will focus on the need for students to stay in school, study hard and take responsibility for their own achievement.
The Education department had suggested curriculum initiatives for schools including the essays about how to help the President, and building "background knowledge about the President of the United States and his speech by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama." The theme for the suggested essays has been changed to how students "will achieve their own short term and long term education goals." Teachers are advised to "collect the goals and redistribute them at an appropriate later date, to make students accountable."
President Obama's speech to school kids on Tuesday won't be the first. The first President Bush talked to kids at a Washington junior high school in November of 1991. His address was carried into classrooms from coast to coast by CSPAN and CNN. President Reagan also delivered an address to school kids in 1988.
Wendell Goler serves as a senior White House and foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC), joining the network in 1996.