Hammer and Sickle High?

September 8, 2009

The right-wingers who think Barack Obama is trying to indoctrinate school kids in socialism have it upside down and backwards, says Seattle teacher Jesse Hagopian.

THE COMMUNIST plot to infiltrate America's schools is almost complete.

At least, that is, according to Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, who recently testified, "As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology"--referring to the commander-in-chief's scheduled address of the nation's schools today.

Right-wing talk-show hosts like Glenn Beck have made Obama's speech to schoolchildren their vein-popping tirade du jour, and ABC News reported that some school districts in six states--Texas, Illinois, Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri and Minnesota--are refusing to air it for students.

A small but noisy set of parents have pledged that they will keep their kids home from school on Tuesday rather than allow them to be brainwashed by 21st century Bolshevism.

Racism simmers beneath much of the vitriolic opposition to Obama and has even boiled over into open bigotry. Teresa Kopec, a parent from South Carolina reported, "I just got anonymous phone call calling me a 'n*gger-loving communist' for giving pro-Obama statement to local paper."

Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan (right) visits a classroom with Barack Obama
Barack Obama visits a Chicago public school classroom with his Education Secretary Arne Duncan

What sedition is Obama planning to spread that has conservatives frothing at the mouth?

The White House released an outline of Obama's address that reveals he will take up such known socialist themes as getting good grades. The administration has also prepared a Leninist lesson plan to accompany the speech that suggests, "Teachers might conduct a 'listening with purpose' exercise based on the themes of inspiration and challenges."

REGARDLESS OF how cross-eyed with rage they get, the right wing couldn't be more erroneous when they rant about Obama's desire to paint the White House--or the schoolhouse--red.

I should admit that I haven't read all three volumes of Das Kapital, but I don't think Karl Marx ever said anything about workers of the world uniting to bail out bankers with hundreds of billions in taxpayer money. Jettisoning even his tepid support for a "public option," Obama is poised to cave to the for-profit health insurance companies on health care reform.

But it's in education--through his relentless push for the privatization of the public schools in the form of charter schools--where Obama's dedication to the free market put him in a class of his own.

The public schools represent one of the last free public government services guaranteed to all--and one of the last great frontiers for Corporate America. With right-wing school voucher programs discredited, the school privatization movement has reinvented itself with a liberal veneer in the form of the charter school lobby.

Charter schools operate by taking public money and placing it in schools that are outside public oversight--and are run by independent charter associations or for-profit entities. Often times, the CEOs of these charters get bloated salaries, and--just like health insurance companies--the schools deny applicants deemed to be "high risk."

Obama's charisma and liberal credentials have helped put the charter school movement on the fast track--along with his Race to the Top Fund, designed to pressure school districts around the country to turn significant portions of their schools into these unaccountable charters, or be cut off from desperately needed federal dollars.

As the Washington Post reported, "President Obama is leaning hard on the nation's schools, using the promise of more than $4 billion in federal aid--and the threat of withholding it--to strong-arm the education establishment to accept more charter schools and performance pay for teachers." It seems the plan is working with the recent news that the Los Angeles Unified School District board voted 6-1 to authorize opening up over 250 schools to bids by charter schools and other outside entities.

Obama defended the Race to the Top Fund saying, "It's not based on politics, it's not based on who's got more clout. It's not based on what certain constituency groups are looking for, but it's based on what works."

But the fact is that charter schools rival investment banks for best example of the failure of the free market.

In the largest study on charter schools to date (funded by the Walton Family of Wal-mart infamy), Stanford University found that students in more than 80 percent of charter schools either performed the same as or worse than students in traditional public schools on reading and math tests. Fully 37 percent of charter schools students did worse than students enrolled in local traditional public schools.

For Obama to truly earn the socialist moniker his right-wing antagonists have branded him with, this is the speech he would need to deliver to the children of America:

As another school year begins, I have chosen to address the nation's children because dramatic changes are needed if we are to ever attain a society fit for you to grow up in.

I have come to realize the hypocrisy of scolding America's youth for not taking more personal responsibility for their future when we don't ask the same of America's elite.

Today, I pledge to nationalize the banks that took hundreds of billions of dollars from your parents in the form of tax-payer bailouts and use the proceeds to provide a single-payer "Medicare for All" health system that can ensure students come to school healthy and ready to learn. Furthermore, I will withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and with the money and morality saved from not killing people around the world, build the strongest public school system the world has ever seen.

Remember to always study hard--with all the new jobs I am creating in health care and education, we will soon need smart young people like you working to meet the needs of millions who previously were neglected.

If Obama delivers this speech on Tuesday, I would be happy to write an apology letter to Glenn Beck--requesting forgiveness for not heeding his warning of creeping socialism.

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