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Obama’s classroom campaign: No junior lobbyist left behind

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 2, 2009 05:02 AM


Photoshop: Leo Alberti

My syndicated column today digs a little deeper into President Obama’s September 8 speech to schoolchildren. The school guides now featured front and center on the www.ed.gov website were developed by the White House Teaching Fellows — a group which includes several activist educators as you’ll see below.

Downplaying academic achievement in favor of left-wing radical activism in the public schools is rooted in old neighborhood pal and Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers’ pedagogical philosophy. It was the Chicago Annenberg Challenge way when the two served as board members of the educational foundation — and it is the Washington Obama way now.

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Obama’s classroom campaign: No junior lobbyist left behind
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2009

“ABC” stands for All Barack’s Children. On September 8, young students across the country will be watching television. Yes, they’ll be parked in front of the boob tube and computer screens watching President Obama’s address on education.

Instead of practicing cursive, reviewing multiplication tables, diagramming sentences, or learning something concrete, America’s kids will be lectured about the importance of learning. And then the schoolchildren, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, will be exhorted to Do Something — other than sit in their seats and receive academic instruction, that is.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan dispatched letters to principals nationwide boasting that “This is the first time an American president has spoken directly to the nation’s school children about persisting and succeeding in school.” But the goal is not merely morale-boosting. According to White House event-related guides developed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching Fellows, grade-school students will be told to “listen to the speech” and “could think about the following:”

*What is the President trying to tell me?

*What is the President asking me to do?

*What new ideas and actions is the President challenging me to think about?

• Students can record important parts of the speech where the President is asking them to do something. Students might think about: What specific job is he asking me to do? Is he asking anything of anyone else? Teachers? Principals? Parents? The American people?

After the speech, teachers will ask students:

*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?

Obama’s White House Teaching Fellows include Chicago high school educator Xian Barrett, a fierce opponent of charter schools who founded a “Social Justice Club” and bussed students to protests and Michelle Bissonette, a Los Altos, Calif., teacher who is “focused on developing my leadership as a more culturally and racially conscious educator.”

The activist tradition of government schools using students as junior lobbyists cannot be ignored. Zealous teacher’s unions have enlisted captive schoolchildren as letter-writers in their campaigns for higher education spending. Out-of-control activists have enlisted their secondary-school charges in pro-illegal immigration protests, gay marriage ceremonies, environmental propaganda stunts, and anti-war events.

And last year’s presidential campaign saw disgraceful abuses of power by pro-Obama instructors. In New Rochelle, New York, elementary students were given an in-class assignment to color in drawings of Barack Obama – including a picture of a campaign button featuring his face and the slogan “Students for Obama 2008.”

In Cumberland County, N.C., a fifth-grade-school teacher turned a “civics” discussion into an unhinged harangue against a girl who said her family supported John McCain.

Nor can the Democrats’ strategy of using kiddie human shields to advance their legislative agenda be overlooked in the context and timing of Obama’s speech. Children have been front and center of the Left’s push for an ever-increasing government role in health care – from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s use of seventh-grader Baltimore school kid Graeme Frost to push for the massive S-CHIP entitlement expansion, to President Obama’s none-too-coincidental choice of Massachusetts 11-year-old town hall questioner Julia Hall (the daughter of a prominent Obama activist/organizer who assailed Obamacare critics’ “mean” signs), to the Kennedy family’s decision to put grandson Max Allen on center stage to pray for health care reform at his uncle’s funeral last week.

So when the Department of Education directs schools to gather children ‘round the TV monitors for Obama’s pep talk and then do this…

• Create posters of their goals. Posters could be formatted in quadrants or puzzle pieces or trails marked with the labels: personal, academic, community, country. Each area could be labeled with three steps for achieving goals in those areas. It might make sense to focus on personal and academic so community and country goals come more readily.

• Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals.

…parents have every right to worry about their children being used as Political Guinea Pigs for Change.

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Postscript: Stanley Kurtz’s invaluable investigation of the Obama/Ayers/Chicago Annenberg Challenge ties last fall is must-read. A very timely and relevant excerpt:

The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago’s public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation’s other key body, the “Collaborative,” which shaped education policy.

The CAC’s basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

…The CAC’s agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers’s educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland’s ghetto.

In works like “City Kids, City Teachers” and “Teaching the Personal and the Political,” Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? “I’m a radical, Leftist, small ‘c’ communist,” Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk’s, “Sixties Radicals,” at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.

…CAC translated Mr. Ayers’s radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with “external partners,” which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Mr. Obama once conducted “leadership training” seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama’s early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education. CAC’s in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement.

…Mr. Ayers is the founder of the “small schools” movement (heavily funded by CAC), in which individual schools built around specific political themes push students to “confront issues of inequity, war, and violence.” He believes teacher education programs should serve as “sites of resistance” to an oppressive system. (His teacher-training programs were also CAC funded.) The point, says Mr. Ayers in his “Teaching Toward Freedom,” is to “teach against oppression,” against America’s history of evil and racism, thereby forcing social transformation.

The Obama campaign has cried foul when Bill Ayers comes up, claiming “guilt by association.” Yet the issue here isn’t guilt by association; it’s guilt by participation. As CAC chairman, Mr. Obama was lending moral and financial support to Mr. Ayers and his radical circle. That is a story even if Mr. Ayers had never planted a single bomb 40 years ago.

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