Keep Politics Out of Schools

The very fact that questions were raised about President Barack Obama’s plan to address schoolchildren by television today should have raised red flags in educators’ minds. Fortunately, it did. As we have reported, many area school officials had second thoughts about exposing children to what some say is an inappropriate attempt by the White House to influence them politically.

Area school officials who have made special plans to deal with the broadcast were correct in doing so. Many are restricting the broadcast in various ways, including making it optional for children to view. Some have made it a point to notify parents of the controversy.

What upset many, including some parents in the Ohio Valley, was the planned combination of Obama’s address and suggestions by the Department of Education for how teachers should handle it. Frankly, some of those suggestions – later altered – appeared to be attempts to recruit children to help promote the Obama political agenda.

That already has been done in other ways, of course. Using government-funded programs to stage “children’s marches” in favor of the president’s health care plan is an example. Plans for the televised speech today seemed to many to be an extension of that strategy.

Fortunately, many thoughtful, responsible area school officials said “no.” In several counties, the policy is that if parents do not want their children to view the president’s address, other arrangements will be made for the students while the telecast is in progress.

Given the strong feelings aroused on the issue, both by those who favor Obama’s speech and those who do not like the idea, that may have been the best strategy for school officials. Still, as anyone who remembers being a child – or anyone who has had to explain to one why he or she will not be doing what “all the other kids are doing” – the plan is not ideal. We suspect many students whose parents have reservations about the speech still will view it.

Obama has placed children, parents and educators in a bad situation. He should never have done so – and should not do so again. Allowing our schools to be used for partisan politics is unacceptable – and should not be permitted.