Now that the text of President Barack Obama's planned noontime back-to-school address is out, I hope the people who manufactured this controversy feel appropirately silly, but somehow I doubt it. In the speech, the president exhorts students to study hard and stay in school, that hard work can, as in his case, lead to great things. If this is indoctrinating kids into socialism, perhaps I didn't study hard enough in the political theory part of school, because that sounds a lot like American-style, free-market capitalism to me.
How exactly did we get to the point at which a speech by the president stressing the importance of education become a political firestorm, leading some local schools and even one entire county -- Harford -- to decide not to show it?
There are two things going on here. One is an increasingly hysterical political fringe that is inconsolable in its belief that the president is some kind of Manchurian Candidate come to utterly destroy traditional American values, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. The second is the trend toward absolute spinelessness among school officials who are so worried about offending a vocal minority of parents that they would miss out on the opportunity to have their children hear from the most persuasive advocate for the power of education to spur upward mobility that the country has today, and perhaps the best it has ever had.
Neither trend embodies what is best about America, and I'm afraid neither is going away anytime soon.
Check out more reader responses to the controversy about President Obama's speech here.