- Posted September 4, 2009 by
It's About the Cult, Stupid
...the Cult of Personality, that is.
I was never upset that Obama wanted to encourage all kids to work hard and stay in school. It was always about the lesson plans and their apparent intent to glorify not education but Obama himself.
Obama's handlers originally designed some pretty self-serving lesson plans for teachers to teach from before and after his speech. Plans fraught with charged words like "inspire" rather than "encourage." Challenges to iterate how they can "serve" the president. Calls for teachers to "hold them accountable" for their pledges to serve Obama's agenda. Scary stuff, if you know your history and have any clue what a cult of personality is.
Now, Obama may not be intending to invoke hero worship of himself at all. His handlers may genuinely be innocent of ill intent with their gaffe. (If they are, I have to wonder why they'd pull the original language and change the lesson plans.) BHObama may actually be as clueless as everyone thought GWBush was or as innocent of guile as a lamb, but I'm not giving him a pass on goodwill alone any more than I did Bush. I am merely willing to watch and see. This is no time to shut tight our eyes.
It's important to note--in an era when dissent is labeled "un-American" and shouted down-- that we as citizens and as parents are not required by the Constitution to worship our President or even to give him the benefit of the doubt. We are certainly not required to turn over the raising of our children to him, not even a little bit.
This president, the former presidents, the one who's to come in a few years...none are deities or even remotely superhuman. They can be mistaken, they can be wrong, they can be misled...and they can be misleading. Our job's not to close our eyes, wish for the best, and shout down any dissent, but rather to hold them accountable for their policies, associates, and actions. We need to set a good example for our kids by questioning, by balancing the present against the weight of history, and being willing to discuss any and all viewpoints. Blind, unthinking loyalty to any cause is hardly a good example.
This vignette in the president's administration has so far been very telling. The lesson plans as they appear here (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/My-Education-My-Future/) as of this writing are less objectionable to me as a teacher and as a parent than the originals. Rather than focus praise and adoration on Obama, they rightly focus kids' attention on making and achieving their own life goals. Great! I can only guess that the original curriculum team must have been so giddy to have a half-black president that they were eager to focus on the "inspiration" such an example must provide for other children of color. So very giddy, in fact, that they goofed. And the proof of that is that the plans were promptly changed, the focus altered to be more suited to education and not indoctrination.
I have to say Obama has already contributed to the education of MY young teens, who now know what a cult of personality is and why it can be very, very dangerous. Without him, they'd not know yet that it
--involves mass media
--creates a hero leader who is idealized, with no dissent allowed
--was absolutely the first step on the road to the totalitarian regimes of Stalin/Hitler/Mussolini/Pol-Pot/Kim Il-Jong/Imperial China and Japan
--can sometimes be "harmless," as with JFK (and wonder what would have happened had that cult not been frozen in time as it was)
--often specifically targets children.
Bravo, Mr. President. It may not be the lesson you intended, but it's been great. I can't wait to discover what we all learn when we watch the video after school Tuesday...together.