The XX Factor

The Uproar Over Obama’s Back-to-School Speech Is Silly

I find the uproar over Obama’s approaching back-to-school address to be pretty silly. The speech, which schools are being encouraged to air on Tuesday, is meant to encourage kids to stay in school. Sounds innocuous enough, but Obama opponents are using the opportunity to compare him to Saddam Hussein and accuse him of creating a “cult of personality.” The reason I find this so absurd is because I was fourth grade when President Bush the first made a similar speech. I didn’t remember the speech at all until today’s news stories about Obama jogged it loose from the memory graveyard. But it brought up a specific image of being corralled into the gym and made to watch Bush ramble on about god knows what. I can’t recall specifically because I wasn’t paying attention. After all, I was only 9. I remember being pretty confused as to why our teachers were making us do this and getting scolded for talking during the address.

All of this is to say that the outrage is purely for the parents. Even most high schoolers will think of this address as a boring chore to watch and the kids who are in grade school will barely understand what’s going on. Obama could actually be sitting up there spewing pinko propaganda and it will fall on deaf ears. What he’s really going to do-give some general remarks about hard work-is going to be pretty well ignored, too. If you’re going to oppose this speech, do it because it’s a waste of time, not because it’s “something you’d expect to see in North Korea,” as Oklahoma state Sen. Steve Russell claims it is.

Photograph by Getty Images.