This is, as they say, a teachable moment. There is nothing to fear. Naturally, teachers and parents, incapable of handling the sheer concentrated intellectual force of such a historic event, have been forwarded a detailed lesson plan by the Department of Education (sic) so that no child will be blinded inadvertently by the dazzling light of hope.
Initially, part of the strategy was to guide our kiddies tenderly through this event by asking them to "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president," which then would be collected so that teachers could hold students "accountable" at an appropriate later date.
Example: Dear Madison, How can I help President Obama save the world from global warming when my daddy is a meanie who hates poor babies and thinks a Prius is emasculating?
My initial reaction to the news, naturally, was to visualize the violent Java-induced (organic and fair-trade only!) pitchforked insurrection that would have exploded in my well-heeled, crunchy, peace-loving neighborhood had George W. Bush lectured local kids on anything. And predictably, Obama's speech has generated a similar reaction from some demonstrably unpatriotic parents across the country -- and it seems gratuitous.
To begin with, even if the president delivered an openly politicized speech, which he won't, your kids would survive the unpleasant experience. Most of our children have not been transformed into complete idiots yet by public education.
Moreover, if your child is incapable of handling a 20-minute haranguing from a self-important public servant, he will be tragically unprepared for the new world. (Whom do you think he will be dealing with when he needs that hip replacement in 60 years?)
Even if you oppose the president on a political level, it is empirically evident that the more one hears his homilies the less inclined one is to trust him. And Obama's penchants to lecture us endlessly, to be the center of attention endlessly and to saturate the airwaves and national conversation are clear indications that he believes government is the answer to every societal, religious, economic and cultural question we face. Why should your kids be immune?
Was it not the president's calm hand that guided a rattled nation through the shocking racial unrest in Cambridge, Mass., recently? Was it not this man whose decency enabled us to lift our collective head after the dark days of capitalist tyranny? And was it not this president who apologized to a slighted and misunderstood Muslim world (twice) for our sins?
Why should we deny that he can elevate our schoolchildren from the abyss so they finally, after decades of neglect, can learn again? And who better to dictate the lesson plan than the president's secretary of education, Arne Duncan, a man who left Chicago's school district with a meager 40 percent dropout rate?
Honestly, if I'm going to be badgered and browbeaten by the president every day, kids should suffer a bit, as well. The president has been treating the American people like schoolchildren for more than seven months -- with another "major address" on health care coming right after he talks to the kids.
When my own brood comes home next week, I'll explain that in this remarkable nation, anyone can become president -- though I hope they'll choose something more constructive -- and that daddies often hope the president fails. I even may help them with their homework:
Q: "What do you think the president wants us to do?" Nationalize health care?
Q: "Does the speech make you want to do anything?" Write a column.
Q: "Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?" God, I hope not.