When George Bush was president, I tried to keep my tone neutral around my kids. They were both young enough that they were encountering things like voting booths, The Pledge of Allegiance, and presidential speeches, Memorial Day parades, and war for the first time.
I felt it was my job to explain all of these things in a way that showed respect for our nation, even though I didn't always like where it was going.
I may not have had a lot of respect for our last president, but if George W. Bush had chosen to address school children in a televised speech during school hours, I would never have dreamed of pulling my kids out of school. He could talk about the war and encourage kids to enlist, and I still wouldn't have taken them out. I would have dealt with whatever the President had to say as a parent, just like I would have to when some of their friends, and some of the characters they watch on TV do things I don't approve.
Personally, I'm thrilled that the President is taking 20 minutes out of the school day for a speech and a civics lesson. Anything that takes kids beyond the often abstract concepts taught at school and gives them a glimpse of the real world, is a good thing in my opinion.
So I find it ironic, and more than a little disturbing, that when the President is delivering a message about the importance of staying in school for the kids' own success and the strength of the country; so many have contemplated doing exactly the opposite and chosen to have their children miss a full day of learning because of a 20 minute speech on the importance of education.
It makes you realize just how deep the anti-intellectualism popularized by George Bush and Sarah Palin actually runs in this country. We've gone from having a President who bragged about not reading things, to one that is a living, breathing example of how education can help you rise above the circumstances you were born into, and yet, it's the second guy that everyone's afraid of?
I'm happy that we have a president who will take the time to get the imperative of academic success across to school children from all walks of life. I'm happy that we have someone willing to address the students rather than just the scores. What the Republicans never seemed to realize is that all the teacher-bashing in the world isn't going to help students who don't really want to be in school; who don't see the connection between school and success. It's important that the President asks young people to help their country, even if part of what he's saying is really "help yourself, too."
Yet, just as I did with Clinton, I underestimated the power of the hatred people have stirred up against Obama; deep, personal, frightening, hatred. Compared with some of the stuff going on out there today, taking one's kids out of school is fairly harmless. Much as they might have hated Clinton, people did not show up at his public appearances with guns. I'm worried.
Last week, I found myself having to explain to my son why people might have hated Ted Kennedy's brothers enough to kill them. I hope to God I don't have to do that again.