Saturday, October 22, 2011

Class Warfare

"Teach your children well... And feed them on your dreams." -Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young

I rarely, if ever, get political in blog posts. After all, I am a daddy blogger. But something happened in the world of politics this week that falls into my genre. So I feel compelled to share my thoughts.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at an elementary school in York, PA on Wednesday. He spoke to a group of fourth graders. And he chose this audience to push the President's agenda. He was selling a provision in the jobs bill that would have given $35 billion for state and local governments to pay for public jobs, like teachers and police officers. (As it turns out it failed in the Senate on Thursday.)

He told the students - 9 and 10 year-olds, mind you - that all he and the President want to do is "ask people who make a lot of money to pay a little bit more in taxes" to pay for teachers likes the ones at their school who lost their jobs. Just like that. He even held his thumb and index finger apart just a tiny bit to illustrate his point, and show how little extra these people with a lot of money have to pay.


The Vice President wants to visit an elementary school and talk about the importance of working hard, or the dangers of drugs and alcohol, or the value in service to country, that's fine. I'm all for it. Instead, what Mr. Biden did amounts to nothing more than propaganda. Filling the heads of children with one party's ideas. He had a captive audience, and this is what he decided to talk about? Inexcusable.

As a parent, I would be furious if my child were in that classroom. And before you start making assumptions about my politics, I would be just as furious if a Republican spewed right-wing talking points to a bunch of kids. I would be furious because no one's personal politics belong as part of the curriculum in a public school classroom. Just like no one's religion belongs there either.

Maybe some of those students went home and asked their parents about what the Vice President said. Maybe some of the parents offered an opposing point of view. Maybe some of those kids didn't say anything to their parents because they assumed what this very important man was telling them must be true. Maybe their teachers reinforced Mr. Biden's ideas after he left. Maybe THEY offered the opposing view. I honestly don't know.

But that's a lot of maybes. Maybe Mr. Biden should have chosen something else to talk about. Or read them a book.

When we start presenting political views to impressionable children who are incapable of questioning the presenter, that's propaganda. It's disturbing. It can't happen. It shouldn't happen. It's one thing for parents to teach their children their political beliefs. One could even argue that in itself is potentially dangerous. But that is a parent's right. It is not a school's or the government's right to deliver an uncontested political message to our children.

We all have our own political beliefs. They are different from everyone else's. We all approach the issue of teaching these beliefs to our children differently. Whether it's right or wrong, I don't plan to instill my daughter with my beliefs. I want her to have her own. I hope to present both sides of issues to her when the time comes, tell her which side I am on, and have her decide which side she is on.

And when she enters public school next year, I certainly don't want a teacher, administrator, or politician bringing their political beliefs into the classroom and presenting them to my daughter as fact.

What are your thoughts? I'd appreciate if comments were kept to the issue of politics in the classroom, and not the merits of a particular agenda.


  1. Whether it's right or wrong, I don't plan to instill my daughter with my beliefs. I want her to have her own.
    Well put. Ditto with my son.

    I hadn't heard of this incident until just now, but it troubles me as well.

    Imagine if someone like MLK, Jr. had pushed party platforms instead of an ultimate message. A very different impact, don't you think?

    I believe we need to instill our children with the tools to think critically, rather than simply inculcate them with our own specific legislative ideas so they can be mini-mes. If I ever dreamed stray from this path, I'd just need to think of my mom's family to remind me.

  2. It's absolutely disgusting that politicians of any party would use the classroom to push their platform. It's not teaching it's total propaganda and has ZERO business in a school. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  3. I totally agree with you - politics should NOT be pushed on children in the classroom. I have a lot more to say about this but I'm going to hold my tongue. Thanks for posting.

    For Love of Cupcakes

  4. Great comments! My wife and I don't agree on everything politically. So why wouldn't we present both sides to Peanut and let her decide? Even on issues we agree with.

    We trust these people with our children and there's a certain level of expectation on what will and will not be "taught."

  5. Ugh. I am so anti-political that it isn't even funny - I avoid them at all cost. So yeah, this would totally piss me off if it was one of my kids' classes. Anything presented in a classroom needs to be age-appropriate to start with, and a political agenda is not for 4th graders.


  6. I am engaged in politics because of my job in tv news, Amy. And this really stuck out to me this week. as you probably gathered from my post, it pi$$ed me off. The sad thing to me is that I don't feel like any discussion was held during or after to present the opposing argument. Besides, can a 4th grader really grasp this issue? I don't think so.

  7. Let me start off by saying that I do NOT believe that politics belong in our elementary schools.

    However... In my childrens' school they had an unofficial "vote" of their own with regards to elections in the 3rd grade. My son then asked my wife and I how we are voting. After picking my jaw up off the floor and letting him know that I was still pondering the decision.

    Our children our smart and while they cannot grasp every deatail behind every policy, they do understand basics. They start teaching government in 2nd grade and get into the basics of the electoral process in the 3rd. Granted each school district and state has different requirements... but they are starting young.

    I do agree howvever that if a child asked or was coerced into asking a question... the VP should have known better and tried to re-direct... "Hey... Isn't it time for recess?"

  8. I would be mad too if my child was in that classroom!!! Scratch that, I'm mad and my child is less than a year old! A 10 year old cannot grasp all of the political CRAP that is going on in our country and they shouldn't be forced to try either. I agree, read my child a book, play a game, talk about not doing drugs.. DO NOT talk to my child about your political game.

  9. As a left learning independent, I have to say that I'm completely APPALLED at Joe Biden for doing this. You are so right. Disgusting. Politics have gotten so out of hand.

  10. To a point, you are correct. However, I do think to some degree, its an important civics lesson. I seriously doubt it ever occurs to a child that teachers get paid for what they do, much less where the money comes from. It could easily have been approched from a non-political stance by pointing out that tax dollars pay for education, police, fire departments and roads rather than discussing how each party would handle it.

  11. The classroom is no place to push ANY agenda. EVER. Be it personal, political, or religious. I'd have been furious had I been a parent of one of those children. Fail, Mr. Biden. Epic Fail.

  12. Wowza. I can't believe anyone can find a defense for this obvious gaffe of VP Biden's. I, too, lean to the left - and while I agree with his viewpoint, this was terribly inappropriate discussion for a classroom. I'll go so far as to say it would be terribly inappropriate if it were a classroom full of high-school seniors in an advanced civics/social studies classroom. Biden's no dummy - he gave an age-appropriate political speech. "We're good, they're bad." To a bunch of students who most likely cannot understand that it was a carefully crafted political message!!

    His visit to the school should not have been a political event - and should not have included political rhetoric. End. Of. Story.

    Katie :)

  13. Teaching kids about the process of "democracy" is a great thing. I like that they do mock elections in school. I do NOT, however, appreciate political agendas being presented to our kids in this manner. Mr. Biden's time could have been better spent talking about how a bill becomes law, how the election process works, generalizations regarding party differences, etc... This seems pretty shameful to me.

  14. At what point in our lives are we supposed to start learning about politics and politicians? Where was the teacher of this class who could lead a discussion about free thinking and political agendas. This blog is a perfect example of propaganda, giving just enough info to inflame emotions but not enough to know what actually took place.

  15. Sealady, I think I was clear when I said I wasn't sure what happened afterwards and that I was judging this at face value. And the sad thing is many of the people who read this post found out about Mr. Biden's little speech through DKL, not any mdeia outlet, where this was reported as a "visit to an elementary school in York, PA."

    Regardless of the discussion that may or not have taken place afterwards, and whether I described it adequately, the VP was out of line going there in the first place.

    Thanks for reading, and for bringing an opposing viewpoint. Always welcome.


  16. While you're faulting Mr. Biden, as well you should, this also seems to be an epic fail on the part of the administration for letting him make that speech. I would be banging out letters to the press and the Board of Education or whoever has oversight of that school. Totally inappropriate. I have so many friends that home school their children these days. I wish I had had the foresight to do the same for mine.

  17. well all i can say is, probably to most of these kids he was some boring old guy and they didn't listen to anything he was saying... so i really dont think there is too much to worry about. not that i agree with what he did, i dont.

  18. I agree, Cheryl. I would have been writing or calling someone the next day if that were my kid's school. AND to the anonymous commenter above: judging by the looks on their faces, you are spot on. LOL.

  19. I agree with your post to some extent, but this is utter crap: "The VP was out of line going there in the first place."

    It may be out of line to talk about their current agenda, but having no contact with children whatsoever is just denying opportunities to kids that can be valuable teachable moments. Where was your outrage during Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Reagan -- all of whom visited schools?

    It's also absurd to dismiss 4th graders as blank slates whom will be warped and manipulated by guest speakers and have to be deprogrammed afterwards. I clearly remember Dukakis's and Bush's campaigns in '88, and I was in second grade. I remember my parents' feelings, and I remember children talking about it in school.

    The children in this classroom whose parents disagree with the current administration already know their parents disagree. Perhaps some do not understand why, but they will certainly bring it up if the presentation stuck with them at all.

    If teachers spent every day removing anything that implicitly or explicitly pushed a specific political agenda, they would teach nothing but math. And I'm willing to bet someone would make a political issue out of that.

    Yes, Biden is an idiot. Yes, Biden should have avoided that topic. But I don't think you come off much better by making much ado about next to nothing and insisting that children should not be exposed to the facts of life of the country they live in and will grow to participate in some day.

    If the ideas you want to teach your children have value, then no amount of conflicting information will reduce that value. If those ideas only have value if and only if the child never hears anything conflicting, then your battle is lost before it has begun.

  20. Dan, I never said 'the VP was out of line going there in the first place.' Maybe you're referring to another comment? Not sure. Anyway, you raise a good point about everyone bringing their "politics" into a discussion one way or another. But I don't think they were exposed to the 'facts of life in this country' in this instance. You also raise a good point about how we should be teaching our children these things. I do not want to shelter my daughter by any means. Maybe more of a discussion needs to be had beforehand between parents, teachers, principals, etc. Now, in a case like this, the VP is going to say what he's going to say and no one is going to stop him. I just hope parents, teachers, ANYONE talked about it afterwards. Thanks for reading and for pushing the debate.

  21. Wow, what a fascinating post! I have a degree of sympathy with all the views expressed in the original post and the comments. It took me a while to work out what I really think about this. (Disclosure: I'm a left-leaning Brit living in the USA) I've concluded that it *is* appropriate for people to present political views to kids of any age, just as it is appropriate to present religious views (further disclosure: I'm an atheist-leaning agnostic). It's not like porn, booze or drugs. I think the earlier kids start thinking about these things the better. I don't blame VP Biden for pushing his views. But it's also down to teachers and parents to ensure that kids are aware of and exposed to opposing views.

    Please note that I might change my mind at any time. God, I wish some politician had brainwashed me at the age of 9. Then I wouldn't be writing wishy-washy comments like this at the age of 40.

  22. Though I do realize your post is older, forgive me, I'm catching up. Mr. Biden never ceases to amaze me at his unpolished, tactless approach.
    To this day, I'm still trying to conceive why he's V.P.
    To solicit an innocent group of fourth graders for his agenda is beyond me as well.
    Perhaps they are still polite enough to listen to his "Biden-isms."


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