GENTRY On Tuesday, the President spoke to children in school classrooms across the nation urging them to stay in school, set goals, study hard and accomplish much. And it is certainly important for our young people to do just that. Parents, family members and teachers should be doing all in their power to educate and motivate students to learn and continue to study and learn throughout their lives.
But many students didn't hear Obama's speech on Tuesday - not because parents, family and educators don't want them to succeed in their education and life, but because of concerns about the President seeking to pre-empt classroom time to promote his social agenda directly to young students. Some parents opted to keep their children out of school Tuesday, or to be sent to another room where they would not hear the President's speech to the children. Some schools and some entire states opted out of using classroom time for the President's talk to America's children.
Taking such a step and not permitting the President to speak directly with children has been labeled by many as racist - as though concerned parents and educators are somehow anti-Obama because he is African-American.
That may indeed be the case for a few, but a much bigger issue is here.
What many feared is that Tuesday's address to the children is a step toward pushing the current administration's socialistic views - whether addressed directly in Obama's speech or not. After all, if a child perceives the President as a role model and his speech to be good on one point, how can he discern that his policies may well be leading the nation down an undesirable path on other issues.
Sad to say, this is true of a good many adults, too. If they like what a candidate promises on one issue, they are willing to swallow the whole elephant, excreta and all, just to get him elected. The problem is that people don't think through the issues anymore and consider the overall costs and effects of proposed policies and legislation.
I know other presidents have read to school children and encouraged education, but none have attempted to interject themselves into every classroom in the nation. Even hearing this strikes fear in my heart because of the beginnings of the Greater German Youth Movement. And, no, I'm not likening the current administration to the Nazi Party - not yet, anyway - though any move by an official of the Federal Government to influence the thinking of America's children is frightening to me.
My biggest concern with yesterday's event is an issue of constitutionality and legality. I'm all for education and can see the benefit of having positive roll models encouraging education, but is our children's education within the sphere of the duties and responsibilities of the Federal Government?
I keep coming back to the Bill of Rights and the 10th Amendment on this one: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
If you look in the United States Constitution - yes, every U.S. citizen ought to read and study it - you will find nothing there giving to any branch of the Federal Government powers, duties, responsibilities or even a role in education.
Consequently, the powers and responsibilities relating to the education of our children belongs to the people or, if the people choose to give those powers up, to the states. Therefore, constitutionally, the Federal Government is out of bounds when it regulates or seeks to set a course for the education of our children.
Yes, health care and a whole lot of other powers usurped by the Federal Government are not given to it in the Constitution either - if you get my drift.
So, what is the chief executive officer of the United States doing when he interjects himself into the classrooms and tells our children what to think about education?
This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, and it's certainly not a racial issue. It's a constitutional issue. If we are going to ride roughshod over the Constitution on this matter - as we have already done on so many other points - where does it stop? Should we just turn over everything to the Federal Government to determine and decide what's best for us?
And if trampling the Constitution's limits is not enough, there is also the added problem of violating Federal Law.
20 U.S.C. Â§ 3403 says, and I quote: "The establishment of the Department of Education shall not increase the authority of the Federal Government over education or diminish the responsibility for education which is reserved to the States and the local school systems and other instrumentalities of the States....
"No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law."
Whether you know it or not, together with the invitation from U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan to principals encouraging all schools to have children hear the President's Tuesday address, were sent lesson plans for teachers (one for pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers and another for grades seven through 12) to use in their classrooms in preparation for the address and to enforce and drive home the message of the President during and after the speech. This, to put it plainly, is simply a violation of Federal Law and its restrictions on the USDE.
So, regardless of whether the President's speech was good or bad, it was out of place. The President has overstepped his Constitutional duties and his Education Secretary has violated Federal restrictions. Perhaps teachers and schools should also point that out to their students.
Opinion, Pages 5 on 09/09/2009