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Darrell Huckaby - 09/06/09

I don't particularly like Neal Boortz. It's no skin off his nose. If he knew who I was he probably wouldn't particularly like me, either. And if that were the case, the skin on my nose would remain similarly intact.

I listen to Neal Boortz, however - which is immeasurably more important to him than whether I like or dislike him - and agree with much of what he has to say. But for years now I have exercised my right to change my radio dial to the country music station whenever he begins to pontificate about "government schools."

He makes me angry with his broad generalizations about the deplorable education public school students receive and his totally inaccurate claims that "teachers unions" are to blame for most of the ills in society.

The students I teach in the public school that employs me receive an education that is on par - or superior to - any in this state. And I wish Georgia did have a teachers union. If we did our working conditions and salary would be much better than they are and there would not be furlough days without pay in our immediate future.

And it really gets old when Neal goes on one of his rants and constantly refers to the public schools of our nation as "indoctrination centers." He can go on and on and on about that non-issue and "back up" his opinion with a few random quotes, taken completely out of context, in which he asserts that the purpose of the public school system in this country is, and from the very beginning has been, to indoctrinate our children into being loyal drones to the whims of the government.

I just don't believe that and when Neal Boortz starts spouting that nonsense I turn off the radio and tune back in when he goes back to playing "Boo got shot!" or pushing the FairTax.

But now the Obama Administration is doing what no group has ever been able to do before. They are making Neal Boortz look like a genius and a seer as far as his tirades against "government schools" are concerned.

A president has to be pretty bad to make Neal Boortz look good.

In case you haven't heard, Barack Obama is going to make a speech next Tuesday to the "school children" of America. He has asked that every child in every public school in the entire nation be forced to sit and listen to his remarks.

Talk about a captive audience! A blind man could see the folly in this mandate.

The White House has even distributed lesson plans that teachers are expected to use with his address. Ostensibly the only purpose for the speech is to encourage and inspire the students to work hard in school and make something of themselves, but some of the "suggestions" for the kindergarten through sixth grade students reportedly include having the students list things they can do to help President Obama fulfill his vision for America and writing an essay explaining how President Obama "inspires them."

This whole idea is so wrong on so many levels, and I would say so no matter who the president happened to be. The whole thing reeks of the political indoctrination that Neal Boortz so often rails against and gives him the opportunity to proclaim, quite accurately, "I told you so."

We have had public schools in this country - or what would become this country - since 1647. That's the year that the Massachusetts colonial assembly required each community to provide a school. After the colonies broke away from Mother England and entered a period of cultural nationalism, it was the vision of Thomas Jefferson and others that we, as a nation, develop a public education system in which children could learn to be "good Americans" - whatever that might entail - and create a voting populace that was smart enough to make good decisions when choosing their leaders.

It's obvious that hasn't worked out too well.

In the 200 or so years since Jefferson was in office the various states have developed school systems of varying quality - with a tremendous amount of disparity among districts within each state. And almost without exception the successes and failures of the educational efforts are directly proportional to the educational levels of the majority of residents in each district, the amount of emphasis the parents place on education and the money spent on the schools.

Never, in the 362 year history of public education in America has a president asked that every child in every public school be required to sit down and listen to what he had to say.

Our goal as educators should always be to teach students to think. It should never be to teach students what to believe. I am a teacher and have been for 36 years. I hold conservative political views. I do not hide that fact. I have never - and will never - even hint that a student should believe what I believe. I always challenge them to find factual basis for what they believe. Political discourse should be a part of education. Political indoctrination should not, and I don't think many kindergarten students are equipped to know the difference.

Barack Obama has gone too far in his efforts to win the hearts and minds of the American people, and I would hope that somewhere someone will speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves.

Even if it is Neal Boortz.

Darrell Huckaby