Study Hard and Stay in School Equal Socialism?

Apparently, people who are upset that prayer has been removed from schools are worried the president’s “study hard and stay in school” message is an attempt to indoctrinate students.

They are worried the speech will “spread President Obama’s socialist ideology.”

Of course, this is fine:

While Republicans are busy gnashing their teeth over President Obama’s imminent indoctrination of the nation’s schoolchildren, there’s an education story bubbling up in Texas that could have considerably more far-reaching consequences.

The GOP-controlled State Board of Education is working on a new set of statewide textbook standards for, among other subjects, U.S. History Studies Since Reconstruction. …

Approved textbooks, the standards say, must teach the Texan student to “identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, and the Moral Majority.” No analogous liberal figures or groups are required…

Paul Krugman has it right, these are not people that will be persuaded by logical arguments:

The point is that whatever is driving all this doesn’t have anything to do with the realities of what I, or, much more important of course, Obama say or do. Obama could have come in proposing to pursue an agenda identical to Bush, and he would still be a socialist/Commie/fascist, with those of us who don’t see it that way lying Nazis ourselves.

Something is going very wrong in the heads of a substantial number of Americans.

There is no middle ground, no ideological center, no place to meet these people halfway. Any attempt to appease these is a waste of valuable time, gives the media a controversy to cover, and encourages more of the same.

But how do you defend against this nonsense when the media’s coverage gives it the status of a legitimate claim? If the administration stays silent, the media will build the controversy up in an attempt to force a response – they do very well ratings-wise when there are controversies – and that amplifies the false, negative message. If the administration engages the false charges and responds, that too simply stokes the fires and encourages more. So what’s the answer?

Somehow, the focus needs to be on the messengers rather than the message, and Barney Frank’s “On what planet do you spend most of your time” is a start in this direction.

Update: Joe Klein:

It Gets Worse, by Joe Klein: I was at a Blanche Lincoln town hall meeting in Russellville, Arkansas, yesterday–and the number of people who believe that the President has larded the government with communists (!) was astonishing. One woman said there were four known communists in the government and that she’d researched it on the internet. When I asked her afterwards, she said environmental adviser Van Jones, legal advisor Cass Sunstein (who was last spotted being excoriated by the left for supporting the FISA revisions), someone named Lloyd and she didn’t remember the fourth. And wasn’t it suspicious that Obama had all these czars working for him–that was a Russkie commie term, wasn’t it? When I asked, the woman admitted that, among other things, she occasionally listened to William Bennett’s conservative radio show. I pointed out that Bennett had once been the Drug Czar, appointed by Ronald Reagan. Life sure can be complicated sometimes. …

The amazing thing remains not only the unwillingness of responsible Republicans–a term that is in danger of becoming an oxymoron–to call bull– on this, but also the willingness of many prominent Republicans to join in the slinging of garbage. Michelle Cottle reports that there are Republican-sanctioned efforts afoot to have parents not send their children to school on September 8 because the President is scheduled to address the nation’s school-children that day and they are afraid that he will fill their little heads with socialist propaganda. That is somewhere well beyond disgraceful.

Could I just say that the intensity of this getting pretty scary…and dangerous? We are heading toward a cliff and the usual brakes of civil discourse are not working. Indeed, the Republicans have the pedal to the metal–rushing us toward a tragedy far greater than the California health care forum finger-biting Karen describes below. I’m usually not one to panic or be overly worried about the state of our country–even when we do awful things like invade Iraq and torture people, we usually right our course before long–but I have a sinking feeling about where we’re headed now. I hope I’m wrong.

We’ll see about the “usually right our course before long” claim for torture and Iraq (and Afghanistan?), and so far our progress doesn’t bode well if that’s the model for repairing civil discourse and public debate.

About Mark Thoma 243 Articles

Affiliation: University of Oregon

Mark Thoma is a member of the Economics Department at the University of Oregon. He joined the UO faculty in 1987 and served as head of the Economics Department for five years. His research examines the effects that changes in monetary policy have on inflation, output, unemployment, interest rates and other macroeconomic variables with a focus on asymmetries in the response of these variables to policy changes, and on changes in the relationship between policy and the economy over time. He has also conducted research in other areas such as the relationship between the political party in power, and macroeconomic outcomes and using macroeconomic tools to predict transportation flows. He received his doctorate from Washington State University.

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