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Is Obama’s Speech Indoctrination?


You can always count on conservatives for injecting a bit of humor, albeit unintentionally, into any national political debate. The latest example involves their railing against President Obama’s plan to deliver a speech to the public-school students of America. The conservatives are calling the president’s speech “indoctrination.”

Why is that funny? No, not for the reason liberals are giving — that the very notion that a presidential speech to public-school students could be considered “indoctrination” is just plain loony.

No, the reason this whole controversy is funny is because it is obvious that neither conservatives nor liberals have given any consideration to where those students will be located when the president delivers his speech: at government centers of learning that their parents have been forced to send them to, thanks to compulsory-attendance laws.

What do conservatives and liberals think takes place in a government center of learning?

The best indoctrination, of course, is where the people who have been indoctrinated don’t even know that they have been indoctrinated. Most public-school graduates, whether in Cuba or the U.S. or elsewhere, are prime examples of this type of success story.

For example, most Americans, conservatives and liberals alike, honestly believe that the Industrial Revolution was something horrible, that the wealthy industrialists in the late 1800s were evil “robber barons,” that American parents in the 1800s hated their wives and children which caused them to send them into factories, that the failure of free enterprise caused the Great Depression, that FDR’s New Deal schemes saved America’s free-enterprise system, and that minimum-wage laws help the poor.

Yet, very few of them have any idea as to the roots of these conclusions — the centers of government learning they were required to attend for 12 long years, where they received indoctrination — I mean, education — from government-approved schoolteachers using government-approved textbooks following a government-approved curriculum.

But hey, let’s all get up in arms about indoctrination when one more government official decides to add his perspective to those that the other government officials are placing in the minds of the children every day for 12 years.

Oh, also, let’s not forget to drug those children who find all this boring and weird. You know, like with Ritalin. What better evidence that something’s wrong with a kid than natural resistance to government-approved indoctrination in a government center of learning to which his parents are mandated by law to send him?

Is it possible to break free of the indoctrination that children receive in government schools? Sure! Libertarians are good examples. Most of us went to government schools but we’ve been able to break free of what they did to us with their political indoctrination. Thus, we libertarians now know the lies and myths, for example, about the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, and the welfare-state, regulated-economy way of life.

But it’s not an easy achievement, especially given the deep regimentation, conformity, and respect for authoritarianism that is drilled into public-school students for 12 years.

Several years ago, I had a first-hand reminder of this phenomenon. I was delivering a lecture on libertarianism to a libertarian club on a local high-school campus. The lecture was after school hours in one of the school’s classrooms. There were about 35 students in the audience.

I delivered my lecture and opened up the session to Q&A. Lots of students immediately raised their hands and began badgering me with questions. Others began having side discussions with each other. You could just feel the intellectual excitement in the room.

Then, all of a sudden, a teacher in the school, who had been quietly sitting there listening, stood up, interrupted the discussion, and began angrily screaming at me. He said that everything I was saying about the Industrial Revolution and FDR and the welfare state was nonsense and announced that he wasn’t going to sit there and listen to one more minute of it. He angrily invited the students to follow him out of the classroom.

As he reached the door, he looked back and noticed that no one was following. He returned to his seat, sullen and angry. What he did accomplish, however, was a total suppression of the intellectual excitement that had been in the room up that point. No more excited questions, discussions, arguments. Most everyone just sat there in stunned silence.

Today, the indoctrination goes on. While libertarian ideas are periodically sneaked into the classroom by libertarian schoolteachers, it is done with caution and discretion. Nothing must be permitted to interfere with the political indoctrination of American schoolchildren, especially with respect to economic principles.

Is counter-indoctrination the solution? No. The solution is a separation of school and state, an end to all governmental involvement in education. Don’t count on President Obama to share that idea in his speech to the public-school children of America.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.