Being a journalist most of my life, it takes some doing for news of the day to really get under my skin. But the recent lunatic angst over Pres. Obama’s televised remarks to school children across this country has done it!

I realize parents have an absolute right to guard their child’s exposure to elements outside the home. Did it myself. But parental guarding does not mean cutting kids off from the normal intercourse of education that includes within it … if it is to be valid … ideas, words and thoughts that might differ from their own. How else will the home lessons be tested and validated? Or challenged if need be?

I’d hope those folks would feel more comfortable in their parenting skills and the ability to teach their offspring how to decide what they hear for themselves than to think an American president’s brief TV talk can brainwash developing minds.

As a child, I remember sitting in my classroom listening to the radio speeches of that grand old “socialist” Franklin Roosevelt during WWII. His “dangerous” remarks were about buying savings stamps, collecting materials for the war and being an American. Sure changed my outlook for the “worse” even though I was raised by straight-ticket-voting Republican parents.

This whole unnecessary cacophony is symptomatic of the huge divisions in this country. Pick a subject. Any subject. I don’t care if it’s as simple as being a good American. You’ll get an argument about what that means. We used to consider this country a “melting pot” where all could go about their business as they chose but were held together by a common respect for the larger picture: one nation.

But we have been fed a diet of single-issue simplemindedness and hate rather than respect for other points of view for so long that we have lost our commonality. That commonality, my friend, is the glue of nations. Without it, there is no nation.

Parents in our country have great latitude in raising their children. That is as it should be. But the asinine spectacle surrounding the Obama educational session illustrates an area where a lot of parents have apparently failed their offspring. Having instilled in them the values of the home, do they believe their kids are so easily swayed by a president’s 15 minute broadcast remarks that they will be corrupted and turn their backs on those home-taught values? Road apples!

Starting with the first grade, kids in the public school system are hit right in the face with other children who are different in nearly every way. It starts at the age of six and will continue for a lifetime. From that age, all a parent can do is keep up the values teaching at home and hope/pray they have given good foundations that will face the many tests ahead.

I also sense, in this unnecessary hysteria, a darker element. A friend … whose judgment I’ve trusted for several decades … e-mailed me “I hope this fear isn’t motivated in any way by the image of an intelligent black man telling white children how they should conduct themselves to reach the path of success.”

While I second his hope, it is not hard to see the racial element of this disgraceful protesting. Presidents have been interacting with public schools and students for decades. Great portions of political campaigning are dedicated to educational support. It’s not a Republican or Democrat thing. So what’s different this time?

Aside from the extreme national divisiveness we live with, the only other differing factor is race. I hate to think it. Especially since this president is an absolutely top notch example of what this nation’s educational system can do. His personal achievements in the public school system and in higher education are exemplary. From what I’ve seen, his role as head of a growing family is equally impressive, especially given the public pressures and exposures under which each member of that family lives.

But as this unnecessary and ridiculous outcry assaults the reasoned ear, when normal communication as practiced by other presidents for may years is feared and when presidential prompting for self development and self responsibility is the target of vitriol by a loud few, the issue of race is not an unreasonable conclusion.

Many in the educational community share complicity in this censorship. Their acquiescence to this minority of division belies their responsibility to provide a full and varied exposure of learning to all. “Recording for later playback if you approve” passes the buck and avoids the role of educational leadership.

This episode is not one of our proudest. There is enough shame to go around.

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