Video: New Jersey Children Taught to Sing Obama’s Praises

This video raises an interesting question for educators and lawyers alike. These students at B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington, NJ are being taught to chant and sing praises of President Barack Obama. Is that an appropriate exercise in a public school or does it smack of the type of cult of personality that we see in other nations?

The United States has always prided itself in the fact that we select citizens to lead for limited periods with limited powers. The President does not solely exercise the power of the United States, but exercises that power with two other branches. The training of students to chant or sing his praises seems out of place in our system and threatens to mix politics with education — particularly for children so young. I doubt many liberal families would be delighted to hear their children singing about George Bush in the same way.

The same controversy arose when a middle school teacher in Missouri arranged the video below. She was later suspended:

There is a considerable difference between the two tapes.

The lyrics and chant are certainly less militant:

Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said all should lend a hand to make the country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said we must be fair today, equal work means equal pay.
Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said take a stand, make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
He said red, yellow, black and white, all are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mmm, Barack Hussein Obama
Yeah! Barack Hussein Obama
…Hello Mr. President, We honor you today
For all your great accomplishments, we all do say hooray
Hooray, Mr. President you are No. 1
The first black American to lead this nation

This is not exactly a North Korean “Dear Leader” chant and certainly people like Michele Malkin appear to have taken this to an extreme of claiming indoctrination and fanaticism. However, I must confess that I feel uncomfortable with public school kids learning songs and chants for individual sitting presidents. It tends to reaffirm a type of cult of personality that we have seen with some prior presidents like George W. Bush and now Obama. I am also not comfortable with public school kids being taught to sing that a president is “No. 1” given the opposition of some parents to his election or his policies.

This is why I love Constitution Day. It celebrates what really makes our nation strong: not our all-powerful or all-loving leaders but a document that allows citizens to protect themselves from tyranny. I find that these type of songs send the wrong message.

What do you think?

74 thoughts on “Video: New Jersey Children Taught to Sing Obama’s Praises”

  1. Before this rabbit goes too far down the hole, could I point out the fallacy of false distinction. What you are talking about is the marketplace of ideas. To frame it in the form of left versus right is a false dichotomy. When evaluating ideas, they should all be evaluated factually and logically before applying a value loading filter like the pure political distinctions of “left” and “right”. That’s propaganda language. I submit that Byron may be seeing something valid but coming to an incorrect conclusion as to causation. There is a correlation between education and liberalism. But is that relationship solely causal to the curriculum or is it related to the process of learning how to be a critical thinker proper? Remember, the goal of a properly administered education is to create rational critical thinkers. Which is more causal to a liberal outlook – the books one has read for assignment or the conclusions one comes to about the truths of the world based on the skills gained in the process of reading which are by necessity not limited by one’s school experience and must incorporate outside learning to varying degrees?

    Which is more transformative? I’d have to say that which carries over into the most realms of life possible and allows integration of that broader spectrum of knowledge to create a more well rounded individual – the skills learned are of greater impact than the material used to impart them. The material is somewhat, well, immaterial.

    That the college curriculum in most schools is a bit stodgy and dated (I’ll admit that much) but I also contend there is more variety presented than you portray. The guys you name are heavy hitters. That’s why they’ve been in the batter’s box so long. Good ideas win in an open market free of as many filters as possible. And yes, the bookshelf could use a little modernization. But I submit a more likely reason the “old timers” get so much time aside from the whole “they are just plain good arguments” or the “they are Left/Right writers” argument: laziness. Simple human nature. The new requires effort. So the effect is two-fold. Slow process combined with a certain amount of intellectual sloth. Professors spend a lot of time acquiring knowledge and building models based on that knowledge. New information has a cascading effect. I think that has more effect on the selection of material than a directed “left wing bias”. As much as herding liberals can be like cats, herding academics is twenty times more difficult. The idea of a “left wing conspiracy” in academia is quite frankly ridiculous. You couldn’t get that buncha yahoos to agree water is wet much less on a conspiratorial plan.

    I think what you see has some validity as an observation. I just think the solution is simpler than conspiracy.

  2. Byron, if government, as you suggest, should NOT assist citizens hammered by a class five hurricane then there is NO place for government at all.
    (I’m assuming, again, here that your post was serious.)

  3. Byron,

    We’re on different slightly different topics here. There’s a difference between not teaching certain philosophers and demonizing education and critical thinking.

    How are smart kids in general portrayed on Sitcoms? Lonely and weird. In pop culture college has long since stopped being a place where people go to an education, and instead is a place where people go to party with friends. Anyone who deviates from that is portrayed as being abnormal and boring. There are countless variations on Faust and Frankenstein, all saying the same thing “this is how much man is supposed to know, no more.” Look at political campaigns, instead of bragging about their educations, most politicians do their best to down play them, to look like “just one of the guys.”

    I think it’s a much more cultural thing then a political one, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be exploited by politicians.

  4. “The tension at B. Bernice Young Elementary School escalated to such a degree Thursday that the school was placed temporarily on lockdown after its principal received DEATH THREATS over a YouTube video that showed nearly 20 children being taught songs lauding the president, though back-to-school night events continuing as planned Thursday night at the school.” (my emphasis)

    http://rawstory.com/blog/2009/09/fox-news-deleted-mention-of-death-threats-against-principal/

  5. John Puma:

    that is just as bad, actually worse, they should be learning how to take care of themselves not depending on the government.

    We can do it yes we can, we don’t need a helping hand.
    We can build and prevail all we have to do is pound that nail……..

  6. Here’s an example of Bush indoctrination song I surmised above must exist:

    “Today at the White House Easter Egg Roll, dozens of children “from the stricken Gulf Coast region serenaded First Lady Laura Bush with a song praising the beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency.” To the tune of Hey Look Me Over, the kids from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama sang:

    Our country stood beside us

    People have sent us aid. Katrina could not stop us, our hopes will never fade.

    Congress, Bush and FEMA People across our land

    Together have come to rebuild us and we join them hand-in-hand!”

    Reported in 2006 originally at:
    http://thinkprogress.org/2006/04/17/katrina-song/

    And dredged up today @:
    http://atlargely.com/

    I’ll leave it to other interested readers to locate and report on the extreme right temper tantrums caused by this cute ditty.
    (Of all topics, Katrina !!??!!)

  7. Gyges:

    “What I’ve never been able to figure out if it was part of the over all demonetization of intellectualism, or a complimentary parallel campaign.”

    I cannot speak for the rest of the right wing but I am opposed to the burning of books. However we on the right believe the same thing about the left, namely that they are anti-intellectual and unwilling to look at broader or diverse issues except through the prism of class struggle.

    For example I have a friend who has a daughter going to Mt. Holly Oak and is studying economics, she and I have talked at length and she has never had a class on anything other than Keynesian or Marxist economic theory. I had a young lady that worked with me who has a masters degree in economics from some university in another country, I asked her if she had ever heard of Von Mises or Hyaek or any other free market economists, she had not, again it was all Keynes and Marx.

    In college (granted it was 20 plus years ago), I tried to take some philosophy classes but the teachers were all pushing the same Marxist rhetoric. There are many other philosophers besides Kant, Hegel, Marx, Sartre, and Plato that have something to say. Why do they take up so much space? There is more than one point of view on how to live ones life, the left does not have all of the answers.

    Most people on the right go into business and the sciences so we can avoid what is taught in the liberal arts colleges and we read on our own what we would have liked to have taken classes on but don’t want the one sided view.

    As I stated above we don’t notice what we agree with and what we do notice is like a tack in our chair.

    Granted their are people on the right (more like tyrants) that want to burn Huckleberry Fin and Catcher in the Rye but there are others that would be happy if both sides were taught and analyzed.

    For Christ sake even Marx started out praising capitalism in the Manifesto.

  8. Jill’s points are well taken. These lyrics ad method leap over the line into outright propaganda. If this became more commonplace, it could simply be called indoctrination, much like one would see in Cuban classroom.

    Gyges – I agree. This concept simply builds upon the group chanting and compliance of individuals in a mass meeting that already exists with the pledge… a ritual compelled by the government in our classrooms, along with the size and quantity of flags.

  9. Gyges,

    I did miss Byron’s earlier comment and agree that many conservatives believe there is a left wing bias to education which I personally see little evidence for.

  10. Jill,

    Sure you do: “Personally as a conservative, I have been worried about partisan politics in public education since I was old enough to understand. Public schools that I have been to in Missouri, including public university, have had a palpable left ward slant. To me it appears that way wherever I go.”

    There’s been a campaign since Regan to portray the schools as strongholds of liberalism, bent on turning out generation after generation of mindless drones. Read the local newspaper letters to the editor when there’s a controversy involving public schools, I bet the claim that liberals are taking (or have taken) over schools comes up at least once.

    What I’ve never been able to figure out if it was part of the over all demonetization of intellectualism, or a complimentary parallel campaign.

    It’s a separate issue from what we’re talking about now, but since Byron brought it up, I’d thought I’d address it.

  11. BIL,

    OT: I found them about 2 or 3 years ago. Check out the Rosenberg trio some time, his guitar playing is stunning. Of course there’s always Django.

    You also may want to check out a bass player named Rabbath, he makes Edgar Meyer look clumsy.

  12. Gyges,

    I think you are making a straw man argument here. I didn’t see anyone saying hordes of liberals were trying to take over our schools. That teacher doesn’t sound like a liberal to me.

    Conservatives have indeed worked very hard and gotten themselves on school boards. I would suggest liberals take a page out of this book and get elected to school boards.

    As for myself, I am saying that there is a very successful propaganda campaign going on to convince people that Obama is a number of things which he demonstrably is not. I don’t think the govt. contacted this teacher and asked her to do this. However, we cannot close our eyes to the many, many direct attempts, be they by the pentagon or the nea, to present ideas about Obama and what is happening politically which aren’t true. We ignore this at our peril.

    Michele Maulkin has no business complaining about the indoctrination of children because she applauded it when it was done on behalf of Bush. We should not take her as a role model and minimize it when it is done on behalf of Obama.

  13. Gyges:

    I think that people only see what they dont agree with, the rest is just backround in the pattern of their lives. We are all guilty of it. But getting small children to sing praise to the Pres. to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic is a bit much.

  14. Gyges,

    OFF TOPIC: You should check out Rodrigo y Gabriela. Some serious acoustic playing. I suggest their disc “11:11”. It’ll make chills run up and down your spine.

  15. Byron,

    I’ll stipulate that Geraldo played at being an actual journalist at points in his early career, but that journalistic credibility ship sailed long before the chairs started flying.

  16. This is wrong. So’s forcing children to say the pledge.

    I do feel that the myth of liberals taking over education is greatly exaggerated. I have never heard of any substantiation to the claim that liberal organizations are planning how to infiltrate the school system so that they could mold kids in their own image. Instead, once every few years some individual makes a bad decision and is shown as proof that there’s some sort of conspiracy going on.

    Now compare that to the all the very public campaigns by Conservative groups to change curriculum that they don’t agree with.

  17. To paraphrase when “a Bentsen bagged a Quayle” (Quail)’

    Mr. U.S President Obama, I have read of The President of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman Mao. I did not know Chairman Mao personally. Chairman Mao was not a friend of mine nor of the United States. Mr. President you are no Chairman Mao…and we *do not* want you to become a Chairman Mao. Unfortunately, our chanting, impressionable little children are making the comparison.

    ________________________________

    Quote:

    “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”] Quayle responded by saying, “That was really uncalled for, Senator.” Bentsen responded, “You’re the one that was making the comparison, Senator.”
    _________________________________

  18. bUDDHA:

    how come you dont like Geraldo? He has done some good work. Didnt he expose deplorable conditions that people with mental health issues were living in under state control and other such things?

  19. mespo,

    Let us not forget Geraldo’s Greatest Hit(s).

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQOg2HaB1Xc&hl=en&fs=1&]

    Blessed be the Great Mother Video! She is a comedy goddess of infinite bounty!

    And he’s such a responsible journalist.

  20. Mespo:

    they did? those fields looked dry to me, but then I am not a farmer.

    Is the water on fully or is it being rationed? What is the real story on this issue?

    If he was showing fields that were already harvested and waiting to be re-planted I would call that propaganda.

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