You know what the how-dare-Obama-speak-to-our-creationist-children movement needs? It needs a leader. A mouthpiece. A manifesto. A defense of its core principles so spectacularly inept that researchers who uncover it thousands of years from now will consider it the archetype of pre-Ice Age 2100 satire. "My," they will say in their hover-palaces while poring over the fossilized remains of Ed Asner, "those early 21st Century Americans could spin a yarn!" I'm not sure why they'll be using 19th Century slang, but I am sure that they'll be at a loss for alternative explanations of Marybeth Hicks' "America's Uber-Parent? I think not." They will read it and reach the only possible conclusion: Hicks was the spokeswoman of a movement of spectacular vision and intelligence, delivering a message so brilliant that mere logic and reading comprehension are powerless against it.

Every year, on the night before school starts, I announce that it’s time to take a walk.

Leading with a personal anecdote is a common enough tactic, but it takes a Master Writer to lead with one this goddamn interesting.

All six of us fan out throughout the house to find our flip flops, someone gets a leash for Scotty the dog, and we set out in a disorganized band up our street. But it’s not just a walk. It’s a ritual.

This is fascinating. Tune in next week for Marybeth Hicks' riveting tale of the time she folded the laundry.

Quite the creative name for the dog, by the way.

This year was no exception.

Having already said "Every year" and describing it as a "ritual," I'm not sure this was necessary, MBH.

On the evening before we took our second daughter off to college, my husband, our four children and I took turns confiding our goals for the coming school year.

I'm guessing Second Daughter's goal had something to do with making the smallest possible number of visits home.

It's an annual rite


The message we deliver to our children as they reveal their fondest hopes for themselves is not unlike the message President Obama attempted to deliver in his address to school children yesterday.

I sure would be furious if anyone other than me attempted to deliver my own message to my children.

Make goals for yourself and announce them to others so you’ll be accountable. Work hard. Take responsibility for your success. Get help when you need it.

I'm seething in anger just thinking about that darkie I didn't vote for the President delivering such partisan nonsense to our young people.

Since the President’s message was so similar to the advice we give our own children every year, why am I so bugged by the fact that he took to the airwaves and the Internet to deliver this speech to America’s public school students?

I took the liberty of preparing a list of potential responses, each equally valid.

1. You are a complete partisan hack.
2. You are not real bright.
3. You are a knee-jerk reactionary.
4. You are a partisan knee-jerk reactionary who is not real bright.

Why does it seem so creepy to me?

We're a tad repetitive, aren't we? It creeps you out because the President is black and far smarter than you is clearly stepping over a line.

I’ve wrestled with this question since last week when it was revealed that the speech would take place.

This might be the single most useless sentence in the history of English. You just asked the question. TWICE. You follow by telling us that you are asking yourself the question, an action prompted by the realization that the event existed.

Marybeth, I'm thinking about taking a dump. I've been debating the issue since I realized I had to take a dump. I'm glad we had this talk.

I certainly don’t object to presidential addresses being aired in schools in the event of a national emergency such as 9/11, or during an historic occasion such as an inauguration.

So, just to get this straight, she wouldn't have complained if Obama's inauguration was covered live nationwide in our schools. OK. Also, it was acceptable to expose children to Bush's absolutist, opportunistic neoconservative monologues – how else will our children learn who is With Us as opposed to With the Terrorists, who is and is not Evil? – but not Obama's suggestion that they have goals.

So I asked myself, am I cynical about the overly political nature of this speech simply because I disagree with the President’s politics?


MBH, I'm confused. You clearly wrote this before the speech aired, first of all. But more importantly, like THIRTY GODDAMN SECONDS AGO you described the substance of the President's speech as "Make goals for yourself and announce them to others so you’ll be accountable. Work hard. Take responsibility for your success. Get help when you need it." Moreover, you noted that this is exactly the same message you communicate to your spawn annually. Every year. Añualménte. And now it's "overly political?"

Those who favor the president’s speech to school children point to previous addresses by George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan as proof that a precedent has already been set for such an address.

This is a dubious point, of course, because Bush and Reagan are not Negro liberals avoided the overly political nature of Obama's Indoctrination Address which was administered to schoolchildren with the Ludovico Technique.

I’m loath to be labeled a hypocrite, so I went back and read those speeches. Now I know why President Obama’s talk bothers me.

Yes, MBH and hypocrisy are oil and water. Please tell us, Objective Observer, what egregious errors exist in the secret Muslim brown guy's President Obama's speech but not in the others.

George H.W. Bush talked to schoolchildren via closed circuit TV to encourage greater interest in science and math. He used the occasion of a space launch to focus on the sciences at a time when it had been well established that US students paled in comparison to others around in the world in this essential discipline.

I remember that. I was in 5th grade. Very appropriate. You might even say Bush was encouraging us to have goals, try hard, and pay attention in math and science classes.

Even still, then-Speaker of the House Richard Gephardt said, “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students.”

Well his criticism was ignored, and if you read it (that's the crucial part, MBH) you'll note that it deals with the role of the Dept. of Education and the use of its resources.

Ronald Reagan’s speech was something else entirely.

I will say this only once, MBH: we are in absofuckinglute agreement here.

Was it political? Absolutely.

Yes, and therefore inappropriate by the standards described above.

It was a primer on American political theory. Reagan didn’t insert himself into the personal lives of his audience, but instead asked school children to insert themselves into the public life of our nation. His speech didn’t focus on personal goals but on the sacrifices of our founders to establish the freedom to make such goals.

True, true. It contained non-partisan history lessons like "We also find that more countries than ever before are following America's revolutionary economic message of free enterprise, low taxes, and open world trade. These days, whenever I see foreign leaders, they tell me about their plans for reducing taxes and other economic reforms that they're using, copying what we have done here in our country. I wonder if they realize that this vision of economic freedom — the freedom to work, to create and produce, to own and use property without the interference of the state — was central to the American Revolution when the American colonists rebelled against a whole web of economic restrictions, taxes, and barriers to free trade. The message at the Boston Tea Party — have you studied yet in history about the Boston Tea Party, where, because of a tax, they went down and dumped the tea in the harbor? Well, that was America's original tax revolt. And it was the fruits of our labor — belonged to us, and not to the state."

Right wingers do not even understand that their ideology is an ideology. They think it is simply fact.

That’s the crucial difference, and the reason Mr. Obama’s message bothers me.

In the battle between the imagined version of Reagan's speech in MBH's head and the imagined version of Obama's speech in MBH's head, there can be only one victor.

The President of the United States is not the “First Father.” His role is not to be an uber-parent, offering sage advice on personal behavior for school kids via televised lectures.

Like…telling kids they should be interested in math and science? Or perhaps Father Reagan's History Lessons like "And I definitely believe it is because one of the principal reasons that we were able to get the economy back on track and create those new jobs and all was we cut the taxes. We reduced them because, you see, the taxes can be such a penalty on people that there's no incentive for them to prosper and earn more and so forth because they have to give so much to the Government."

Non-partisan, that.

If we accept this display of “non-partisan parenting,” we’re tacitly acknowledging that the government of the United States of America has an appropriate role to play in raising our children. I don’t think it does.

You know what? Fuck it. I'm just going to keep quoting Reagan's address at this point. "There was talk about having a gun ban in California. I got a letter from a man in San Quentin prison…He was a burglar. And he said, 'I just want you to know that if that law goes through, here in San Quentin there will be celebrating throughout the day and night by all the burglars who are in prison because…the only question we can never answer is: Does the man in that house have a gun in the drawer by his bed?…If you tell us in advance they won't have a gun in that drawer by their bed, the burglars in here will be celebrating evermore."'

Even if the message is a positive one, the very fact that it has been delivered is intrusive and assumptive and just plain creepy.

Wait, so, I'm confused again. Were Bush's and Reagan's messages, positive and "non-partisan" as they were, intrusive and assumptive and just plain creepy? Does "Study math and science rather than making your own educational choices" count as intrusive or assumptive?

Then again, my kids didn’t see the speech. They went for a walk with their parents instead.

You took your kids for a walk between 12:00 and 12:45 Eastern on Tuesday? You sound like mother of the year.

Congratulations on your hard-fought victory over the Straw Man Obama who suggested – or even implied – that the President's role should supersede that of parents. Congratulations on somehow turning this into a False Dilemma in which your children must either go for a walk with their mother or listen to Obama, but not both. Congratulations on putting together a document of such historical significance, one which we can point at for the next few decades and exclaim "See? This is what we had to deal with."