Ed Schultz: Obama's School Speech Should Be Mandatory For All Students

At certain schools across the country, parents possessed the authority to pull their children from class Tuesday so as not to witness President Obama's address to students nationwide – and Ed Schultz believes that constitutes an "opt-out for Right-wing whackos." Schultz seemed to be not in favor of academic freedom – in this case.

Decrying opposition to the speech as "perverse conservative hatred" for Obama and "motivated by race," Schultz was apparently doubly-mad about this, as he hit the issue hard for two nights in a row on his MSNBC show. "I think the President's speech should be mandatory for all students," he insisted.

Some public schools notified parents if their children would be watching the speech, while others left the decision to the teachers whether or not to show it. "If you're a superintendent, and it wasn't shown in your school, or in every one of your classrooms, you ought to be ashamed," Schultz raged. "It's amazing you're on the payroll in this country."

"Educators are trying to keep your kids away from President Obama," he warned, sounding somewhat like a fear-mongering political TV ad. "The conservative movement in this country wants to brand the thinking of young people like cattle."

And why should students be forced to listen to the speech? "This is the President talking to kids about bettering themselves," Schultz claimed.

However, he argued that parents should not even have a say in whether their child listens to the speech. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter agreed with him, appearing on Schultz's Monday evening show. Alter asked if the same teachers provided an opt-out clause for parents when President Bush and President Reagan were in the White House. If not, they should be "ashamed," he admonished.

"That's the subtext of this, that he's not really the President," Alter said of conservatives' opposition to Obama's speech. "He's the 'Other.' He's an alien. He's not our President. That's not the way things are supposed to work in America. Elections are supposed to have consequences. People should support the results of the election."

"Conservatives, well – they hate public education," Schultz snarled on his Tuesday show. He added that their opposition is "motivated by race," and that "there are still millions of people who just don't want to see their kids have any association with anyone who's black."

A partial transcript of the two segments, which aired on September 13 and 14, at 6:48 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. EDT respectively, is as follows:

THE ED SHOW 9/13/10 6:48 p.m. EDT

ED SCHULTZ: Educators are trying to keep your kids away from President Obama.

(...)

SCHULTZ: And I'm sorry to say folks across America are still suffering from the effects of Righty fear-mongering after the President – and so concerned about the President indoctrinating students. Now in flyover country, let's take for instance in West Fargo, ND – parents have to be notified if their kids will be watching the speech. And they have to have the option to remove their child from class during the address.

Down in Texas, students – well they've got to get their parents to sign permission slips to watch the President of the United States. This is absolutely outrageous and ridiculous. Last year we saw the same kind of garbage that was thrown out there by the Righties that infiltrated into the public schools. But all the President did was urge students back then to stay in school and work hard. There was no agenda, no socialist indoctrination. The President of the United States is a prime example of how far you can go if you're willing to work hard. Treating it as a controversial event with an opt-out for Right-wing whackos I think is appalling. I think the President's speech should be mandatory for all students.  

(...)

SCHULTZ: Jonathan, is this a product of a lot of fear-mongering that has taken place surrounding the Obama presidency? What do you think?

JONATHAN ALTER, Senior Editor, Newsweek: Oh absolutely. Look, you could barely understand it last year, I mean, even though it was outrageous then, too, because you could argue, okay, maybe some of the far-Right believed some of the right-wing propaganda that he would use the occasion to indoctrinate. But then, as you said, he gave the speech, "Stay in school, work hard, follow your dreams." So they know what the message is, so for them to ban kids from – prevent kids from seeing it this year is triply ridiculous. Because we know what he's going to say.

SCHULTZ: We have gutless administrators, in my opinion, that don't have the guts to stand up. In some school districts across the country, they say "Oh well we'll leave it up to the teachers, meaning the teachers will make a decision in the classroom whether the President's going to be seen or not. The administration gives them no cover whatsoever, no leadership whatsoever. This is the President talking to kids about bettering themselves, and it's being, you know –

ALTER: And a question for every one of those teachers and administrators – did you do the same when George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan gave their speeches, if you've been in the schools long enough? Did you do the same? If not, if not, if you didn't give parents the chance to opt out you should be completely ashamed of yourself if you didn't do it in this case. It's basically saying that this President isn't legitimate. That's the subtext of this, that he's not really the President. He's the "Other." He's an alien. He's not our President. That's not the way things are supposed to work in America. Elections are supposed to have consequences. People should support the results of the election.  

THE ED SHOW 9/14/10 6:00 p.m. EDT

ED SCHULTZ: I'm on fire that conservatives have taken their warped hatred of President Obama into public schools in this country. Parents are shielding kids from watching the President's "Back to School" message. Can you believe it? What a low-point for this country.

(...)

SCHULTZ: The perverse conservative hatred for President Obama has infiltrated public schools all across this country. It's a debate that's being held in every school district. ... For the second straight year, the President of the United States took time to give an uplifting, positive, forward-thinking message to American school kids for the second straight year. Conservatives, what are they doing? Well they're trying to protect young, impressionable ears and minds from his message.

Here's the deal. In Aiken County, SC, parents were given the choice to opt their children out of the President's education speech today. In Fargo, ND, parents were given the option to show or not show the speech. And a school near Austin, TX required parents to fill out a permission slip so their kids could watch the President of the United States give their kids this message.

(...)

SCHULTZ: If you're a superintendent, and it wasn't shown in your school, or in every one of your classrooms, you ought to be ashamed. It's amazing you're on the payroll in this country, and that's what's wrong with education in this country. We don't have people who can make positive decisions.

This is crazy. Now I've talked with parents from all over America on my talk show about this for the last two days. A woman in Colorado told me a principal at her kid's school said that the President was too controversial! This is a low moment in America. The level of acceptance for keeping kids away from the President is disgusting. All of this is fueled by the nutjobs on the Right, Beck saying that the President has a deep-seated hatred for white people, Newt out there trying to make Americans believe that the President is from Kenya. The list goes on and on, and you know who the culprits are. The conservative movement in this country wants to brand the thinking of young people like cattle. It's outrageous this kind of thinking is commonplace in American public schools. He is the President of the United States of America elected by American citizens!

But, you see, conservatives, well – they hate public education. They're afraid to ask "Where is the leadership?" I'll ask it tonight. This is all part of villifying public education on the part of the conservatives. Superintendents who shied away from this are just walking in lock step with those who are scared. Superintendents should make the correct call, and not put the burden on the teachers. A speech like this should have been mandatory, it should have been not even considered whether it's an issue or not.

This, you know, if it was Ronald Reagan, or if it was George W. Bush, Hannity, Limbaugh – their heads would explode. They'd be screaming about the liberal schoolteachers dishonoring the Commander-in-Chief during a time of war. But nobody seems to care about dishonoring the black President. I think a lot of this is motivated by race. There are still millions of people who just don't want to see their kids have any association with anyone who's black. That's right. What's wrong with our country? What's wrong with this picture? I mean, I can't believe that liberals sit back and take this garbage. Where's the conversation about this at the leadership level in politics? This is a kitchen table issue that I think the Democratic leadership team should speak to across this country. The story speaks to the decay of our country, the lack of respect for the Oval Office, the lack of respect for our elections, the lack of acceptance that Barack Obama is, in fact, the President of the United States.

Now if you're a superintendent, I should probably point out to you that the irony is that this President is probably one of the most academically-accomplished Presidents we've ever had. And his critic across the street loves to tell people that he's a college dropout. So you make the choice. You mean to tell me that we have school administrators in this country that are so afraid of the local school board, and so concerned about their job and their security that they're afraid to put the President of the United States, with a positive message about education, in their school? Hell, you're no better than the politicians that take money in Washington. You're all about your job. You're afraid to stand up. And this is one of the problems we have in public education in this country – we don't have enough leaders. We don't have enough people that stand up and say "Look, this is the correct thing to do because he's the President of the United States."

Conversely, what do you think the kind of problem that would be created if President Obama were to take this opportunity and really give a strong speech about universal health care? Or really give a strong speech about taxes and say, "Well, you know your dad makes over $250,000 a year, I think that, heck, he ought to be paying more." You think the President would do something like that? Well, in the twisted thinking of these Righties, they think he'll do anything. In fact, one broadcaster on Fox is now saying that President Obama is going to lead liberals to violence if the election doesn't go their way. I guess this is why we have a segment on this show called "Psycho Talk."

It is a sad day for America, because there are other countries around the world that watch our model of entrepreneurship in developing young minds to be aggressive in the capitalistic system in this country. And what message are we sending? "Hell, they don't even let Obama speak to their kids in public schools. America's on the decline. We can kick their ass. Let's see if we can get more of their jobs." Yes, there is a ripple effect throughout the whole thing.
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014