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The Obama Youth are OK



Conservatives nationwide are worried Barack Obama is going to propagandize the nation's youth. Even some normally reasonable conservative minds are making allusions to "Hitler's youth." 


Utah blogger Connor Boyack, who I enjoy, makes this claim on his blog today:

The simple fact that a single man [Obama] is addressing himself to the nation’s children and using the network of government-funded (and regulated) teachers to instill certain thoughts in their minds should worry all parents.

With all due respect, Connor, you're wrong. And I think mentioning Hitler Youth in this context is rediculous.

Propagandizing youth is not inherently bad, it's only bad when the message is bad.  And the underlying assumption in your post, I think, is that propagandizing youth is rare for a president.  I think that is wrong, too. 

Let me give some personal examples of good youth propaganda:

  • In the early 1980s my elder sister brought home anti-tobacco ideas she had received at school.  Rather than becoming aghast that her daughter had been propagandized, my mother quit smoking after months of brow-beating from her daughter. My mother still tells this story today, with pride and a snicker.

  • I mentioned this one yesterday. In 1991, George H. W. Bush came to Bismarck, North Dakota, when I was in second grade.  The whole school went down to the capitol to watch the prez plant a tree for Earth Day.  We all got little trees to take home so we could plant them also.  My family planted three of them--at least one is still alive on the banks of Lake Sakakawea, a living legacy of presidential youth propaganda.

  • In elementary school, I never achieved the Presidential Physical Fitness Award, but just last year my niece did.  As a student, I got all kinds of propaganda from the president, via my gym teacher, on the day the awards were handed out. Propagandizing students to exercise and be healthy isn't a problem, is it? 

So what is the content of Obama's propaganda that is so concerning?  Is it his call to serve one's community? No. Initially, although its been changed, Obama's printed materials to be sent to schools included a passage suggesting that students be asked to "write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president." 

Obama should have asked the youth to think about what they could do for the country, not what they could do for Obama himself.

Fair enough: I agree.  

The materials have been changed per requests by critics.

Is this story over now? Was this just an excuse to use "Hitler" and "Obama" in the same breath?

Also, I'm really impressed with Gayle Ruzicka being a day ahead of a national news trend with this whole youth propaganda hysteria.  Since hysteria is her job, this speaks well of her qualifications.