Tomorrow, September 8th, President Obama will address the school children in the U.S. Some people have decided to pull their children out of school that day, but I think that is going a bit too far. Is there a risk that Obama’s speech will turn the kids into modern-day brownshirts? I don’t think so.

I’m not concerned because I’m OK with the President addressing kids. I think it’s great to have the President urge the nation’s children to study and work hard to excel. Urging children to do their best is not a plank of the liberal or conservative platform. It’s an American position, and who could object to it?

Well, some parents are objecting. It’s become a bad habit in recent years. While President Bush was in office, many liberals had a knee-jerk objection to anything he did or said. It was so common that people had a name for it: Bush Derangement Syndrome, or BDS. Now that Obama is in office, I’m seeing a fair amount of ODS on the conservative side, and that is a shame.

I have read the prepared speech, and I don’t see anything in my quick read that makes me feel uneasy as a conservative. I do, however, have two problems with the speech. First, it clocks in at close to 2,500 words — maybe 20 minutes of speaking — and this is going to kindergarten kids? When talking to kids, shorter is better. My second problem with the speech comes from the way President Obama talks again and again about himself. Michelle Malkin did some analysis of the word frequency of the speech:

I’ve run the speech through a word frequency counter and found the following results:

  • 56 iterations of “I”
  • 19 iterations of “school”
  • 10 iterations of “education”
  • 8 iterations of “responsibility”
  • 7 iterations of “country”
  • 5 iterations each of “parents”, “teachers”
  • 3 iterations of “nation”

In other words, Barack Obama referenced himself more than school, education, responsibility, country/nation, parents, and teachers combined. And to think that people accused Obama of self-promotion!

While I don’t have a problem with the speech, I was more concerned about the “how you can help Obama” education packet the Department of Education released before the speech. Before it was “fixed,” the packet suggested activities like encouraging kids to write letters to themselves about how they could help the President. Help the President? I’d be surprised if I hadn’t already seen how self-centered the speech was. Again, the speech is fine, but the accompanying packet from the Department of Education is not. This is the best write-up about one reason why it was a problem:

Christina Erland Culver, former deputy assistant secretary for education, said presidents have traditionally addressed classrooms on the first day of school, but the problem with the event was the accompanying materials from the Department of Education.

“That’s where they kind of got into a slippery spot. Federal statute denies any authority to the Department of Education to provide any kind of curriculum or anything that can be passed down to the state, and that’s part of the statute forming the Department of Education. So they kinda got themselves into this mess because they didn’t really understand some of the key legal roles or the dos and don’ts at the federal Department of Ed,” she said.

Have I mentioned that we have a n00b in the White House? Oh, I guess I have.

Two news stories intrigued me today. The first was a news report from bonnie Scotland (hat tip to LittleGreenFootballs), where local officials are expanding what is considered Islamophobia:

PUPILS and teachers have been told by an official body not to stare at Muslims for fear of causing offence.

A document intended to educate against religious intolerance and sectarianism urges teachers to “make pupils aware of the various forms of Islamophobia, ie stares, verbal abuse, physical abuse”.

But Learning Teaching Scotland (LTS), which issued the advice to schools north of the border, has been criticised by politicians and Muslim leaders for going “over the top”.

The document states: “Some Muslims may choose to wear clothing or display their faith in a way that makes them visible. For example, women may be wearing a headscarf, and men might be wearing a skullcap. Staring or looking is a form of discrimination as it makes the other person feel uncomfortable, or as though they are not normal.”

Osama Saeed, a spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, accused officials of going too far. “There are far more serious elements of Islamophobia. People look at all sorts of things — that can just be a glance. A glance and a stare are two different things — glances happen naturally when all sorts of things catch your eye whereas a stare is probably gawking at something.

“Personally I have not encountered much of a problem with people staring. I don’t know how you legislate for that.”

Murdo Fraser, deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said: “In a multicultural society like ours there are people with all different forms of dress and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect children in particular to look at those who are differently dressed from them. To describe this as a form of discrimination seems to go completely over the top.” [emphasis mine - CM]

Staring or looking is now a form of discrimination, thanks to LTS. But Osama Saeed makes a great point when he asks how to legislate for looking. Do we need cops armed with stopwatches following Muslims around the schools, timing how long people are allowed to look at them? “You looked at her for 3.5 seconds, and that is .5 seconds over the allowed time limit! I’m taking you downtown for questioning to see what other Islamophobic tendencies you have.”

Sound farfetched? But just follow the logic: if there is a rule against staring, then there must be a way to judge between a look and a stare, and there must be a punishment for looking too long. All of these actions would be needed to combat Islamophobia. Now let me take a moment to rant at people who twist the known meanings of words. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. It does not mean disagreement with or hatred of something. But people started using the term “homophobia” to mean anyone who doesn’t agree with gay and lesbian agendas, not just someone with an irrational fear of same-sex attraction. Now expect to see more people use “Islamophobia” as a verbal cudgel to beat anyone who doesn’t automatically accept the superiority of Islam. You can’t look at that Muslim, you infidel! Avert your eyes and accept your status as a dhimmi.

The second news story comes from the Katherine Kersten article in the Star Tribune (hat tip to Power Line Blog):

The [Muslim Accommodations Task Force]‘s eventual objectives on American campuses include the following, according to the website: permanent Muslim prayer spaces, ritual washing facilities, separate food and housing for Muslim students, separate hours at athletic facilities for Muslim women, paid imams or religious counselors, and campus observance of Muslim holidays. The task force is already hailing “pioneering” successes. At Syracuse University in New York, for example, “Eid al Fitr is now an official university holiday,” says an article featured on the website. “The entire university campus shuts down to mark the end of Ramadan.” At Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., “halal” food — ritually slaughtered and permissible under Islamic law — is marked by green stickers in the cafeteria and “staff are well-trained in handling practices.”

At Georgetown University, Muslim women can live apart in housing that enables them to “sleep in an Islamic setting,” as the website puts it. According to a student at the time the policy was adopted, the university housing office initially opposed the idea, on grounds that all freshman should have the experience of “living in dorms and dealing with different kinds of people.” That might sound appealing, Muslim students told a reporter in an article featured on the website. But in their view, the reporter wrote, “learning to live with ‘different kinds of people’ ” actually “causes more harm than good” for Muslims, because it requires them to live in an environment that “distracts them from their desire to become better Muslims, and even draw[s] weaker Muslims away from Islam.”

Where is this happening? Why, Minnesota, of course! I am not all that surprised. I don’t have a problem with people wanting to eat their own permissible foods; schools with large Jewish student bodies have served kosher meals for years, and just try buying beer — or even caffeinated soda — on the Brigham Young University campus. But when people start demanding “separate but equal” accommodations, I see a problem. I find it interesting that the same people who claim to champion diversity will also agree to a plan that removes diversity from Muslim lives. Did you notice at the end of the second paragraph that Islam is so fragile its followers must be sheltered from anything and anyone who isn’t Muslim? I have observed before that religious proselyting is strictly forbidden in most Muslim countries, and I have to believe this is so because Islam is too fragile a religion to survive scrutiny. This is why Muslims claim a need for separate-but-equal dorms, and people had better not stare at them.