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Education Reporter

70 Protest Kids Singing Obama's Praises
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Several incidents came to light earlier this fall in which public school teachers and officials asked schoolchildren to celebrate President Barack Obama in ways that some parents thought were inappropriate. (See Education Reporter, October 2009.) One such incident involved children at a New Jersey elementary school chanting Obama's name and singing of his accomplishments at a school assembly. About 70 people gathered outside the school on October 12 to protest what they viewed as a public school encouraging children to idolize the president.

2nd-graders at the B. Bernice Young School in Burlington Township, New Jersey learned two songs praising Obama last spring, and first sang them at a Black History Month assembly in February. They sang the songs again in March when Charisse Carney-Nunes, author of I Am Barack Obama, visited the school. Unbeknownst to school officials, the author's sister videotaped the students' performance and posted the video online. By September it had migrated to YouTube, where it is still available under the title "School Kids Taught to Praise Obama."

The video shows the children chanting Obama's name and replacing the words of the old-fashioned hymn, "Jesus Loves the Little Children," to declare, "Red, yellow, black, or white/All are equal in his sight/Barack Hussein Obama." The same song also affirms that Obama will "make this country strong again," and argues unreflectively in favor of government controlling wages in private industry: "He said we must be fair today/Equal work means equal pay."

A second song, this one to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, conveys less content but even more enthusiasm. "Mr. President we honor you today!/For all your great accomplishments, we all doth say 'hooray.'/Hooray, Mr. President! You're number one!/Hooray, Mr. President, we're really proud of you!/So continue, Mr. President, we know you'll do the trick/So here's a hearty hip hooray, Hip, hip hooray!"

School principal Dr. Denise King defended the songs publicly and told parents she would allow the performance again if she could. Superintendent Christopher Manno of the Burlington Township schools is similarly unapologetic about the songs or the performance — though he is "deeply disturbed" that the video is on the internet. District policy states that students cannot be photographed or videotaped without their parents' permission. Manno did admit that he also responded to the video's publicity by sending a memo to all teachers asking them to be "extra vigilant . . . so as not to give the impression of promoting" a political ideology in the classroom.

At the October protest, about 70 parents and community members gathered near the school carrying signs and chanting slogans such as "Free children, free minds" and "Education, not indoctrination." "Consider this a protest to squelch this trend to politicize our youth," said the protest's organizers in a statement. "We are supporting the constitutional rights of our children and protest against the progressive social agenda promoted by the New Jersey Education Association and the National Education Association."

"I felt this was reminiscent of 1930s Germany, and the indoctrination of children to worship their leader," said one shocked parent. In fact, the video shows the teacher leading her class in raising their right hands, on cue and in unison, in a sort of Heil Obama gesture. Another parent commented: "I can't believe it's our school. We don't want to praise this guy like he's a god or an idol or a king." (Education Week, 10-12-09, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10-13-09)

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