President Obama's plan to deliver a televised speech to public school students caused an uproar among conservative parents in Texas, who demanded that their children be allowed to skip the event, scheduled for Tuesday. "It seemed like a direct channel from the president of the United States into the classroom, to my child," said Brent Curtis, an engineer who is keeping his three kids at home. "I don't want our schools turned over to some socialist movement." Most of the opposition was along similar lines, complaining either that the speech was indoctrination or that it had not been screened for political content.
White House officials stressed that the speech was not political, and would simply encourage children to work hard and stay in school. "It's not a policy speech," a spokeswoman for the Department of Education said, repeating the assurances that White House spokespeople issued Thursday.
Criticism of the speech began when it was learned that an accompanying lesson plan referred to ways students can "help the President" and urged them to think about "what the President wants us to do." Conservative commentators have accused Obama of trying to create a "cult of personality" along the lines of Fidel Castro or Moammar Qaddafi. The White House quickly responded to early signs of trouble, removing the offending phrases and reassuring parents that the president's message would not be political. A White House spokesperson added that there probably would not have been a reaction had parents heard the speech before seeing the lesson plan.
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