Middle-Schoolers Drafted Into Obama Campaign
Middle-school students in Virginia became unwitting tools of the Obama campaign when their teacher required them to conduct opposition research in class against Republican presidential candidates. 8th graders at Liberty Middle School in Fairfax County were told to research Republican presidential hopefuls, find the “weaknesses” of each, prepare a strategy paper to exploit those weaknesses, and then locate an individual inside the Obama campaign to whom they could send their suggestions.
Many parents were upset by the assignment, which was announced in teacher Michael Denman’s Civics Honor’s class in mid-January. “This assignment was just creepy beyond belief — like something out of East Germany during the Cold War,” a father told The Daily Caller. One student added, “My classmates don’t actually know a lot, but a few of us tended to agree that the most recent instruction on this project just didn’t seems right. Mr. Denman didn’t tell us where to find the information, just to research on them.”
There was no attempt to perform similar research on Democratic party candidates, and no students were asked to research President Obama’s history.
Fairfax County Public School spokesman John Torre said that students were never actually instructed to send their findings to the Obama campaign. Instead, he told The Daily Caller, “the teacher simply asked his students to find out the name of the office that would receive such information.” Mr. Denman was not reprimanded, but was “advised . . . that he should emphasize to his students that this assignment was meant to learn a process and not to endorse a particular candidate.” Denman agreed to give students the chance to research candidates of either political party if he assigns similar homework again.
Denman’s class assignment violated district policy, which states that “employees shall not involve their schools in political campaigns, distribute political literature on school property or attempt to indoctrinate students with their personal political beliefs.”
The Rutherford Institute’s John Whitehead said of the incident,
I think before schools even get into this area, they should get parents’ permission to be talking about politics or attacking a particular politician. So [it’s] not a good area, not a good idea. Again, the idea of schools is to educate, not indoctrinate . . . If a teacher says a particular candidate is a bad guy, not a good guy, and the other guy is a good man, or whatever they get into, kids are going to believe their authority figure. It’s not a good idea. That’s why teachers need to present all points of view on politics if you’re going to get into that area.