5257929White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said this morning that criticism of the president's planned speech to American students reflects "silly season" and compared school districts that won't show the speech to those that "won't let you read Huckleberry Finn."
"I think we've reached a little bit of the silly season when the President of the United States can't tell kids in school to study hard and stay in school," Gibbs said at a gaggle with reporters, according to CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller.
Some conservatives are considering keeping their kids out of school when President Obama gives the speech out of fears that Mr. Obama is trying, in the words of Florida Republican Party chair Jim Greer, to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda."
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, echoing that argument, said this: "The left has always used kids in public schools as guinea pigs and as junior lobbyists for their social liberal agenda."
The Obama administration says the address is focused exclusively encouraging children to stay and excel in school, not policy or political issues.
Gibbs pointed out to reporters Friday morning that two Republican presidents have given speeches to students: Ronald Reagan in 1988 and George H.W. Bush in 1991. Democrats were critical of those speeches, just as Republicans have been critical of Mr. Obama's.
Some schools are electing not to show the president's speech, though for many the reasons are logistical, not ideological, as the address coincides in many districts with the first day of school.
Asked about the fact that some schools are not planning to show the speech, Gibbs evoked school districts that "won't let you read Huckleberry Finn."
The Department of Education tweaked its initial accompanying materials for the speech following criticism of certain recommendations, including one that students write themselves a letter on "how to help the president."
The Department has also elected to release the speech on Monday, Labor Day, so that parents can review it before students see it on Tuesday.