Gibbs slams opposition to school speech

The White House on Friday derided GOP opposition to a speech that President Barack Obama intends to give public school children next week, calling it part of a political "silly season."

Press secretary Robert Gibbs defended the president's message as positive encouragement for students starting the school year, but many Republicans have assailed that address as an attempt by Obama at "indoctrination" of the country's youth.

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Several school districts around the country, particularly in Texas, have said they will not show the address. Critics expressed concerns that the speech might contain political messages, that the president could be spreading “socialism” through children, and that local education boards have not approved it as part of their curriculum.

"I think we've reached a little bit of the silly season when the president of the United States can't tell kids to study hard and stay in school," Gibbs said.

Obama announced plans to give the speech weeks ago, but the uproar gained momentum this week as conservative pundits and talk show hosts began weighing in.

While Gibbs said it would be "unwise" to evaluate the districts that won't show the address, he did make a passing reference to censorship by saying there are some districts that "won't even let [students] read Huckleberry Finn."

Gibbs noted that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush delivered addresses to schoolchildren.

Gibbs dismissed any idea that the president's remarks were political, noting that the National Basketball Association has a similar message for students.

"If staying in school is a political message, then somebody should tell the NBA," he said.