President Joe Biden is facing criticism for suggesting to teachers that their students are “like your” children and not “somebody else’s” when they are in their classrooms at a time when parental rights in education are receiving heightened attention nationwide.
Biden made remarks at the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year Event in the East Room of the White House Wednesday.
While he spent most of his speech recalling the impact his teachers had on him as a child and highlighting his wife Jill’s role as a teacher, the president weighed in on what he described as American teachers becoming “the target of the culture wars.”
“Today, there are too many politicians trying to score political points, trying to ban books — even math books,” he said. “I mean, did you even think — even you younger teachers — did you ever think, that you’d be worried about book burnings and banning books, all because it doesn’t fit somebody’s political agenda? American teachers have dedicated their lives to teaching our children and lifting them up. We got to stop making them the target of the culture wars.”
Biden pushed back on the idea that teachers educate “someone else’s children” during the school day, insisting that “they’re our children.” He described children as “the kite strings that literally lift our national ambitions aloft in a literal sense" and reiterated that “they’re all our children.”
“And the reason you’re the Teachers of the Year is that you recognize that,” Biden said. “They’re not somebody else’s children; they’re like yours when they’re in the classroom.”
Biden faced pushback as critics believe his implication is that parents relinquish their authority over their children to teachers and school officials when they drop them off at school.
The conservative think tank American Principles Project published a tweet declaring, “No, Joe, they are not ‘somebody else’s children.’ They are OUR children.”
Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt sent out a similar tweet.
“God gave kids to parents – NOT the government," Stitt argued.
The advocacy group Moms for America tweeted, “No #POTUS, they’re our children. Every minute of every day. Don’t ever forget that.”
The fact-checking website PolitiFact accused conservatives and the Republican National Committee of misrepresenting what Biden was trying to say, contending that Biden's inclusion of the word "like" before "yours" changes the meaning of the sentence.
"Biden was saying that the nation's future depends on the successful education of American children — not that children belong to their teachers," the PolitiFact article reads.
"In his speech to teachers, Biden was talking about educators’ responsibility to their students and urged them to treat kids in the classroom with care, as if they were their own children. He told teachers students were 'like' their own."
Public schools across the nation have faced backlash in recent years from parents who believe the school districts are allowing sexually explicit material in their libraries and incorporating elements of critical race theory as part of the curriculum.
Concerns about the exposure of young children to LGBT ideology, specifically the topics of sexual orientation and gender identity, prompted the state of Florida to enact a law restricting school officials from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation with students in kindergarten through third grade.
Biden’s comment about “book burnings and banning books” likely refers to the Florida Department of Education’s rejection of several math textbooks submitted to the state’s “initial adoption list for mathematics instructional materials properly aligned to Florida’s Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.) Standards.”
The Florida Department of Education cited the incorporation of “prohibited topics or unsolicited strategies, including CRT” as the reason for rejecting 28 of the 132 submitted textbooks.
While 21% of the submitted textbooks were rejected for their inclusion of such topics, 41% of all mathematics textbooks submitted were denied for one reason or another.
An example of an offending textbook provided by the Florida Department of Education features a lesson on adding and subtracting polynomials, accompanied by a problem based on a graph of results from the Race Implicit Association Test.
The graphs demonstrate that conservatives have a moderate level of racial prejudice compared to their “very liberal” counterparts, who have the lowest level of bias based on responses to a questionnaire. At the same time, the graphs identify Americans older than 65 as having the highest level of racial prejudice.
The doctrine of "in loco parentis," as explained by Encyclopedia Britannica, is “when minor children are entrusted by parents to a school" and "parents delegate to the school certain responsibilities for their children, and the school has certain liabilities.” Additionally, “the school and the teachers take some of the responsibility and some of the authority of the parents.”
Several advocacy groups have popped up over the past year, including Parents Defending Education and the 1776 Project PAC, which supports school board candidates opposed to critical race theory and sexually explicit material in the school curriculum.
The issue of education loomed large in last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election, especially after the Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe said on the debate stage “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
McAuliffe lost the election to his Republican challenger, Glenn Youngkin. In addition to the Virginia gubernatorial election, several candidates supported by the 1776 Project PAC were victorious in school board elections last fall.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org