by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
At the 2022 Teacher of the Year ceremony hosted by the White House on Wednesday, President Biden claimed that school children don’t belong to parents “when they’re in the classroom.”
“They’re all our children. And the reason you’re the teachers of the year is because you recognize that. They’re not somebody else’s children. They’re like yours when they’re in the classroom,” he said.
Later in the speech, Biden targeted Republicans and the parent movements in local school districts that have fought to remove from libraries and curricula books that promote radical gender and racial ideologies.
“There are too many politicians trying to score political points trying to ban books, even math books. Did you ever think when you’d be teaching you’re going to be worried about book burnings and banning books all because it doesn’t fit somebody’s political agenda?” Biden said.
The comments struck a similar tone to that of former Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, when he made his now infamous remark last year that parents should not be involved in K–12 public education. On the campaign trail, he declared at a debate: “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions. I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
McAuliffe’s then-opponent Glenn Youngkin, now governor of the Virginia, countered with: “You believe school systems should tell children what to do. I believe parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.” Since Youngkin’s sweeping victory in the state, multiple Republicans have followed his model, making parental rights a major policy priority and crafting legislation along those lines.
Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, for instance, recently signed the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits instruction of sexual education and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, deferring to parents to decide how and when to teach their children about such sensitive topics.