". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


If There’s ‘No Such Thing As Someone Else’s Child,’ Who’s Responsible for Children’s Education?

May 12, 2023

“There is no such thing as someone else’s child. … Our nation’s children are all our children,” President Biden said recently during a speech honoring the 2023 national and state teachers of the year. He was quoting a teacher.

These words may not seem all that significant. After all, they are partially true. As people who care about our neighbors, community, and country, we want to have a positive impact on children’s lives. What parents do not want the love and support of extended family, church family, friends, and teachers?

However, when applied to public policy, Biden’s words reflect the Democratic Party’s broader political philosophy on education and parental rights. The Democratic Party’s platform, Democratic congressmens’ words and actions, as well as the words and actions of one of their most influential lobbyists — teachers’ unions — show that they believe they have the fundamental right to teach children their worldview, values, and politics — and parents do not.

This condescending attitude was on display in February when special ed teacher Alicia Messing testified against Arizona’s SB 1700. She doubted parents’ capability and right to decide which books their kids should have access to. She said:

“I have a master’s degree, because when I got certified, I was told I had to have a master’s degree to be an Arizona-certified teacher. We all have advanced degrees. What do the parents have? Are we vetting the backgrounds of our parents? Are we allowing the parents to choose the curriculum and the books that our children are going to read? I think that it’s a mistake — and I’m just speaking from the heart — the one line that I love is, ‘we must remember that the purpose of public education is not to teach only what parents want their children to be taught, it is to teach them what society needs them to be taught.’”

Who decides what “society” needs children to be taught? The federal government, teachers, or teachers’ unions?

Unfortunately, this authoritarian/Marxist perspective — that schools and government have the ultimate authority in children’s education and wellbeing — is nothing new. Hillary Clinton popularized it in her book, “It Takes a Village,” in the 1990s. In 2016, former MNSBC host Melissa Harris-Perry said in a commercial for MSNBC’s “Lean Forward” campaign, “We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”

On the one hand, Harris-Perry is correct when she implied that parents and families need love and support from their community: We should not isolate ourselves, but rather love our neighbors as ourselves, participate in community activities, be involved in our churches, and look for ways to serve each other. However, we must be very careful when forming public policy: Our empathy for children who are hurting, falling behind, or in difficult family situations should not lead us to harm even more children by taking parents’ basic rights away.

Amid education policy discussions, it’s important to separate teachers from teachers’ unions. The largest teachers’ unions promote policies which expand government overreach and oppose parental rights. On the other hand, it is difficult to overstate the positive, lifelong impact that teachers can have on children and their communities. They can be wonderful mentors — especially to the increasing number of children that do not have a parent or love and attention at home. In addition, as most teachers will tell you, their jobs have become much more difficult in recent years. Sadly they experience the impact of our culture’s moral relativism and post-modernism firsthand as more kids disrespect their teachers and even act out in violence.

Parents, teachers, school administrators, and school boards should listen to each other and work together to provide the best possible education for students — regardless of their zip code, income, ethnicity, or religion. Yet during these conversations it is essential that everyone upholds the principle that parents have the fundamental right to make educational choices for their children. As the Republican Party platform states, “Parents are a child’s first and foremost educators and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children’s education, care, and upbringing.”