President Joe Biden called out Republicans for their attacks on teachers and books this past year.
“Today, there are too many politicians trying to score political points, trying to ban books — even math books. I mean, did you ever think — even you younger teachers — did you ever think, when you’d be teaching, that you’d be worried about book burnings and banning books, all because it doesn’t fit somebody’s political agenda?” Biden said at the 2022 National and State Teachers of the Year event yesterday.
“American teachers have dedicated their lives to teaching our children and lifting them up,” he continued. “We got to stop making them the target of the culture wars. That’s where this is going.”
Over the past year, conservative parents and school board members have demanded libraries remove books, often because they discuss racism or LGBTQ themes. And some conservatives have even called for book burnings.
Earlier this week, for example, Tennessee Rep. Jerry Sexton (R) proposed an amendment to an otherwise banal bill to add members to the state’s textbook commission. Sexton’s amendment would have banned schools from using materials that weren’t on a list approved by the state.
When that caused an uproar from librarians and some parents, he withdrew that amendment and instead proposed one that would require the state’s textbook commission to review every school library’s collection in the state.
During debate in the Tennessee House yesterday, Sexton said what he would do with books deemed inappropriate: “I would burn them.”
Librarians, teachers, and parents have reason to fear state governments politicizing school textbooks and libraries. Earlier this month, Florida’s Department of Education banned 71% of elementary school math textbooks, claiming that the books contained “prohibited content” about “critical race theory.”
When pressed, the DeSantis administration couldn’t even give an example to show why the books were rejected, instead presenting a worksheet used in Missouri that they said was inappropriate.