Last week, two organizations with different approaches to impacting the future of American education held summits in almost opposite parts of the country. 

The National Education Association (NEA) held its annual assembly in Orlando, FL, while Moms for Liberty held its second annual summit in Philadelphia, PA. The NEA focused on fighting against perceived censorship in schools, whereas Moms for Liberty emphasized the need for parental accountability in government schools.

Some parents are concerned over the age-appropriateness of certain school materials, calling for their removal, while others believe that such a move is censorship.

In regard to this argument, the NEA specifically made promises to fight against book bans and stand up for LGBTQ+ students.

“This is the moment, with the residue of the pandemic lingering, with our psyches still fragile, that we must try to make sense of all that we have lost—and all that we have learned,” said NEA President Becky Pringle, who was re-elected during this assembly to continue in her role. “I will always remember the tearful yet defiant Florida educator who expressed the concerns of far too many, telling me, ‘I can’t teach like this. I refuse to.’”

She continued, “Unbowed and unbroken, and with a resolve that is unwavering, NEA, you are leading the work to promote, to protect, and to strengthen public education!” 

In her keynote address, Pringle dubbed Florida as “our ground zero for shameful, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic rhetoric and dangerous actions.”

The NEA assembly honored noteworthy teachers and heard from prominent speakers like President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. The First Lady referred to President Biden as the “education president” who recognizes the vital role of educators in shaping the nation’s success. However, some critics viewed her comments as aligning with the liberal NEA agenda, labeling President Biden as the most anti-parent education president in history.

Outside the NEA assembly, educators rallied with rainbow flags, demanding an end to book bans, silencing teachers, and restricting students’ freedom to learn. The NEA recently published their summer reading list for educators, which they note is not for students, but to help teachers “better understand their colleagues, students, and families they serve.” There is a specific “banned books” section in the list, which includes books like Gender Queer and All Boys Aren’t Blue that have troubled parents. The NEA’s site noted that the number of challenged books has doubled in the last year, as per the American Library Association, which has also committed to fighting against book bans with a $1 million grant.

Moms for Liberty, on the other hand, has been very outspoken over the need for age-appropriate content in schools and that parents have the right to oversee their child’s upbringing.

In a recent interview following the summit, Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice talked about the so-called book bans.

“Curating a children’s library is not banning books,” Justice said. “And collectively in the United States, we have had, together, an idea about what’s age appropriate when we agree to movie ratings. I don’t see anyone outside of movie theaters petitioning to let their 13-year-old go into a R-rated movie. Tipper Gore, a Democrat, fought for explicit content warnings on music. And children don’t have unfettered access to the internet at school.”

The Moms for Liberty summit in Philadelphia drew many from across the country. Attendees heard from presidential candidates, noteworthy political leaders, and education advocates.

Noah Webster Educational Foundation (NWEF) was one of the event sponsors, and NWEF’s President Melvin Adams weighed in on what he thought the motives are for inappropriate school materials.

“All of this radical progressivism that we’re hearing about, the underpinnings are Communist,” Adams said. “It’s a chameleon. It changes its colors for whatever’s going on, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, whether it’s transgenderism, whatever, it’s about destroying the foundations [of this country].” 

The Moms for Liberty summit was also designed to equip school board members.

“Moms for Liberty is calling out educational failure in America,” said Justice. “We’re disrupting the balance of power in public education. We’re reclaiming school boards and school board seats from the left and the teachers’ unions. And once liberty-minded individuals are elected into those states, we are reforming public education. We are getting back to the basics.” 

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