Republican senator says head of teachers’ union knows nothing about education because ‘she doesn’t even have children of her own’

Former high school teacher and union president Randi Weingarten has 35 years of experience in education

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 02 November 2021 12:54 EDT
Senator Tom Cotton calls teachers union president a ‘joke’ because she is childless

Senator Tom Cotton hit out at the head of the teachers’ union, calling her a “joke” and accusing her of knowing nothing about teaching children because she has none of her own.

The Arkansas lawmaker was speaking on Fox News when he made the incendiary remark in reference to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Mr Cotton was discussing the appearance by Ms Weingarten at a rally for Terry McAullife, the Democrat candidate to be Governor of Virginia.

“Isn’t it amazing that Terry McAuliffe ends his entire campaign with the head of the teachers’ union,” said Mr Cotton.

“Randi Weingarten is a joke,” he continued. “Randi Weingarten does not even have children of her own. What the hell does she know about raising and teaching kids?”

“That is probably why she was perfectly fine to shut down schools for two years and force kids to wear masks because she didn’t have to deal with it at home.”

Education has become a central issue in the Virginia gubernatorial race, not just because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on schooling, but also through the teaching of critical race theory.

Ms Weingarten has extensive experience in the field of education, having left a legal career in the early 1990s to teach law, political science, and US history and government to high school students in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Her mother was also a teacher and inspired her interest in the labour movement. In addition to her presidency of the AFT, she was also treasurer and president of the United Federation of Teachers.

Ms Weingarten was named as a potential secretary of education in the Biden Administration. She and her partner do not have children.

Mr Cotton, also a former attorney who has served in both houses of Congress and was a captain in the US Army, has two children. His mother too was a teacher and principal of a middle school.

The senator’s comments are somewhat out of step with the reality for many teachers in the US. A study by the Brookings Institution indicates that the majority of teachers do not have children – only 48 per cent have children living at home.

Commenters on Twitter were quick to draw attention to the many teachers who do not have their own children.

“Growing up I had several single teachers without children who were outstanding, unmarried, and childless,” one wrote. “The commitment most teachers make is to treat every child as if that child is their own.”

“I was unable to have kids,” said another, “but that doesn’t mean I should be devalued or not allowed to pour my expertise into learning. Ridiculous!”

One commenter flagged up the lack of relevant experience of the Trump administration secretary of education: “It’s funny that he never had issues with [Betsy] DeVos who had no experience with public education.”

Quipped another Twitter user: “I’d like to hear his thoughts on male gynecologists.”

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