Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona made comments during a video interview with the Associated Press where he expressed his lack of respect for people he perceives as “misbehaving in public and acting like they know what’s right for kids.” The context of his comments related to the state of education in the U.S., recent Supreme Court decisions on race-based admissions, and President Biden’s attempt to relieve student debt.
Cardona discussed the change in the education landscape over the years and the current polarization of opinions. While he acknowledged differences of opinion, he stated that he doesn’t respect individuals who, in his view, behave poorly in public while claiming to know what’s best for children. He also criticized what he saw as hypocrisy among some elected officials who oppose certain forms of financial support while benefiting from significant loan forgiveness themselves.
These comments generated backlash on social media, where some interpreted them as a swipe at parents who have spoken out at school board meetings on issues such as COVID mandates, book selection, and critical race theory.
Parents Defending Education President Nicole Neily criticized Cardona’s remarks, suggesting that they demonstrated a lack of respect for differences of opinion. Neily cited Cardona’s actions, such as the closure of a parents’ council without viewpoint diversity and his department’s involvement in a letter from the National School Boards Association (NSBA) that initially sought federal investigations of protesting parents as domestic terrorists under the PATRIOT Act.
The NSBA’s letter had asked for federal intervention in response to alleged threats and violence at school board meetings but was later apologized for and retracted. Attorney General Merrick Garland had issued a memorandum instructing the FBI to address threats against school officials following the NSBA’s letter, a move later criticized by some as an overreach of authority.
In summary, Cardona’s comments about not respecting those he perceives as “misbehaving in public” sparked controversy and were interpreted by some as a criticism of parents involved in school board meetings and protests.