Change 'mother' to 'birthing parent': Is national teachers union right?

Terry Stoops Twitter

Fact Box

  • The National Education Association (NEA) allegedly proposed voting on NBI 63 to change language in their contracts to reflect lgbtq inclusive language, so instead of using terms like “mother” and “father,” contracts would note “parent,” “birthing parent,” and “non-birthing parent.” Terry Stoops, director of John Locke Foundation’s Center for Effective Education tweeted leaked images of the alleged proposal. 
  • The president of Parents Defending Education, Nicole Neily, asserted, “Normal people don’t use the term chestfeeding or birthing person or any of this stuff [...] I think it just further underscores how completely out of touch the teachers’ unions … are from the concerns of normal parents.” 
  • A 2021 Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa International poll found that 75% of Americans trust public school teachers, but have less support for teachers’ unions and the government in terms of education. 
  • Pew Research Center reported in a February 2022 poll that 38% of American adults say that “greater acceptance of people who are transgender is generally good for our society, while 32% say it is bad and 29% say it is neither good nor bad.”

Joanna (Yes)

Trans men, genderqueer people, gender non-conforming people, and surrogates have long been excluded from conversations referring to anyone who can be pregnant and give birth to children. When a union or an administration uses inclusive terminology, the language used becomes notably more accurate and effective to the conversation at hand, and the conversation itself becomes more inclusive. All who prefer gendered labels may still claim those terms for themselves personally; nobody who prefers being called a mother is excluded. Rather, they’re being asked to share a space with those who have been consistently left out of conversations, such as those who birth children but are not traditional ‘mothers.’ Those who share pregnancy/birth in common are diverse, and with administrative text choosing the inclusive language, voices previously silenced may now more easily join the dialogue. 

Furthermore, being sensitive to inclusivity helps students and families feel safe and seen. Plus, it accurately reflects teachers’ realities. Teachers do not work only with a child’s “mom” and “dad,” and the language they’re using reflects that. Teachers correspond with caregivers as they’re commonly referred to because every home is different. Similar to the term “caregiver,” a respectful construction of language actually fosters inclusivity while avoiding confusion and offense.

“Birthing person” circumvents sexist thought patterns that promote equating “mother” to “feminine” and to “female,” which makes this change a step forward for gender equality. Maternity and birthing have traditionally been roles associated with women and vice versa, contributing to bigotry, misogyny, and transphobia. Words matter though, and unfortunately, with this relatively new wording, criticism will surface, but the perpetuation of harmful language will only further prove that inclusive terminology needs normalization now.

Curtice (No)

Just because the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, decides to call a mother something other than what they are does not make it so. The NEA putting forward a resolution to change the term “mother” to “birthing parent” is both radical and nefarious.

With each passing year, the NEA seems to veer farther and farther away from its intended purpose–education. It has lost focus. Only biological females (there is no other kind of female) can give birth. Sex isn't a social construct. It isn’t an opinion; it is biology. Those claiming to follow science should actually follow the science. It's unconscionable that a teachers union would deny that which many of its members purport to teach—science. This is yet another attempt to inculcate public education with woke ideology, at the expense of actual learning.

The resolution said, in part, “Using the contract language, members need not worry about how a Board of Education/solicitor defines ‘maternity leave,’ ‘mother,’ and/or father.; the language is an inclusive reflection of how LGBTQIA+ members build families.” How is it ‘inclusive’ antagonizing a large percentage of mothers by erasing their existence as mothers? Birthing parent or non-birthing parent is a slippery slope on which the NEA has descended, and subverts the notion of objective reality.

The term mother does not exclude anyone from participating in school, as a parent or teacher. Adopting such a policy to acquiesce to a small, albeit vocal minority is foolish and wrong. The NEA would be wise to focus on educating students, not on pushing social agendas they agree with.

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