Those Liberal English Teachers

A friend of mine just forwarded an article to me from the CNN website. It’s about a history and English teacher in Vermont who was recently called on the carpet for giving a “liberal” vocabulary quiz. Here’s one example, in which the students had to circle the correct word in parentheses: “I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes.” Yeah, maybe that one went a little too far.

It reminds me of my time as a liberal English teacher in Hudsonville, Michigan. It was the year 2000, and the presidential race was really heating up. My students kept pestering me, asking who I was going to vote for (yes, I recognize the irony of this grammatically incorrect sentence). Finally, after weeks of whining—”please, oh please, tell us who you’re voting for”—I relented and said that I was still trying to choose between Ralph Nader and Al Gore.

Not too long after my confession, I was vilified by a few parents and verbally accosted by some of my fellow teachers. The principal pulled me into his office and, to his great credit, assured me that I was “safe” and welcome at the school and wouldn’t be run out of town. But as I walked out of the office, he told me to make sure I was teaching English and not “personal politics.”

My situation was quite a bit different from the Vermont teacher’s, as far as I can tell. I didn’t openly deride George W. Bush or suggest that Republicans are idiots. I was merely answering a question about who I thought should become the next president. But because my perspective was different from that of just about every other faculty member or administrator, I was somehow guilty of not just “supporting a baby killer,” as one student put it, but also trying to corrupt the youth with my left-wing propaganda. It didn’t matter that other teachers openly expressed their support of Bush’s candidacy because nobody saw anything personal about their views. They were simply spreading the truth, telling it like it is.

I really did love a lot of things about teaching out there for six years, and I got to know some truly wonderful people—faculty, students, and parents—but I’ll never forget that bewildering and infuriating pre-election period in the fall of 2000, especially if friends keep sending me articles like the one about the teacher in Vermont.

Read the article: “Teacher accused of giving ‘liberal’ quiz

By the way, isn’t the “liberal professor” one of the favorite bugaboos of the right wing?

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3 Responses to Those Liberal English Teachers

  1. Dad says:

    It’s nice that you can look back in a positive way on your Hudsonville teaching experience, even though I still remember with some disbelief that experience in 2000. What do you think would have happened in the Big Guy’s office if you had popped that quiz on your students?

  2. Aunt Ginny says:

    Isn’t it a wonderful twist that Sara’s 88 year old CRC grandmother is rabidly antiBush! She showed me a political cartoon today of a sign in front of the White House that read: “Beware of the Vice President”. I really am clueless how thinking compassionte people could support those two corporate frontmen. Of course, I didn’t get how people could support Reagan or Nixon either.


  3. Karl says:

    That’s a good question about what the principal might have done had I popped the quiz on my students. Actually, I never would have. It would have been insulting to most of the students, who liked Bush, even admired him. There were a lot more respectful ways to introduce them to the idea that it’s possible for someone to be a Democrat and a liberal and a Christian, all at the same time. But to answer your question, I’m not sure what he would have done, but I probably would have had to issue some sort of formal apology to my students and their parents at the very least.

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