Saturday, November 26, 2005

Maybe we should test the Globe on the meaning of the word "alleged"

Vermont English teacher Bret Chenkin has a way with words.

This Boston Globe article, headlined "Teacher under investigation for alleged liberalism," brought back unhappy memories of spending stessed-out high school days preparing for the SAT tests. But they also made me look back on that time with a surprisingly fond glow. The test questions my teachers made up may have been boring, but at least they weren't politically partisan.

Bret Chenkin, on the other hand, is a great deal better than my teachers were at coming up with creative and innovative questions for his students' English quizzes. He's certainly not reluctant, however, to let them know exactly where he stands on the political spectrum.

Here's one question he dreamed up for them; the point of which is to demonstrate the students' knowledge of vocabulary words "coherent" and "eschewed":

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.

And extra credit if you get this one right (that is: left):

It is frightening the way the extreme right has (balled, arrogated) aspects of the Constitution and warped them for their own agenda.

Chenkin thinks he's being fair:

"The kids know it's hyperbolic, so-to-speak," he said. "They know it's tongue in cheek. They know where I stand."

He said he isn't shy about sharing his liberal views with students, but invites vigorous debate in the classroom.

I don't know about you; but I, for one, wish Chenkin would have eschewed political statements altogether in his classroom.

One wonders about Chenkin's judgment. One also wonders about the vocabulary of the Globe editors who come up with that headline. For surely we can safely conclude that this man's liberalism has passed considerably beyond the "alleged" stage. For that matter, is "liberalism," alleged or otherwise, actually the offense for which he's under investigation? Isn't it rather the act of injecting partisan political views into a venue where they don't belong, not the particular form those views happen to take?

At least the school superintendent quoted in the article seems to understand the meaning of the words he uses. He calls Chenkin's test questions "inappropriate" and "irresponsible." No argument there; they are that indeed, as well as "indoctrinating" and "indefensible."

Come to think of it, though, perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on the Globe for that headline. My guess is that Mr. Chenkin is certainly no classical liberal. So perhaps the Globe's "alleged" means they're thinking of how the word "liberal" has become perverted from its original classical meaning.



At 5:23 PM, November 26, 2005, Blogger Harry Mallory said...

Oh boy, you know, if a conservative would have come up with a similar blatantly biased quiz, there would have been no "alleged" nothing.

(Hell, you dont even have to have any evidence of wrong-doing to be guilty of something!)

The conservative teacher would have been fired. if this was a blue state, they would have demanded it.

At 5:51 PM, November 26, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, yes, but how do you deal with Wesley Knapp's statement:

"They (teachers) don't have a license to hold forth on a particular standpoint."

On what subject? For what standpoint(s)?

This is PC-induced empty-headedness. Of course teachers will "hold forth" on some standpoints--or why bother teaching history or philosophy?
Stalinist revisionism of Russia's history was a "standpoint" too, but making informed, civilized and thoughtful distinctions is what matters.
No standpoint = any standpoint.
Knap's heart may be in the right place, but his mind is mush.

At 12:05 AM, November 27, 2005, Blogger camojack said...

Personally, I eschew coherency...

At 12:31 AM, November 27, 2005, Blogger David Foster said...

The Boston Globe headline is, of course, fraudulent. The teacher wasn't under investigation for "alleged liberalism" but for alleged bias.

At 7:49 AM, November 27, 2005, Blogger Troy Stephens said...

I continue to be amused by the accusations about expropriating the Constitution to one's own nefarious ends, from a political Left that absolutely depends on being able to bend the Constitution's intent (specifically, the intent to preserve a federal government limited in size, scope, and power) to advance its own progressive agenda. Chenkin and his ilk are notoriously selective in their insistence on that document's defense...

At 8:29 AM, November 27, 2005, Blogger Brad said...

The whole thing is typical of what is going on. The worst part is the response:
"Principal Sue Maguire said she hoped to speak to whoever complained about the quiz..."

At 12:37 PM, November 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah. Speaking to the principal will sure as heck promote vigorous discussion.

How come more people don't use the term "tin ear"? Plenty of occasion.

At 3:33 PM, November 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the slippery use of 'alleged' will be defended by pointing to the news writing stylebook. You should say 'alleged' before someone is convicted... But this teacher is not going on trial and this is not a legal issue.

At 6:30 PM, November 27, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

One of the reasons why the Left holds public education in their powerful special interest grasps, is because of their connections to some basic political groups situated in the American public.

Destroy, manipulate, or weaken those political groups through the American public, and you won't have such a double standard.

The double standard isn't the danger itself, it is the logistical power linkages between Unions, Teachers, Schools, and politicians.

This makes cracking the political enigma, through the American people, a priority. This means, however, you need to be very very good at convincing people, knowing the truth, finding the truth, and taking out political opponents through the truth or even if you have to dig some skeletons out of the closet.

At 7:41 AM, November 28, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would say his Chenkin's use of the word 'insure' rather than 'ensure' may show that he's actually a neo-con mole, trolling for Republican votes!

All-in-all, I would much rather have someone like Bret Chenkin teach my kids than some Republican pedophile, like Phil Giordano of Waterbury, CT: granted, Phil was mayor and not a teacher but he ran against Joe-mentum Lieberman for the US Senate seat and many CT "wish-we-were-red" voters turned out, to vote for this slimeball.


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