Headlines on AP Story: Is High School Teacher Liberal, Or Just "Liberal"?

November 27th, 2005 7:12 AM

Dave Huber explains at Oh, That Liberal Media that the Boston Globe erred in its headline in an AP story with the words "Teacher Under Investigation for Alleged Liberalism":

The school superintendent whose district includes Mount Anthony Union High School has labeled "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" an English teacher's use of liberal statements in a vocabulary quiz.

"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," said one question on a quiz written by English and social studies teacher Bret Chenkin.

The question referring to the president asked students to say whether coherent or eschewed was the proper word. The sentence would be more coherent if one eschewed eschewed.

Another example said, "It is frightening the way the extreme right has (balled, arrogated) aspects of the Constitution and warped them for their own agenda." Arrogated would be the proper word there.

Huber captures the main point: "Chenkin is being investigated for his unprofessionalism, not his liberalism. Who cares what political views teachers hold, as long as they don't promulgate them in their classes?" But a Googling of the other headlines where the story appears show the Globe is not alone with defensive headlines.

ABCNews.com carries what is probably the standard AP headline, "Vt. Teacher Accused Of Anti-Bush Quiz," but the subheadline put "liberal" in quotes, since apparently the liberal media doesn't know of any liberals in existence: "Vermont High School Teacher Accused of Administering Biased, 'Liberal' Vocabulary Quiz."

CNN.com has "Teacher accused of giving 'liberal' quiz." Putting the L-word in quotes in a headline is a bit funny since the lede of the AP story itself says Chenkin's in hot water for  "giving a vocabulary quiz that included digs at President Bush and the extreme right." But the AP and their subscribing websites don't put "extreme right" in quotes. I'd tell them that if they're putting "liberal" in quotes, they should also put "extreme right" in quotes. In this AP dispatch, no one who is quoted actually describes Chenkin or his test as "liberal," but Chenkin's test question does mock the "extreme right."

But so it goes, with the Santa Fe New Mexican using the headline "High school teacher accused of giving 'liberal' vocabulary quiz," and the local Barre-Montpelier (Vt.) Times Argus using "English teacher's 'liberalism' under investigation."

PS: Chenkin's local paper, the Bennington Banner, proclaims it pretty much agrees with Chenkin's liberal POV, but also agrees with more conservative parents that a high school teacher has a responsibility to offer more balance and not ostracize kids who disagree. They also add another quiz question I didn't see on the AP:

The governor (of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger) should have been (excoriated, coherent) by the press for calling Democrats "girlie-men" but instead was invited to speak at the Republican convention; it only goes to show what kind of people they are.