A Canadian school board is trying to get to the bottom of a mystery.
One grade 10 social studies teacher sent home an assignment that plenty of parents—both liberal and conservative leaning—are claiming was outright incorrect and offensive.
Liberal and Conservative are also the names of political parties in Canada, but the reference here is to traditionally right wing and left wing political ideologies and not a reference to the Canadian political parties of the same name.
The homework assignment was simple enough. The page listed a viewpoint and the children had to decide if this was a “left wing” view, a centrist view or a “right wing” view.
Unfortunately, that simplicity may be its downfall.
The ten-question worksheet, titled Political Spectrum Case Studies, alarmed some students and parents enough that they complained to administration.
Though the worksheet gave the option of choosing “Left, Centre, or Right,” the answer key showed “Centre” was not the correct response to any of the questions.
Many who identify as conservative leaning or right wing felt that the sheet and answers painted them in a terrible light.
But some of the ideas listed as liberal leaning or left wing were not much better.
Take a look at the questions and correct answers as given by the teacher.
The questions and answers read:
- A person who believes that convicted murders should be hanged. Right wing
- A person who believes that the school strap (corporal punishment) should be abolished. Left wing
- A person who is a racist. Right wing
- A person who believes in a higher minimum wage. Left wing
- A person who believes that the police should be able to wiretap telephones. Right wing
- A person who believes that Canada should restrict immigration. Right wing
- A person who believes that the Canadian military should acquire more sophisticated weaponry. Right wing
- A person who believes that Canada should send aid to Third World Countries. Left wing
- A person who believes that women should stay home and be mothers. Right wing
- A person who believes that all major industries should be owned by the state. Left wing
Question 1 paints those who identify as right-wing as hungry for the death penalty which Canada mostly abolished in 1976 and completely abolished in 1998. Question 9 describes a conservative leaning world view as misogynistic. Question 3 blatantly says they are racist. While question 10 says anyone left wing opposes capitalism and free enterprise in favor of communism.
People are, understandably, unhappy.
According to the answer key provided by the teacher, “a person who is racist” and “a person who believes women should stay home and be mothers,” were associated with right-wing views.
— SharonSisterUpstairs #BernierNation #PPC (@mmccdenier) October 5, 2018
“You have conservatives… being painted as misogynist, racist xenophobes who want to enact a brutal police state that hang people,” a parent said.https://t.co/Fg7NpsWfXF
— Global News Radio 880 Edmonton (@880Edmonton) October 4, 2018
It's not just an 'oversimplifiction'. It's an oversimplification, and an improper simplification. An oversimplification implies that it's technically true, but important details are missing. This is not that.
— Mark Coffin (@MarkCoffin) October 5, 2018
This is so clearly wrong. Racists can be found across the political spectrum https://t.co/tiIH8768fi
— stephanie allen (@BuiltJustice) October 5, 2018
The mystery, though, is where the worksheet came from.
The teacher didn’t create the assignment or the answer key. Educators are given access to tons of different teaching resources and the sheet was found among those online teaching resources.
People can’t figure out who put it there, though. Some of these resources can be added to or edited by peers, while others come directly from the province.
School administrators still don’t know if it is an official provincial teaching tool, a peer document placed there by another educator or maybe something taken wildly out of context that was originally designed to warn against these sorts of broad generalizations.
Either way, Superintendent Bill Hamblett agrees the sheet was improper for students.
He chastised the teacher for not being more aware of what ideas they were presenting to their grade 10 students. He committed to figuring the situation out as well as having the teacher explain the problems with the assignment to any students who participated in the exercise.
“The worksheet itself was not that balanced.”
“It had an oversimplification of a very complex topic and the teacher realizes that and will revisit the lesson with the students to explore the topic more thoroughly.”
“Racism is not exclusive to one political stripe, so I know the parent was concerned about that political comment.”