By Amy Oliver
Of all things, a math test from Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins provides another example of the double standard for political correctness.
While the RMHS student handbook makes it very clear that “any language/behavior which creates a negative learning environment because of a person’s…(insert your own genetic trait or religious belief)” may be subject to punishment ranging from community service to recommendation for expulsion, the RMHS administration is much more tolerant of insulting a person’s conservative principles.
During the current school year, either at the end of the first semester or at the beginning of the second semester, the following question appeared on a math test given to RMHS students:
Question 3: Politics in Florida
In 1988, there were 6.047 million people registered to vote in Florida. Of these, a certain number were registered democrats, some were registered republicans, and others were registered as independent. The number of democrats was 0.908 million more than the number of liars – I mean republicans. [emphasis mine] The number of republicans was 1.935 million more than the number of independents. Using mathematics from Chapter 1, find the number of registered voters for each party, in millions.
When questioned as to whether or not the test was legitimate, RMHS principal Tom Lopez admitted that the test did come from his school:
“I have identified that teacher. I have spoken with that teacher at length. I feel that I understand the context. I feel that my teacher has established a rapport with his students. He assures me and I’m convinced of that…that it was humor. That it was humor that was intended only for the audience that was taking the quizzes and tests. That there was an exceptionality to this. Yes, we have gone over Fair Campaign Practices Act. We have discussed what school district policy is.”
Mr. Lopez’s response raised more questions than it answered. First, “that it was humor.” Would the question still be funny if it read “terrorists – I mean Muslims” or “Christ killers – I mean Jews” or “breed mares – I mean women”? When other groups were inserted in place of “republicans,” Mr. Lopez acknowledged that it was not really very humorous.
Also, what was the “exceptionality” to this incident? Mr. Lopez indicated that the test was intended for a specific audience–only those taking the test. Does that make the joke appropriate? If it were a joke about African Americans directed only to a white audience, would that be appropriate?
Finally, Mr. Lopez explained that the teacher “established a rapport with his students.” This implies that the teacher has been making jokes at the expense of those with conservative values for quite some time. Furthermore, he has been doing it in a math class, not civics or political science, so he intentionally weaves politics into a subject that doesn’t lend itself naturally to a political discussion.
When asked about the identity of the teacher, Principal Lopez refused to identify him, instead asking why that information was even relevant. The answer is that taxpayers and parents have the right to know the type of math that is being taught by one of the teachers at RMHS.
But still Mr. Lopez’s question is legitimate: Does the name of the teacher really matter? Or would his identity be used merely to ridicule him and embarrass RMHS?
I don’t want to see the teacher fired. Many of his students probably enjoy his humor, but clearly not all do. I got the test because at least one student was offended and worried about negative consequences if he or she came forward. Obviously, the teacher created “a negative learning environment,” which RMHS needs to address. Judging from my conversation with Mr. Lopez, I believe the school will despite not wanting to identify the teacher.
I don’t want to shut down the dialogue between students and teachers. Rather, I would like to see it expanded to include those who disagree with the RMHS math teacher. If he continues to engage in political discourse, then he should foster an environment that encourages those with opposing viewpoints to share, not hide, their opinions.
Furthermore, the possibility that these discussions may have occurred before the fall election is troubling because the Poudre School District already has been named in a lawsuit due to its inability to control teacher electioneering within its schools. Assurances made roughly one year ago that no more campaigning would take place on school property appear to be hollow.
For the record, as a free market conservative and registered Republican, the joke didn’t offend me. What did, and still does, offend me is the double standard.
Sadly, it’s routine to read about the victims of this double standard: Larry Summers, the Duke lacrosse team, or Don Imus.
To answer Mr. Lopez’s question, I want Rocky Mountain High School, the math teacher, Tom Lopez, and others on the Left–especially within the education establishment–to admit that when it comes to the political correctness, they are hypocritical and maintain a double standard. Offending conservatives is tolerable, humorous and protected, but offending anyone else can be construed as “creating a negative learning environment” or “offensive” and subject to some type of consequence.
I also want to win the lottery but that seems farfetched too.