Education

Liberal indoctrination? School says no, but Rock Hill High class image sparks anger

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York Comprehensive High School history and government teacher Jane Gilfillan is taking 45 students and a handful of parents to President Elect Donald Trump's inauguration in Washington, D.C. this week. The teacher has attended the past seven inaug

A teacher’s presentation in a Rock Hill High School class Thursday drew widespread attention and concern on Facebook after one man posted a picture online.

The picture of one slide in the presentation shows a meme.

The meme shows synonyms for the word “liberal,” which the photo says were taken from Roget’s Thesaurus. The list of synonyms includes: “tolerant, generous, enlightened, broadminded, lavish, charitable.”

The image then contrasts those words with what it says are antonyms of liberal: “conservative, stingy, miserly, regressive, narrow-minded, reactionary, bigoted, predjudiced, biased.”

Many of these words do in fact come up when searching thesauruses for synonyms and antonyms of liberal.

Keith DuBose posted the picture on Facebook at 1:57 p.m. Thursday. He said his son sent him a picture of the slide from a teacher’s presentation.

The teacher did not make the meme, but included it in her presentation.

Rock Hill Schools spokesman Mychal Frost, in a statement to the media and parents, said the photo was just one part of a more in-depth presentation on political parties.

The full presentation sought to provide an overview of political parties, and social and fiscal issues that have shaped the American political system,” Frost said. “The teacher, on at least two occasions, stressed to students that labels of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ have changed throughout history and each is not synonymous with today’s Republican and Democrat parties. The presentation focused on the basic beliefs of conservatives and liberals, and a follow-up activity asks students to identify conservative and liberal positions on issues and explain why each side takes the position(s) that it does.”

The Herald reviewed the full presentation, and the slide immediately after the controversial image says: “Conservative does not mean Republican and liberal does not mean Democrat.”

There was not an image that contrasted conservative synonyms with antonyms.

Frost said the slide and the presentation would not be used in the future.

Frost said the teacher was using the presentation to review U.S. History standard 8.4, which the South Carolina Department of Education says aims to: “analyze the causes and consequences of the resurgence of the conservative movement, including social and cultural changes of the 1960s and 1970s, Supreme Court decisions on integration and abortion, the economic and social policies of the Reagan administration, and the role of the media.”

The S.C. Department of Education also says students should evaluate biases and multiple points of view in this section of U.S. History.

One woman, who has a student at Rock Hill High and asked not to be named because of the anger in the Facebook comment section, said the slide was taken out of context — and was in fact supposed to show an example of a bias.

“It was never intended to be shown as the teacher’s opinion or to define liberal/conservative,” she said.

Two-hundred-and-eighty-five people had commented on DuBose’s post and 1,126 had shared it by 4:30 p.m. Friday.

DuBose shared the picture and said: “My son whom is a student at Rock Hill High just sent me this in his US History and Constitution class. She was teaching this to our children. Who do I need to contact to voice my concerns? I am tired of these schools indoctrinating our kids… This needs to stop!”

Frost said there was “no intent to indoctrinate,” and that the school has met with the parent, student and teacher involved.

DuBose told The Herald that the school district was investigating the issue, but did not respond to further questions.

But many people commenting on his post took their anger at the image — and the teacher — further. Some made threats.

One person on Facebook commented: “Do you have enough power to get her job? ....”

Frost said the Social Studies Department would be re-examining the resources used to teach the lesson in the future.

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Hannah Smoot reports on money and power for The Herald, covering York, Lancaster and Chester counties. She has been a reporter at The Herald since June 2017. Contact Hannah at 803-329-4068, hgsmoot@heraldonline.com or follow her on Twitter @hgsmoot.

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