Questionable quiz question calls into question so much more

Screenshot of test question. (Jim McCollum Facebook)

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – A parent upset about an answer choice provided on a high school English quiz says it’s not the only time his son has felt the outcast in school for holding conservative values. Jim McCollum posted a screenshot of a multiple-choice question given in a secure, online format where one possible answer to a question concerning the George Orwell book, Animal Farm, was given as “He was shooting at Trump.”

The school district issued the following statement today: “TCSD #1 administration learned late yesterday that a quiz was administered to a class of high school students that contained an inappropriate answer to a multiple-choice question. Administration is investigating this incident and verifying the information we have received. TCSD #1 takes seriously threats of any kind, regardless of the intent. We apologize to the students, families and community for this incident and will be addressing the issue with personnel.”

TCSD#1 spokesperson Charlotte Reynolds declined to reveal the teacher’s name and would not speculate on what measures might be taken against the teacher. She said the quiz is internal material developed solely by the teachers themselves and, in this case, the questionable question did not reflect the opinions of the school district and was in fact inappropriate.

State House Representative, Mike Gierau-D, stated on Facebook: “Any teacher who does something this bad should be suspended without pay. This is wrong.”

Meanwhile, officials at Jackson Hole High School find themselves again trying to explain whether there is exists a culture of “liberal bias” pervasive district-wide in a county that has struggled against the rest of the state for decades with the impression that it is too blue for Wyoming.

Just two years ago, the high school, under the leadership of principal Scott Crisp, cancelled “America Day.” The event had become a traditional celebration of patriotism during homecoming week, but in 2015 the school decided to scrap the event because of a feeling that it was singling out those students who did not feel American. Activities director Mike Hansen was quoted as saying, “We’re trying to be inclusive and safe, make everyone feel welcome.”

The move was met with instant backlash and played on major media outlets across the country. Everywhere reaction was the same: PC police gone too far. Fox News wrote, “You’d expect that kind of academic hog wash in Berkeley, California—but Jackson Hole, Wyoming?” The New York Post called the move, “a pathetic and perverse ban on patriotism.”

It is possible, given the subject matter of Animal Farm and keeping in mind its author was an outspoken support of democratic socialism, that the ‘throw-away’ answer provided by the teacher (He was shooting at Trump) could have been intended to contrast political ideology. But is it ever okay to condone shooting at anyone given recent, tragic national events?

The school incident(s) also likely reflect poorly on a county that has had a difficult time fitting in with the rest of the state. Lawmakers representing Teton County have all repeatedly reported a palpable pushback when it comes to Teton’s liberal leanings and how that plays in Cheyenne with a state that has voted staunchly Republican for decades. Teton County is an isolated island of blue in a sea of red, is how it is most often put.

Recently, the town was the subject of national derision after Mayor Pete Muldoon and councilor Jim Stanford decided to remove the portrait of the sitting president from the walls of town hall. After an unprecedented response to town leaders via thousands of emails and phone calls, the decision was reversed.