A high school quiz about the novel “Animal Farm” has some parents angry about political bias and “liberal indoctrination” in the public school district.
The test about George Orwell’s 1945 political allegory asked, “Napoleon has the gun fired for a new occasion. What is the new occasion?”
One of the answers that English teacher Carin Aufderheide offered students in the multiple choice quiz was “A) He was shooting at Trump.”
Teton County School District No. 1 confirmed that the answer was on the quiz administered online via its secure learning management system. The quiz has since been taken down.
The district posted a statement on its webpage Friday morning: “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.”
District Information Officer Charlotte Reynolds said the district will not comment on the status of the teacher as it is a personnel matter. The school board will be involved in follow-up action, she said, but “no decision has been made yet.”
Reynolds said the district received many communications about the quiz as well as support for the tough job teachers have.
Parent Jim McCollum was surprised when his son, Rylee McCollum, a junior, came home and showed him a screenshot of the online test.
“I had to read it two times,” he said. “I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”
Jim McCollum, a self-described conservative who voted for President Trump, said that while he “cringes at some of the things he says,” the question was completely out of line.
“It’s about respect for the office more than anything,” he said.
In “Animal Farm,” Farmer Jones’ livestock revolt, take over the farm, and learn to read and write. While the philosophy of “animalism” keeps the farm running smoothly for a while, the leadership of the pig Napoleon degenerates into a farcical fascist dictatorship.
The gun in the question was fired to scare human enemies from the farm.
“It was so inappropriate to show a name of a sitting president in that question,” McCollum said. “To me, that is so wrong in light of the situation in our country and the divisiveness and all.”
He shared the question on Facebook, which took off with shares and angry comments, as well as a few students defending the teacher.
McCollum said “liberal bias” pervades other classes, too, leaving his son and other conservative students feeling like “the outcasts” and impacting their ability to learn.
“He told me, ‘Dad, they crapped on everything I believe in,’” he said. “Rylee is very patriotic, very supportive of our military and of our country.” His son plans to enlist in the Marines, unless he gets a wrestling scholarship, he said.
Rylee “loves the teacher ... thinks she’s a terrific person,” despite knowing Aufderheide has political beliefs different from his. “He was really upset that she would do that. He was really disappointed,” McCollum said.
McCollum wants the incident to be a learning lesson, not a disciplinary action for the teacher.
“I’m not looking to get rid of anyone’s position,” he said. “Heck, I’ve done and said enough dumb things throughout my life.”
The timing couldn’t be worse to insinuate violence, McCollum said. Stephen Paddock’s Sunday night shooting rampage in Las Vegas killed 58 people and injured more than 500.
“The Las Vegas thing still weighs on us,” he said. “We are absolutely devastated. Just like any other American, we are devastated by what happened.”