Political Cartoon Used in Middle School Tolland Test Sparks Controversy | Tolland

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TOLLAND – A political cartoon used in one of the questions on a seventh grade social science reading comprehension test at Tolland Middle School is at the center of a controversy over bringing politics into the classroom .

The nationally released cartoon by David Horsey of the Los Angeles Times depicts a farmer tending to his crops with an ostrich burying its head in the sand.

The farmer wonders if a drought is affecting his crops, and the ostrich, labeled as the “Republican Party,” responds, “Don’t even think about it. Global warming is a hoax!

Students in the class were then asked about the interpretation of the cartoon, in which one of the correct answers was that Republicans did not believe global warming was real.

“Politics should not be injected into the classroom,” City Councilor Lou Luba, a Republican running for reelection, said this week.

Luba said a Tolland resident with a child at school brought the matter to the attention of city council. The members of the Republican Council then asked the principal of the school and the Council of Education to deepen the investigation.

“There is a very obvious political orientation and connotation to the question which makes it inappropriate, regardless of party, and unnecessarily injects the teacher’s political bias into a graded assignment,” reads the emailed request. by Republicans.

However, Superintendent Walter Willett has championed the use of political cartoons in social studies classes.

“By their nature, political cartoons are hyperbolic,” he said, adding that “social studies classes analyze visual representations of information.”

Willett also said the school encourages this type of analysis so that students can hone their critical thinking skills and don’t immediately assume that the visual information they see is true.

“I would hate to see the school armed against any group,” Willett said.

Education Council member Madhu Renduchintala, a Democrat who is not running for office, said he appreciated that city council members brought it to the attention of the school board, but believed the test itself was not intended to oppose a group. .

“I don’t believe there was any malicious intent behind it,” he said.

Vice President of City Council Steven Jones, a Democrat running for reelection, said: “I think anything political in nature will be particularly sensitive now, especially in this thwarted and hostile political climate.”

He added: “Maybe the cartoon is not the best example.”

Members of the Republican Council said they were also concerned that the resident who brought the matter to their attention wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation or retaliation against their child and family by the teacher involved. .

“No parent or student should feel apprehension or fear of retaliation from a teacher or community member against their family. The reluctance of parent and student to address this issue calls into question the tenor and atmosphere of Tolland Middle School and Tolland Public Schools, on the whole, ”the e- sent. mail that the Republicans sent to the superintendent.

This was briefly touched on at Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting, when Republican member Anthony Holt said he wanted to improve communication between the public and the school board and make sure they didn’t not hear “things from Facebook”.

Holt, who is running for re-election for a four-year term, said Thursday that the Board of Education and Willett would review the drawing and see if there were “other opportunities to get the information out.” He also said the school board would consider how best to communicate with the public.

Jones said parents with concerns should contact the Board of Education and issues should be handled directly between parents and administration to make sure all parties involved are comfortable.

Willett said at the meeting that people are free to join the regular Superintendent’s Forum, which is held both virtually and in person at 51 Tolland Green. The next forum is November 23 at 4 p.m.

Ben covers Coventry and Tolland for the Inquirer Journal.

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