You probably wouldn’t be shocked to learn that an eighth-grade student doesn’t know how to spell the name of the president of the United States.
Disappointed, yes, but not shocked.
Well, what if his teacher couldn’t spell it?
We’re not talking about a shaky student-teacher on double-secret probation. We’re talking about an experienced, full-time social studies teacher who apparently can’t figure out the name of the sitting president.
A class assignment handed out at Northwest Middle School in Canal Fulton was headlined, “Barak Obama’s Position.”
Now, it would be one thing if that were merely a typo. You could justifiably hammer the teacher for failing to proofread, but you’d likely give the guy the benefit of a doubt, thinking he couldn’t possibly not know the president’s name.
But this wasn’t a typo, because Obama’s first name also was misspelled in the teacher’s second reference.
The second reference came when students were directed to a website where they could research the president’s positions on various issues:
Fortunately — or, maybe unfortunately, if you’re trying to teach the youth of America — typing that address will redirect you to “www.barackobama.com.”;
The class worksheet contains 10 blank spaces where the kids were to research and list major issues in the presidential campaign, then another column where they would summarize the stance of the president.
Getting 13- and 14-year-olds to pay attention to a presidential candidate’s positions on major issues is admirable — assuming they will be given a similar assignment for his opponent. But misspelling the name of the 44th president of the United States ... not so much.
Are they also learning about Jamie Carter?
The teacher, Chris Marcum, has been at the school for 10 years — eight of them teaching, ahem, American history.
If you want to get picky — which we probably should, given the fact students are supposed to be learning the language — you also could find fault with the main headline on the worksheet:
“Candidates Stance on the Issues.”
If he were referring only to Obama, he should have written “Candidate’s Stance on the Issues” (adding an apostrophe). Or, if he were referring to both candidates, “Candidates’ Stance on the Issues” (possessive plural) would have worked, although adding an “S” on “stance” would have worked better. But apparently he’s not fond of apostrophes.
Although Marcum did not respond to a request for comment, first-year principal Larry Tausch did, in an email:
“I can only assume it was an oversight on Mr. Marcum’s part. I agree with you on the quality of the assignment given and can pretty much guarantee Mr. Marcum’s disappointment in himself for not catching an error such as that.
“As a former language arts teacher of 13 years, I know the importance of always proofreading before one publishes. Unfortunately, I cannot claim to have never let one (or two) slip by, and I always regretted it after it had been pointed out.
“I always had to remind myself that I am human and make mistakes. (Don’t tell my wife. She thinks I’m perfect.)”
Well, at least he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
The parent who sent me a copy of the assignment, Eric Buwala, said he saw his son working on the project, glanced down and noticed the faulty spelling. When he saw the same misspelling a second time, he was appalled — as any parent should be, whether the sitting president is a Democrat, a Republican or an anarchist.
Buwala hasn’t lost his sense of humor, either.
“Good thing I am voting for Matt Romney,” he quipped.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or firstname.lastname@example.org.