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by Tom McLaughlin


It was a bad week. Couldn't start my column on Sunday like I usually do because the hard drive on my laptop crashed while I was away for the weekend. Monday morning I got it outlined on my back-up machine before leaving for school, but after school I had to drive a hundred miles (round trip) to drop my main machine off with the nearest Apple-certified technician. Tuesday after school I picked it up and hurried home to vote before the polls closed. Election results were depressing for conservatives like me. Wednesday morning I was pulled over for speeding on the way to school. Been driving that road the same way for 31 years, but oh well. I was going 55 in a 45.

Most of my students are Obama supporters. I'm not and they know it. I knew they would be giving me plenty of "I told you so's" that day and I wasn't looking forward to it. In the first class, students asked if I'd heard that Sarah Palin thought Africa was a country and not a continent.

"No, I didn't," I said. "Where did you hear that?

"On television this morning," said one student and another concurred right away. "She's pretty dumb," he said.

"What news show were you watching?" I asked. Neither could tell me, but I learned later that the information came from sources in the McCain campaign and was widely reported in the Mainstream Media. For two months, students had been repeating reports about how ignorant and inexperienced Sarah Palin was. I asked each class that day how many of them had seen reports like that. About two-thirds raised their hands. Several told me Palin spent too much on clothes, thought she could see Russia from her house in Alaska, shot animals from a plane, had a pregnant teenaged daughter, or avoided answering interview questions.

"Hmm," I said. "Let me ask you a few questions. Did you hear that Obama claimed a few months ago that he'd campaigned in 57 states[1] and still had one more to go?" In five classes with approximately 125 students, only one girl had heard it on the radio.

"Okay, how about this one: When Katie Couric interviewed Joe Biden about comparing our financial crisis to the Great Depression, he claimed President Roosevelt went on television to explain the 1929 stock market crash to the American people.[2] How many of you heard about that?"

Not one had. Several students said television hadn't been invented then. I told them it had, but televisions weren't being sold because nothing was being broadcast until the late forties. We'd been studying the Great Depression and several knew that Roosevelt didn't become president until 1933 — nearly four years after the stock market crash.

Then I told them that during the vice presidential debate, Biden claimed that "Article One of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States"[3] (find it at the 4:00 mark) when actually, the executive branch is defined in Article Two. Not a single student heard about that blunder either.

Many times during September and October I'd had students turn to Article II in their textbook's copy of the Constitution so they could read about qualifications, duties, and powers of the president and vice president. They'd also read several parts of Article I which outlines the US House of Representatives and the US Senate. "Biden has been a US senator for 36 years," I said. "Don't you think he should know this stuff?"

Many nodded gravely.

"So what's the point I'm making?" I asked each class and waited for them to think it over. "I can show you Obama and Biden saying dumb things on 'You Tube,' but only one girl heard any of it. On the other hand, most of you heard plenty to make Palin appear foolish. What's up with that?"

Students suggested that television stations don't like to show bad things about Democrats. "That seems like a valid conclusion," I said. "Our broadcast media had plenty of material on both sides, but only used it against one. Why would they do that?"

"Because they're biased?" several asked.

"I think so," I said. "Their reporting has certainly had an influence on you. Do you think it's had a similar influence on Americans who vote?"

There were nods all around.

"Fox News seems to have a conservative bias, but all the rest have a liberal bias. The worst part, however, is that none of them admit it. They pretend to be objective."

"You're taking this too hard, Mr. McLaughlin," said one boy as class was ending.

"Perhaps," I said. "Been a hard week."





Tom McLaughlin Tom is a history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam. E-mail him at

This article appeared November 7, 2008 in Family Security Matters (FSM) at


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