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Conservatives see liberal bias in class - and mobilize

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• A cybercommunity, Republicanvoices.org, based in Massachusetts, is soliciting testimony from K-12 students about political bias in the classroom. Led by a 12-year-old editor (with guidance from adults), it aims to leverage support for reform of what it calls "the liberal, bureaucratic, public school indoctrination machine."

These proposed remedies will spawn their own set of problems, some observers say. Teachers who are "ideologically coloring a subject" in any direction are troublingly out of line, but "the risk is that teachers will feel even further restrained than they already do," says Patricia Sullivan, director of the Center on Education Policy, a Washington think tank that advocates for public schools.

Current events discussions, for instance, would become next to impossible in such an environment, Ms. Sullivan says. "[It would be] very difficult to not cross the line.... A teacher could very easily in a course of normal conversation express views, and I just don't know how you regulate that."

American Federation of Teachers spokeswoman Leslie Getzinger would not comment specifically on the trend, saying the group is for the moment focused on priorities such as meeting the standards of the federal No Child Left Behind law. But the AFT does oppose on principle efforts to curtail a perceived liberal bias at colleges, stating in a 2004 resolution that "political control and/or interference in scholarship and teaching are totally incompatible with the maintenance and development of a free, democratic and progressive society."

Some self-described conservative students, however, are not content with the status quo.

Tyler Whitney, a junior at East Lansing High School in Michigan, says teachers and administrators let him circulate his newspaper, The Right Way, only after a public protest this spring and coverage of the standoff in the local news.

Principal Paula Steele says the school permitted distribution of The Right Way as soon as editors deleted submissions by college students, because "we do not want to be a forum for outside speakers." Ideology, she says, was never a factor.

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