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Correspondence: Rodger Foreman on "Barracuda"

Dear Editor:

Some weeks ago, I was contacted by … Noam Scheiber, who wrote the article “Barracuda,” appearing in your current issue. Apparently, poor Noam wouldn’t know the truth if it bit him in the arse. While I cannot speak to the veracity of his reporting in the remainder of the article, I damn sure know what I said, and his only supposed “quote” of mine was 100% inaccurate. What I actually said (if anyone at TNR is interested), was that if Sarah thought she was right about a point, she was not hesitant to argue her case. I also said that many students availed themselves of this process after exams were returned. My comments were clearly not derogatory and the fact that Mr. Scheiber so blatantly misquoted me suggests a couple possibilities: (1) He has a serious hearing disability or (2) He was so hard up to find usable “dirt” on Sarah that he had to resort to fabrication.

I was clear as the Alaskan air with Mr. Scheiber that Sarah was a great student to have in class and that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. To glean anything else from our conversation is, at best, shoddy journalism, and at its worst, the reason TNR’s circulation continues its downward spiral.

Rodger Foreman

Danville, PA

Noam Scheiber responds:

I regret that Mr. Foreman believes I misrepresented his comments. I enjoyed our conversation and tried to reproduce the relevant portion as faithfully as I could. Maybe the best way to resolve this is to reprint that portion of our interview in its entirety, as well as the corresponding passage in my piece.

Here’s Foreman’s full statement to me about Palin’s test-score appeals:

I remember her being very confident. Without being--there’s a fine line sometimes between cocky and confident. I would not classify her as cocky. My thing--my rule was, if I gave them a test and they thought I marked it wrong, they thought it should have been right, I’d say, "Just don’t tell me you want a point. Marshal evidence to back it up--like a court of law. If there’s enough evidence, I’ll give you the point." She was kind of like that. She thought she was right. She’d come up [he laughs]. She wasn’t the only student, but she was one of them. She wouldn’t cop a plea. She wouldn’t sit and argue to be petulant. She was a good student.

She would--I don’t remember every single instance it happened. Sometimes I’d say, "Fine, you get the point." Sometimes--she didn’t show she’d done it. Some [students] would argue just--stupid arguments. Just to argue. She wasn’t that way. She didn’t sit and ride a dead horse.

Here’s the corresponding passage from my piece:

Palin is often described in profiles as an academic standout. But, as on the basketball court, she was good but not great. Like most high schools, Wasilla had several distinct subcultures--among them, a religious/jock clique, of which Palin was a part, and a group of more bookish kids that took AP classes and studied theater. "We were considered the geekier, nerdy kids. We were smarter," recalls Elle Ede, another classmate. And yet Palin didn't lack for academic ambition. Rodger Foreman, one of her English teachers, would allow students to appeal their exam grades if they felt they'd been scored harshly. Foreman recalls that Palin regularly availed herself of the appeals process. "She was kind of like that. She thought she was right."

By Rodger Foreman and Noam Scheiber