Utah ESL Blogger Fired for ‘Promoting a Gay Agenda’ With Post About Homophones

TorkildsonTim Torkildson, a social media manager for a Utah English school for ESL students, has been fired for blogging like homophones after his employer Clarke Woodger expressed concern that students might misinterpret the word as a reference to gay sex. Homophones, words that sound the same but mean different things.

“I didn't know what the hell you were talking about.” Torkildson recounted Woodger telling him. “We don't teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it's extremely inappropriate. Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning? I'll have your check ready."

Woodger corroborated Torkildson’s account of the conversation to the Salt Lake Tribune, insisting that "People at this level of English may see the 'homo' side and think it has something to do with gay sex."

Homophones are often thought to be one of the more challenging aspects of the English language for those new to it. Torkildson is of the school of thought that the class of words are  crucial and “one of the first subjects tackled when teaching ESL” because the language is rife with them.

London-based filmmaking duo Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston’s short film Skwerl about what English sounds like to non-English speakers highlights Torkildson’s point perfectly. Check it out AFTER THE JUMP



  1. Alex Parrish says

    This is the level of intelligence of the people running some of these schools — particularly the for-profit ones. The administrator who couldn’t be bothered to learn what he was talking about should be fired and if the rest of the school is of that level, it should be closed.

  2. Rich says

    This is so typical. Everything about the right wing is about being deliberately ignorant. Deliberately ignorant of science that conflicts with what a two-thousand-year-old book might be interpreted to say, deliberately ignorant of anything they might not want to hear, and now deliberately ignorant of things that SOUND like anything they might not want to hear.

  3. jamal49 says

    One weeps for our nation. These are the fruits of 30+ years of Republican/conservative rule: absolute, willful, unapologetic, unrepentant ignorance. God help us all.

  4. northalabama says

    any utah school should know better than to employ a homosapien.

    confusing english with gay sex? i must have been speaking incorrectly all these years…

  5. Lymis says

    “any utah school should know better than to employ a homosapien”

    Chances are they outlawed science quite a while back, so that term likely never comes up. Certainly sapience itself is in short supply out there, at least among people in positions of public responsibility.

  6. mikeinqueens says

    @RICK Really? Shall we remember those controversies of recent years where people objected to the use of the word “niggardly”? Ignorance and stupidity overwhelm both the left and the right in this country

  7. Mike in the Tundra says

    Having taught ESL, I will attest that homophones need to be addressed early on. They can even be challenging to native speakers of English. Are they the most difficult things to teach? I think I would say counted nouns and uncounted nouns are a great strain on ESL students.

  8. crispy says

    The same employer wants to know if the reason homosapiens went extinct is because they were HOMOsapiens.

  9. Mike says

    They call themselves an English school BUT they do not know what HOMOPHONES are? Your kidding right?

    Have not had such a laugh since I saw two loud tea party types quite shocked by a sign in the dairy case that said “HOMO MILK”.

  10. Bubba in Texas says

    I heard they fired him because the heard he was a pedagogue, and they were afraid he’d molest all the children.

  11. Mile High Native says

    This is neither a left or right issue. This is a simple matter of complete and total ignorance.

    “We don’t teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it’s extremely inappropriate.” Advanced?!?! I learned about homophones when I was in 2nd grade! This is not ADVANCED for an ESL learner, as a matter of fact it’s imperative to learn when dealing with words like: there, their, and they’re, as a simple example.

    I’m sick to death how we butcher our language and strive to teach less and less about proper grammar and syntax.

    Just look at what Oxford did with defining “literally”: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/literally.

    Lastly, we are all well aware that language is a “living” entity and does change over time, but I would love to take France’s position around keeping some fcuking standards: http://www.academia.edu/200588/France_and_Language_s_Old_Policies_and_New_Challenges_in_Education._Towards_a_Renewed_Framework.

    It just seems we want to justify our laziness in using poorly spelled words, stupid acronyms, and forced synonyms. UGH!!!!

  12. Chazwm says

    Sue that school, its board and the director, Tim…you should have the top guys job, and he needs another… less taxing on his limited intellect…career.

  13. SFRowGuy says

    @Jamal49: He did his best 2000+ years ago, and look what that got him … nailed to a cross

  14. Sean says

    The very last thing we are is a melting pot. A lie, perhaps, a melting pot, not so much.

  15. Gordon says

    Woodger needs to be terminated. At the very LEAST he needs to apologize to Mr. Torkildson. I do hope Mr. Torkildson sues for defamation.

  16. Doug says

    Is that a photo of Torkildson or Woodger ? THAT is the one that should be fired for the laughable wig, certainly not for trying to teach homophones!

  17. Rich says

    @MIKEINQUEENS, you’re absolutely right. I was thinking about the “niggardly” example as well. And remember what happened: the right wing went nuts, screaming about “political correctness” and such. And they were correct. So the left makes stupid mistakes sometimes too. But being ignorant of the world — “I don’t want my children to be exposed to ____” — is part of the universal argument used by the right wing to justify denying science, equal rights, access to contraception, etc. To the right, knowledge isn’t power — it’s dangerous and blasphemous.

  18. Bill says

    They better not teach mathematics either due to terms like homomorphism and homeomorphism.

    Don’t even try group theory – homomorphism are too important for that than to gloss over them least the kiddies get the wrong idea.

    And let’s ban milk from the cafeteria – in case it is homogenized.

  19. Dback says

    If the board of this school has any brains at all, they’d better re-instate Torkildson and put Woodger on “administrative leave” ASAP–the latter has brought a level of humiliation to the institution it won’t live down for years.

  20. hornlongjohn says

    To be fair, you can’t really expect people from Utah to be normal or really even human.

  21. Joseph Singer says

    This is silly. Everyone knows what a homophone is. It’s a phone owned by a homosexual.

  22. Joseph Singer says

    @Mike. Unless you are kidding you just walked into it yourself. There is a difference between your and you’re.

  23. ThomT says

    And to think that idiots like Clarke Woodger are responsible for educating our youth. Woodger, and his for profit charter school, is failing his students while filling his pockets with taxpayer’s money. My guess would be that Tim Torkildson’s biggest problem in finding a new job will be explaining to any prospective employer why he ever agreed to work for such total imbeciles like Woodger and his company in the first place.