I'm not sure which part of Madeleine Morgenstern's story is more disturbing: (a) the blatant bigotry (and historical inaccuracy) in the eighth grade textbook's definition of "conservatism" and "liberalism," or (b) the idea that eighth grade students aren't expected to be familiar with these words in all of their many senses.
Actually, as this web site has discussed in the past, the word "liberal" does derive from the Latin word for "free." Accordingly, all of its meanings tie into the concept of freedom in one way or another. Give freely--support this blog liberally (click here). Things free men and women are free to do with their time--liberal arts. Movement in favor of democracy as opposed to monarchy--liberal political movement, circa 1800. More inert political opinion in favor of making concessions as opposed to fighting--liberal political philosophy, circa 1930. Freedom of association with people of different colors, nationalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, political opinions, religious backgrounds, etc., than you--liberal social attitude, circa 1970, which was when I was learning these words, and I wasn't in grade eight yet, either.
But wait a minute...freedom of opinion? Freedom of association? Freedom to do much of anything except conform to what's been dictated to the party? That's not what the left wing is known for these days. The word "progressive" may apply to today's leftists. The word "liberal," by and large, does not apply to them at all. Though I'm guessing that the Union Grove Elementary School didn't discuss this aspect of "liberalism," either.