“It’s more comfortable to label me insane,” said the killer from the movie SE7EN.
“It’s very comfortable,” the detective replied.
I use this example often to describe why society feels “more comfortable” labeling people like me a “pedophile” or a “sexual predator” rather than seeking the actual causes for my choices and behaviors. However, I do not discount this perspective. It certainly is “more comfortable” to cast an accusatory finger upon someone who has done something terrible and immediately attribute his/her choices to some sort of sick affliction or mental illness.
I read an interesting article recently, published in the Springfield News-Leader (in Missouri) in which someone from the FBI went into several prisons and spoke with numerous teachers who’d been convicted of having unlawful relationships with a student. He then took this information to school administrators in an attempt at helping them spot teachers who may have the potential to enter into one of these unlawful relationships.
But one quote really made me think; when the article pointed out that, “while all six ‘justified, rationalized and minimized’ their behavior, to a point, they also provided valuable insight.”
First of all, I’m glad they provided valuable insight.
Secondly, there is no way to justify or minimize what was done. None. To justify would be to imply that the actions were somehow “okay” for one reason or another. To minimize would be to somehow claim these actions “weren’t that big of a deal.” Well, these actions are not okay and they are a big deal!
However, rationalizing these choices is exactly what needs to happen. To rationalize these choices would be to make sense of the underlying motives and contributing factors to determine exactly why such choices were made. To rationalize is not to decrease any level of accountability of a certain behavior; it is to rationally contemplate why this behavior occurred in the first place.
But here’s where the waters get muddy. To point and yell “Pedophile!” or “Sexual Predator!” is both minimizing and justifying, simply from the other side of the fence. To assume these (us) teachers had a relationship with a student simply because of some sort of sick affliction or mental illness is irresponsible because it does not address the rational problem and therefore does not solve the problem.
That is why this keeps happening in countless schools across the country — every day.
To say that every teacher who had a relationship with a student is a pedophile is the equivalent of saying anyone who has ever gotten a D.U.I. is a raging alcoholic. A person who makes the dangerous (and often deadly) decision to drive while intoxicated is certainly making a destructive choice — but that does not mean they possess an inner-sickness, addiction, or affliction. They were in a situation, they made a terrible choice, and they suffered the consequences.
This vast misconception is exactly why I wrote After 3PM. It is so much easier to minimize and justify these relationships by casting labels like “pedophile” and “sexual predator.” But that solves nothing! That changes nothing!
Understanding and rationalizing why this is happening is the only way to adequately address the issue and protect students. Saying “Don’t do it” seems simple enough. Saying “It should be common sense” seems simple enough.
But tell me, how’s that working so far?
It’s not. It’s time to try something new.
It’s time to change the conversation, change the perspective, and find the rationale.