I recently came across a George Orwell quote which made me stop and think.
I love quotes. I love those one-or-two lines of brilliance which could only be spoken by someone gifted in both knowledge and lexicon.
Here’s the quote:
“The further society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
Of course, anyone could apply this to nearly any situation with the proper context; I, of course, immediately thought of my own area of expertise: Educator Misconduct. After all, not only do I have first-hand experience, but I literally wrote the book on the issue. And, coinciding with this, many people hate me for it.
For many, my book, After 3PM, is a hard pill to swallow. It strays from the common assumption that educator misconduct (specifically, unlawful teacher/student relationships) spawns from some sort of deep-seated mental illness or deviousness by the educator, and instead brings the topic down to earth and explores the realistic (and actual) causes of these behaviors. But here’s the caveat: These causes and behaviors hit pretty close to home with too many people in the educational community.
In a nutshell, the paramount contention of After 3PM is this: Unlawful teacher/student relationships are not the problem — they are merely a symptom of a much larger problem.
From After 3PM:
“Essentially, the problem is not simply that teachers and students are having inappropriate relationships. That is merely the result. The problem is much deeper, much more complex, and much more obvious than anyone wants to admit.”
School culture as-a-whole is what must change, not simply one offending behavior. These relationships (like the one recently in my home state, at Liberal High School) are publicized, analyzed, and criticized — and the teacher is ostracized. But when the dust from each scandal settles, nothing ever changes.
No one wants to explore the true causes of these behaviors because they are deeply entrenched in a corrupt school culture among teachers and administrators. Essentially, there is too much behavior among educators which is being tolerated (or ignored) with a head-in-the-sand mentality. Therefore, when unlawful behavior is tolerated (or ignored) on a small scale (such as teachers drinking and/or getting high at school), why are we suddenly surprised that there are large-scale offenses occurring too? The administrators at my former school knew all about the drugs, the drinking, and the sex teachers were having with each other during the school day — and they even knew about several instances of inappropriate teacher/student interactions, but no discernable (or noticeable) action was taken.
DISCLAIMER: For clarity (as I always state), the choices I made were my choices and I blame no one but me. Even though I was a willing participant in the hush-hush party/drinking/sex/drugs culture of my peers, I always had the option to say No, to walk away, and not do what I did — especially when I made the choice to make-out with that student.
Teachers who have unlawful relationships with students don’t simply say, “I’m gonna hook up with a student.” It simply does not work that way. As much as our paranoia, hate, and disgust would love for that to be the case, it simply is not reality. It is a slow and steady descent into darkness, leading to cognitive distortions, making the unreasonable seem reasonable.
Pointing fingers, assigning blame, and hurling insults do not solve the problem. And yet, that is the only reaction — publically and professionally — which results from the publicity of yet another teacher/student relationship.
Teachers who have relationships with students should be punished and are at fault. However, after that, what’s next? This is literally a problem which no one is trying to solve. It happens at schools where everyone assumes it could never happen, and then when it does, the assumption morphs into thinking it will never happen again. But it will. And it is. Again and again and again.
Obviously, this issue is only getting worse and any half-effort measures to address it are pointless. There needs to be a new mentality and a new strategy — something which will actually work.
But when I say (or write) this, I am ostracised as well. After all, I’m the worst of the worst, right? What could I possibly contribute to the problem I helped create, right? Doesn’t this make me a huge hypocrite now? Why should anyone listen to a horrible person like me, right? Well, that is the mentality which keeps this issue from being addressed. Schools refuse to look deeply into this issue because it requires a deep sense of self-examination and self-reflection — and that is almost always uncomfortable.
Simply put, in order to eliminate damaging behavior, the entire culture must be examined, critiqued, and changed. Until then, we’re just treading water, waiting for the next shark to bite.