MY SPANISH TEACHER WAS A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN
WHO UNDERSTOOD HOW TO COMPORT HERSELF
Her response to correct answers was: Punto! (Point!) Incorrect answers she noted with: Estúpido! This requires no translation, and would never pass muster today as sensitive teacherly encouragement.
But while a thoroughly no-nonsense educator, Mrs. Landa had a heart of gold. Which accounts for the passing grades my good friend, Johnny Kline, and I received despite less than stellar performance in Spanish. We could usually sweet-talk her into extra credit for making papier mâché piñatas or singing Mexican folksongs in class.
Petite and outrageously beautiful, Mrs. Landa had been a dancer, and she moved with graceful authority on the six-inch heels that served as punctuation marks for a womanly presence both commanding and sensual. Her quick wit, coupled with a withering motherly glance, was sufficient to disarm any sassy teenage innuendo emanating from male fantasies in which she no doubt played a featured role.
All of which is brought to mind by a spate of school sex scandals, many involving female teachers with male students. The New York Post recently reported on instances of staff-student sexual misconduct in New York City. There are similar stories from around the country.
To be sure, plenty of the cases are of the more traditional, male teacher-female student variety. But then, feminists keep telling us that all men are drooling sexual predators (incipient or active), so I guess that’s predictable.
My question is: What’s going on with the women?
What, for instance, can we infer from this case noted in the Post story, in which a female teacher texted…
“‘baby I want you!’ to a male student, according to a female student who found it on his cellphone and reported it. The boy told probers he had sex with [the teacher] in her home on four occasions in 2010. On a senior trip in the Catskills in 2010, [she] took another boy into her hotel room, witnesses said. The boy told probers that [she] gave him vodka, that the ‘kissing became passionate,’ and that they fondled each other. A fellow teacher walked in on them and escorted him out.”
Or from this colorful episode, reported by CBS, in which a Houston-area middle school teacher gave a 15-year-old boy a…
“‘full-contact lap dance’ and the boy told authorities she touched him all over his body, including placing her head between his legs.”
I simply can’t imagine Mrs. Landa ever entertaining thoughts about carrying on in such ways with one of us misbegotten high school Harrys. Why would she? She was a mature woman. She was married (to a basketball player and coach who was well known and highly regarded on the local sports scene.) And I’m sure she cared deeply about her professional reputation. In other words, she had a balanced and healthy life.
What is it that’s out of balance which could cause a situation like this one reported by the Tampa Tribune…
“A 29-year-old Polk County teacher was arrested Monday night on charges of having sex with a 17-year-old student during a four-month romance that involved a pregnancy and abortion, Lakeland police said….
“[The teacher] also said she was in love with the student, had sex with him 20 to 30 times, wanted to maintain the relationship and did not regret her actions, according the affidavit.”
Technology appears to be a common thread in most of these teacher-student trysts. As the Post story notes…
“Social media and smartphones have fueled the epidemic of hookups, experts say, with teachers and students easily able to flirt under the radar of parents and colleagues.
“‘If a kid texts a teacher at 9 or 10 p.m. asking about homework, the reply goes straight to the child’s bedroom,’ said Frederick Lane, a Brooklyn attorney and author of the book ‘Cybertraps for the Young.’
“‘These one-on-one conversations can turn personal, creating a quicker sense of intimacy,’ Lane said. ‘The electronics make it easier for a predator to gain the trust of a child and then exploit that trust.’”
No doubt such ease of communication tends to breach the wall that had always helped to maintain a professional separation between teacher and student. But that doesn’t account for the collapses in judgment and moral sense by which many teachers seem willing to compromise themselves these days.
What folly prompts a classroom exercise such as this one described by a Utah school official in the Ogden Standard-Examiner?…
“We had some students who reported to administration that a teacher was having an exercise where they were put into groups, male and female, to come up with names for genitalia … These were any names that the kids could come up with, and then they were listed on the board…”
The Daily Caller reported that technology did play a part in one bit of pedagogical entrepreneurship…
“SeekingArrangement.com, which bills itself as ‘the #1 online dating website for sugar babies and generous men,’ is now boasting that some 40,000 public school teachers of a certain moral caliber have joined the website in an attempt to … seek wealthy, older men for ‘mutually beneficial relationships.’”
Their motive? Compensating for the budgetary constraints under which educators are increasingly forced to soldier on…
“‘You can’t expect a teacher to accept less pay for more work than their peers, and then reach into their pockets to fund your child’s classroom,’ declared Brandon Wade, the website’s founder and CEO. ‘But that’s what’s happening. If those are the expectations and pressures we are putting on our teachers in America, than they can’t possibly be judged for whatever extracurricular activities they choose to pursue to stay afloat.’”
So there. Don’t let anybody tell you that teachers aren’t selflessly devoted to their vocation.
The legal system sometimes fails our children as spectacularly as do the schools — especially when the abuser is a woman. This was demonstrated in a New Jersey case involving a female teacher and a 13-year-old boy…
“I really don’t see the harm that was done here,” the judge proclaimed, “and certainly society doesn’t need to be worried. I do not believe she is a sexual predator. It’s just something between two people that clicked beyond the teacher-student relationship.”
But then, the idea of making whoopee with teacher has something of a pop-culture pedigree, as evidenced by this illustration from a story titled “The Teacher-Student Scandal” from a 1960 comic book called High School Confidential Diary. These so-called “romance comics” were popular with the early teen female demographic when I was a kid. I don’t know if there was anything comparable on the market when today’s young teachers were teenagers. If so, maybe that may explain at least part of the problem.
Back in 2010, Wayne Laugesen, editorial writer for the Colorado Springs Telegraph, cited a report that one in 14 girls, grade 5 to 8, experience sexual abuse in Colorado’s public schools (though not all from teachers), and that for girls in high school the rate rises to one in 9. The rate for boys is about half.
Laugesen then made the interesting observation…
“By any serious examination of evidence and data, the sex abuse scandal in public schools today dwarfs anything that ever occurred in Catholic institutions, which had a sex abuse problem that peaked in 1970 with nearly 600 reported cases of sexual abuse in the church nationwide that year.”
Of course, we know that the situation in the Church was kept under wraps for a long time. But Laugesen pointed out that, at the height of the scandal in 2002, a Wall Street Journal poll showed that…
“64 percent of Americans surveyed thought Catholic priests ‘frequently’ abuse children.”
That wildly inflated assumption came during a year when there were fewer than 10 cases of abuse by priests but a frenzy of media reporting and commentary…
“The poll was conducted at a time when major media organizations were producing 680 unique stories each month about the Catholic church sex scandal, based on data provided by [the] Cymfony research firm. Cymfony’s report reveals national media coverage of abuse in Catholic institutions that’s radically disproportionate to coverage of sex abuse in other religious and secular organizations — such as public schools.
“The relative lack of media interest in non-Catholic sexual abuse may explain the public’s apathy toward widespread abuse in public schools.”
Interest does spike up whenever we get one of these girl-teachers-gone-wild kind of stories. That’s not surprising, because in this very delicate area of human concern women are generally expected to maintain a higher standard of moral probity .
And skip the feminist rant about how unfair that is. Of course it’s unfair. But it reflects certain fundamental truths about human nature. Societies have always been able to tolerate a wide range of beastliness on the part of men. When the women fall apart, everything goes to hell.
I’ve known many schoolteachers, in both my youth, and my adulthood. And I don’t doubt that the vast majority have their heads screwed on straight, care deeply about their students’ wellbeing, and would never wish to become entangled in some seamy, career-killing affair.
At the same time, schools reflect society. As the general moral atmosphere gets murkier and murkier — and technology makes encountering temptation unexpectedly easier — it becomes more of a challenge to be the sort of teacher Mrs. Landa would recognize and approve.
Maybe a bit more media attention would help to keep school administrators’ feet to the fire on this critical issue. I think that’s something that would earn a Punto!
(NOTE: I shot the above image of Mrs. Landa in 1965 as part of an art class portrait photography project for which several students and teachers sat. It didn’t do her justice, but it’s not bad.)
The teacher abuse situation hasn’t completely avoided notice by major media. Back in 2007 the Associated Press conducted an extensive investigation that discouragingly…
“found efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help. School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession.”
Unfortunately, Wayne Laugesen’s examination of the situation in Colorado’s public schools is no longer accessible online. But here’s a link to the recent New York Post story on the 104 cases of abuse in NYC schools…