Two nights ago, Tonight Show host Jay Leno included in his monologue a joke about Christine McCallum, the Brockton, Mass. teacher convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old boy over 300 times. Jay can make jokes about whatever he wants, but the fact that we are laughing about this kind of conduct by teachers rather than asking hard questions and insisting on some accountability for the schools shows how tolerant our society is of a supposedly essential institution and a once respectable profession that have both fallen into rot and ruin.
In 1996, when Mary Kay LeTourneau was revealed to have made an undereage student her lover and fathered a child by him, it was national news. For me, it was the first I had ever heard of a teacher abusing her power and profession to that extent. This month alone, March 2012, I have counted thirteen such cases making the local news across the country, including McCallum, and I’m sure I missed some. I’m also reasonably sure that for every one of these cases that get prosecuted, many more are covered up or never discovered at all.
So our schools are crawling with sexual predators, and the problem seems to be increasing. Yet the media, so far, has treated all of these frightening—but funny! Right, Jay?—incidents as isolated and aberrational, an approach I am beginning to doubt is correct. The teaching profession does not seem to have the courage to invite scrutiny of its lack of professional standards and enforcement while it is fighting benefit reductions; the schools do not want to pave the way for successful lawsuits by acting as if they have some responsibility in the matter (which they obviously do); society’s outrage is being inhibited by the ethics corrupters who write in to newspapers cheering on the young boys who are so lucky as to “get some” from their hot teachers, while condemning the “prudes” who object to educators trolling for young sex when they are supposed to be educating; and parents are in denial (though convicted child-abusing teachers have included those who were honored, trusted, and probably abusing kids for years).
If you think about it, shouldn’t we expect to see pedophiles and sexual predators gravitate to the teaching profession? Are schools properly screening for such people? Or have the school administrators absorbed the irresponsible cultural attitudes being pushed on us by the likes of Mary Kay and her now husband, then rape victim, Vili, who have hosted “Hot for Teacher Nights” at a Seattle nightclub?
I think the ethics alarms, not to mention the child-rape alarms and the atrocious educational system alarms need to be ringing a lot more loudly about this. If they were, I don’t think even Jay would fail to see that teachers having sex with students so frequently is no joking matter. It is an American scandal and tragedy.