Teacher, blogger, deep thinker and Ethics Alarms combatant Rick Jones launched his annual Curmie Award last year, bestowed on the person or institution who most embarrasses the profession of education, on his superb blog, Curmudeon Central. Most of Rick’s Curmie nominees would have to be called ethics miscreants, and indeed several of them were featured on Ethics Alarms, so I asked Rick if I could present his nomination to the Ethics Alarms community and invite you to vote on this year’s winner. Here are Rick’s finalists, with his commentary and links to his posts about them. (Note: the link is the same with many of them, as several of the ultimate nominees were first exposed in the same, epic post. And you think I write long blog entries…) Rick writes of his criteria:
“I have tried to weigh a variety of factors: the egregiousness of the offense on its face, the extent to which it might be portentous of further bad things to come, any sense of particular injustice (punishment of the innocent or even of the heroic, for example), the degree to which the Curmie-worthy outrage might have been a spur-of-the-moment outburst rather than a deliberate act, any mitigating circumstances, whether the problem seems to have been appropriately addressed, whether the case looks a lot like a different nominee, etc.”
Now here are his nominees (in Rick’s words):
- School administrators at Geneva (IL) Middle School South, for asking intensely personal questions about a 13-year-old student’s sex life (without even notifying the girl’s parents), and demanding that she open her Facebook account for their inspection… all based on a rumor. In aggravation: the image of school administrators as voyeuristic bullies. In mitigation: the fact that the overwhelming majority of what we know comes from the girl’s mother, who might not be the most objective source.
- Authorities at Umatilla (FL) High School who punished a high school girl for protecting a mentally challenged student who was being bullied by a gaggle of mean girls on the school bus. Naturally, the actual bullies were unaffected. In aggravation: the girl did everything right. She appealed to the bus driver and to school authorities, and only intervened when they failed to do so. In mitigation: there are harsher punishments than not allowing a student to ride the bus to a different school than she attends.
- Griffith (IN) Public Schools for suspending a trio of 8th-grade girls for joking in a private Facebook conversation about which of their classmates they want to “kill.” In aggravation: the conversation was private, off-campus, unrelated to school, and obviously in jest (as an ACLU lawyer pointed out, “if you make a legitimate threat against someone, you don’t follow it up with an emoticon”). In mitigation: what if this was that one in a trillion moment when a joking threat was a disguise for a real one (the TSA excuse)?
- American University anthropologist Adrienne Pine, for breast-feeding a sickly infant in class, then going ballistic when asked about the episode by a student journalist. In aggravation: publishing the journalist’s name, failing to understand the basics of how reporting and editing works, generally being an asshat. In mitigation: at least an argument regarding some exigency to the breast-feeding per se.
- The euphemistically-termed brain trust at Northside ISD in San Antonio, for requiring Smart IDs that track student whereabouts at all times. The chip-implanted cards are required for everything from using the library to voting for Homecoming royalty. In aggravation: the IDs intrude into the privacy of good students while doing nothing to solve the problem they were intended to address. In mitigation: nothing but desperate whorishness… I’m not sure that counts.
- Authorities at Highland Middle School in Anderson, IN, for suspending and threatening to expel a quartet of 13-year-old boys who completely inadvertently stumbled upon a topless photograph of their teacher on a school-issued iPad. In aggravation: these are pubescent boys, handed a picture of a topless woman. Of course, they’re going to look. And it was a school iPad. In mitigation: it’s unlikely the boys were given permission to look through photo files; they’re still innocent of what they’re charged with, but perhaps not quite the victims they pretend to be.
- Kopachuk (WA) Middle School teacher John Rosi, for not only tolerating the bullying of a smaller boy by a dozen other kids, but actually joining in, and to the school administrators who gave him only a slap on the wrist. In aggravation: an apology letter that drips with sanctimony. In mitigation: the outside possibility that he really didn’t understand that this kind of “horseplay” isn’t really horseplay.
- Lillian Gomez, a teacher at Sunrise Elementary School in Kissimmee, Florida, for force-feeding crayons and Play-Doh soaked in hot sauce to autistic students to teach them not to put things in their mouths. In aggravation: Duh? You need aggravation?
Now go to Rick’s blog and cast your vote for the 2012 Curmie Award!
20 thoughts on “Cast Your Vote For The 2012 Curmie Award, Honoring The Worst In Education!”
There’s probably no word more unfortunate to misspell than “education…”
How about misspelling “graciousness” and/or “diplomacy”?
Hey—where did I misspell those? No fair—I’ll be going through all 3000 posts!
Not you Jack. My veiled snarkiness failed.
Whew. My insecurity regarding my 1) spelling and 2) proofreading is tender indeed.
No, I got it.
I still think it’s true, though.
Yes, good point.
They’re all idiots and should be mocked and have consequences. But I voted for the Tomatilla one as worst as administration is punishing the behavior that they are supposed to be teaching and encouraging. Messing up happens, but this send the wrong message to the bullies and the heroes.
I can’t decide between San Antonio, Umatilla, Kopachuk, or Kissimmee
I think those are indeed the three worst, with my worst of the worst going to Kissimmee. But I’m voting for Griffith Schools, on principle, and not just because I wrote on this one. The schools’ conceit that they can control off-campus speech and thought is not just a disgrace, but dangerous. The others were single episodes of stupidity—this is a trend.
I am particularly interested in the Northside ISD issue, as I have quite a few relatives who are graduates of the district as well as a couple of current students and teachers (though no direct connection to the schools where this is being piloted), and I am considering a relocation that would probably put us in the district when my daughter starts school in a few years. Useful information to have, to be sure, although the cynical side of me wonders if choosing a school district with a known issue like this just means you already have an idea where the problems are, as opposed to another district with unknown problems like traps ready to be sprung.
The district website says that the RF chips do not work outside of the school. I don’t know if I believe that, first of all, but even if one takes it at face value, I’m not sure if that makes it much better. The ability to track a child outside of school is certainly more egregious, but I don’t especially want the school to be able to pinpoint that my daughter is in the restroom or locker room or wherever at a given moment, either.
I went with Umatilla.
But not just because it rhymes with Unethicazilla.
And where have YOU been?
Happy New Year, Jack! I’ve been following the blog but not commenting. I took a long break to visit with family – and of course, being the luckiest man on the face of the earth, got sick just before my time off started. (And of course, “communicated” my sickness to my beloved family.) So now, my immune system is all charged-up for an imminent period of unemployment of who-knows-how-long-it’ll-run. I’ll probably be commenting less than usual, until settled into a new job. But your blog remains one of my lifelines; like the Bible, I aim to read it every day.
I’m honestly surprised that the Judge Rotenberg Center (and/or any of the people there) isn’t on this list. Then again, they’re so flagrant that it’s almost passe by this point…
Meanwhile in Texas, the Kountze High cheerleading squad is up for a joint award as Texan Of The Year. That award will certainly not go to neighboring Silsbee High, where a raped cheerleader was forced to cheer for her out-on-bail attacker. That Big Brother caper at San Antonio’s Northside ISD leaves me in gut-wrenching awe!
The Northside Big Brother-ism honestly did not bother me as much as the Umatilla Unethicazillas. Northside did trouble me to some extent, but on the other hand, “reservations,” where one’s “presence,” solely in and of itself, is deemed to constitute “consent to search,” are not completely unheard-of, or un-called-for. I am revolted by students being treated like supermax inmates.
It’s that locator chip that scares the Hell out of me, Eeyoure. It’s entirely conceivable that the time will come- after gradual progression along the Northside lines- that we’ll find ourselves in a society where (for humanitarian reasons, of course!) all children, then all people, are issued such chips under law. Then they become implanted… at birth. Ten years ago, I’d have called this a paranoid vision myself. I don’t now.
Then there’s the “staged school shooting” incident at the Horan school in Harlem (see http://uptownmagazine.com/2013/01/punishment-sought-for-principal-who-faked-school-shooting-four-days-after-sandy-hook/ )… where a principle conducted a “drill” involving a fake school shooting (without warning anyone about what he was doing).
Just saw this, and will post on it, I know Rick just saw it too.