Every year, blogger Rick Jones (above) announces his “Curmies” (he is the Curmudeon, after all) nominations for “the person or persons who most embarrass the profession of educator.”
I encourage Ethics Alarms readers to vote over at Rick’s blog. Here are his worthy nominees, with Rick’s commentary:
1. James Miller, President B. Kaye Miller, and their co-conspirators at Bergen Community College, who suspended and demanded a psychiatric evaluation of art professor Francis Schmidt for tweeting a photo of his seven-year-old daughter wearing a t-short reading “I will take what is mine with fire and blood” even after it was proven that the line is a well-known pop culture reference to the Game of Thrones. They did finally back off several months later, but it was too little, too late. In mitigation: if you’re both an idiot and completely unengaged in popular culture, that line might actually make you think about recent school shootings. In aggravation: the shirt is obviously inoffensive, the process was obviously flawed, and the school’s defense of their actions is the perfect balance of irrationality and pomposity.
2. A cadre of incompetents at Harley Avenue Primary School in Elwood, NY, who cancelled the school’s traditional kindergarten show because of concern with making their charges college-ready. In mitigation: I can think of none. In aggravation: these people have no comprehension of child development, of what goes into making a show, of real college-readiness, or indeed of anything other than their own hubris, from what I can tell.
3. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is likely the worst cabinet member of the 21st century, but he outdid even his own high standards of incompetence and arrogance with the proclamation that even students with disabilities will be expected to attain basic standards of reading and math: “We know that when students with disabilities are held to high expectations and have access to a robust curriculum, they excel.” Actually, no, Arne, we know no such thing, and if you think we do, maybe you should get off the hard stuff. In mitigation: I got nothing. In aggravation: Duncan’s plan has no upside, will cost pots of money, and ignores differences between students’ innate ability and preparation while pretending to privilege individuality.
4. Wasatch (UT) High School officials, for puritanically altering female students’ yearbook photos without as much as giving the girls the opportunity to fix their alleged transgressions. In mitigation: there was indeed a sign warning students of the need to obey the school’s dress code. In aggravation: the policy was enforced inconsistently and apparently whimsically. More significantly, the level of sexism involved is positively stunning: boys had their pictures taken with shirts gaping open, tattoos, copious amounts of visible boxer shorts… and a cutline “Studs doin’ what studs do best.” I couldn’t make this up.
5. There were plenty of cases of schools’ and universities’ over-reacting to the Ebola pseudo-crisis. We’re going to give the specific nomination to Cline Elementary in Friendswood, TX, not because their craven stupidity was any worse than that exhibited by several other schools, but because of the distance the teacher in question was from an actual outbreak while traveling in Africa relative to the distance to the nearest confirmed case to the district itself: roughly 11 to 1. In mitigation: there was lots of false information circulating, and parents (especially) were nervous. In aggravation: you’re supposed to be a school. Educate. When people are being paranoid idiots, it is your responsibility to keep your collective heads and do the right thing.
6. The administration of Rhame Avenue School in East Rockaway, NY, for taking teacher Vuola Coyle out of her classroom because her students’ test scores were too good. Yes, too good. It costs the school because students supposedly learn too much in 4th grade and therefore don’t show enough improvement as 5th graders. In mitigation: we haven’t really heard the school’s side of this story. In aggravation: even if everything else is false, the school’s addiction to testing, and to practice testing, is demonstrable.
7.The University of North Carolina for allowing a corrupt system of allowing athletes (especially) to enroll in “paper courses” for the sole purpose of keeping them eligible or off suspension to continue for nearly two decades. In mitigation: the real offenses are in the past, as are the worst of the offenders. But if the release of an investigator’s report marks a new event in the minds of SACS accreditors, it can for Curmie, too. In aggravation: it is impossible to believe that a lot of people currently in powerful positions at UNC didn’t know exactly what was going on and did nothing. And if “everyone does it,” it is the portent of very bad things to come, indeed.
8.Assistant Principal Paula Johnson and the rest of the administration of Bayside Middle School in Virginia for suspending 6th grader Adrionna Harris, who took a razor away from a classmate who was cutting himself, immediately throwing it away. But she dealt with the problem instead of calling a teacher. In mitigation: Adrionna was technically in violation of a rule that actually makes sense if not applied irrationally. In aggravation: the administrators wouldn’t have known about the incident if Adrionna hadn’t told them, so she was punished for being honest as well as being heroic.
In part because Rick was very busy this year, his nominations do not include as many subjects of Ethics Alarms posts as usual: only #2, #7 and #8 of Rick’s nominees were discussed here. On the other hand, Rick left un-nominated some truly awful examples of unethical teachers, administrators and institutions that flipped my bippy, such as, these, currently being assessed as I prepare my Best and Worst of Ethics 2014 list. They are a miserable list too, and include… Continue reading →