Top News

Does one size fit all?


There was something disturbing about the recent Fifth Estate program Teacher's Pet. The program left an uneasy feeling that we're being conditioned by an increasingly fundamentalist society that sees events as definite black and white with no room for shades of gray. There was nothing in the two stories portrayed that was similar, except that the program was about teachers and students in sexual relationships, and the teachers were female. One was a story about a 12-year-old child who was preyed upon by a female teacher. The other was a female teacher who had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male.

There was something disturbing about the recent Fifth Estate program Teacher's Pet. The program left an uneasy feeling that we're being conditioned by an increasingly fundamentalist society that sees events as definite black and white with no room for shades of gray.

There was nothing in the two stories portrayed that was similar, except that the program was about teachers and students in sexual relationships, and the teachers were female. One was a story about a 12-year-old child who was preyed upon by a female teacher. The other was a female teacher who had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old male.

The teacher who abused the 12-year-old clearly appeared to be a predator. This was a classic child abuse narrative. There didn't appear to be any doubt that the child lived through hell. And everyone failed the child. When the young victim needed urgent help, she was spurned by even those closest to her. Her parents and the education system were blinded by their fundamentalist views on right and wrong.

No one wants to look closely at the issue of child sexual abuse by teachers but when there is the added dimension that the teacher is a Lesbian, the door on the subject locks a fortress. It's easy to conclude that the abused child, too, is a Lesbian, and treat her with disrespect... as if sexual orientation could matter when a child is being abused.

The other story is not so clear-cut. This is a case where cooler heads might have diminished the pain and anguish for the people involved.

The young man who had sex with his teacher can hold a driver's license and be sentenced in adult court for crimes. He can join the Army at 17 years of age and the Army Reserves at 16. Young men his age are sent to Afghanistan to fight and kill other humans, without any objection from society.

Of course, there is an issue about breech of trust. Teachers are not supposed to enter into relationships with students. Society has always had this rule, but it is broken frequently across the board. University students marry their professors. Doctors marry student nurses, and high school teachers marry their students.

To say that marrying a student is just plain wrong paints too many people with a moral brush. We don't have to look far to see lasting marriages that started out as teacher/student relationships. Do we want the children of such relationships to look back on their parents and judge them as immoral predators?

It should be clear when someone is being abused. In the case of the female teacher and the 12-year-old student it is clear. In the case of the 17-year-old, abuse is not so easy to determine. The teacher was not his teacher and her actions did not appear to be predatory nor of malicious intent. To make it out as such casts a moral blanket over all individuals whose relationships began as student/teacher.

Perhaps Hana Gartner should not have tackled this compelling subject. The usually fair and unbiased reporter appeared less than fair and biased in conducting the interviews. She looked uncomfortable and uneasy, and it came through in her every word and action. Did Hana realize that the issue is not as black and white as she might have liked it to be?

Both cases are sad for different reasons. The first child was traumatized for life. The teacher neither understood her own actions nor cared about the student. In the second case, the young man appeared devastated by the reaction of the teacher after the incident became public. She left without a word, after her actions blew up in her face. The young man was publicly fingered and left school, going from stud to victim in one fell swoop. Surely this incident could have been handled better.

How it could have been handled better is another question. Society has rules by which adults are supposed to function. We seem to believe that we can hold people in positions of trust to a higher standard than other mortals. Following the rules is not as easy as it might appear at face value. Leaders are as susceptible as the rest of us when it comes to what is seen as immoral behavior, including those preaching high moral values.

Whenever people are thrown together in groups, temptation reigns supreme. Like individuals who cannot resist alcohol, cigarettes and excessive food, some people cannot resist sexual temptation. Abortion clinics, substance abuse programs and diet fads become revolving doors simply because adults fall prey to their cravings time and time again.

The danger with equating the abuse of a child with the sexual conduct of a young man, who would be held liable for his actions in any other situation, is that the despicable measures of sexual predators, male and female, could be downgraded. Normal desires will never be curbed. To waste time trying to curb those desires is to take time away from identifying and holding in check the real power and control culprits. There has been enough proof of this in the recent past.

Recent Stories