Categorized | Meet the Teacher, Opinion

TEACHERS HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD

TEACHERS HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD

By Dale Wallace

Last month, two high school teachers in Winnipeg were suspended with pay for humorously simulating a lap dance in front of students at the school spirit day. The entire dance was videoed and placed on YouTube. As of March 2nd the video had over 66,000 hits. Plus, news agencies from around the world had picked up on the story. Now it has been officially removed from YouTube.

Of course there has been much uproar over the incident. Even though the teachers have been suspended, there has been calls for their immediate firing. Calgary talk show host Dave Rutherford implied that the teachers should be fired when he covered the incident on his February 24th show.

CBC news covered the story in their on-line news and many, many people commented on the story. Some called for forgiveness; others called for canning. It seems that the voice of reason is coming from the young girl who actually videoed the dance: fourteen year old Saigha Vincent.

In the CBC article she is quoted: “I think that they should keep their jobs,” Vincent said. “It was just a really bad judgment call. Most people really like [those] teachers and after all those years of schooling, it shouldn’t just be thrown away because of one bad mistake.”

Yes, teachers are fallible, and yes in this case they have made a grievous error in judgement. However, were children harmed? I believe, and people might disagree with me, that there was no harm done to these children. They saw something inappropriate, but they were not harmed. So in the final analysis, the teachers should keep their jobs. Sure there should be some kind of serious reprimand, but they should not be fired for their poor judgement on this one occasion.

This lap dance incident raises a larger question, however. What kind of moral behavior is expected from teachers today? 

In 1905 when Alberta became a province teachers (who were mostly female) had a strict code by which they had to live. They could be fired for drinking any alcohol and were not allowed to go into a bar. In fact female teachers were expected to remain single and, as a natural extension, celibate. They were expected to leave teaching if they married.

Fast forward to Winnipeg 2010: if these same two teachers engaged in a simulated lap dance at a local bar and it wound up on YouTube, would or should there be any repercussions for them? Then if a teacher on some weekend is found to be very drunk in a public place should there be some sort of consequences for them on Monday morning at school? Is the Friday after school happy hour out of bounds for teachers?

Teachers are expected to uphold some kind of moral standard, but what should that moral standard be? After all a society’s moral standards are, and will always be, variable. Something that was inappropriate in 1980 is appropriate now, and in the future the definition of appropriateness will be different too. In fact our society could be more Victorian-like; we cannot predict.

As well, many educational theorists have argued that teachers and education in general does not set moral standards; rather, they simply imitate what those standards are in a society. So what goes on in schools is simply a reflection of what goes on in society.

 Therefore, a natural extension of the argument is that what the teacher did was simply a reflection of our Canadian society. After all, things like lap dances are legally allowed in Canada. But the rebuttal is that young students should not be exposed to this kind of thing.

In society lap dancing is for adults not for our young. However, how many parents turn a blind eye to their children’s computer use? How many parents allow kids to watch R rated movies? What kids see on some kind of screen is perhaps far more graphic than what Winnipeg students saw at their school spirit day. 

 Yet, the consensus seems to be that these two young teachers crossed the invisible line. So, like some of their students who have misbehaved, they are suspended from school. Let’s not expel them from teaching.

 

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