Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Waller’s 1930s expectations of teachers alive and well in 2008

An initial read of Willard Waller’s “The School and the Community” might have a lot of us asking, “Why is this article important today with its outdated notions of teacher propriety?” However, after reading a recent article on states wanting “tougher penalties for abusive teachers”, we might see that Waller’s ideas are not as antiquated after all.

The article discusses how 15 states want stronger oversight and tougher punishment for teachers who engage in “sexual misconduct” with students. A nationwide investigation puts the figure at over 2,500 teachers from 2001 through 2005 whose teaching credentials were revoked or denied due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Of course, the number is bigger due to underreporting.

I think the vast majority of people would agree that it is not acceptable for teachers (both male and female) to have romantic/sexual relationships with students, who are minors. This is an extreme case where I would argue that expecting teachers to uphold certain societal expectations (ex. no sex with students allowed) is a good thing for society. The questions each society/culture must address are—what are the boundaries to limiting teacher behavior? Should we have a moral teacher checklist that individuals will need to meet in order to become a teacher? Who in society gets to determine the moral standards teachers should have?


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