Coming into work this morning, I was exposed to yet another case news story about a teacher getting caught having sex with a student. It strikes me of late that there have been a growing number of these situations in recent years. Given this, my mind started churning to get an idea of why exactly this was. When I was going through school, this was one of those very rare things. Sure, you heard about it happening now and again–especially in high school, but it wasn’t something you saw hitting the news and becoming a public scandal. Thinking over it, I was able to come up with five contributing factors.
First and foremost, there is simple human attraction. There are times when you have two people who develop and attraction to one another. When this sort of attraction happens, the two people involved often decide to put the social mores against their doing this to the side and move forward with their relationship. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m condoning it in the situation of student and teacher, but I’m merely noting that I can see the reason why they might do this. That still doesn’t excuse the ethical lapse on the part of the teacher. In some cases, I’m sure that it’s a matter of the teacher pursuing the student or taking advantage of the growth of feelings due to the relationship between them. However in some cases, the facts are a bit different, which leads us into the second item.
Looking over the societal pressures and movements that are working on children, there is a push for them to grow up quicker than they need in many cases. You have the media pushing kids to be adults when they don’t need to do so, with this being reinforced by fashion and peer pressure. Looking over it, there is a definite impression to my mind that this is having an effect on the mentality of some students and pushing them to want relationships with people far older than they are. I remember any number of girls when I was in high school who were dating guys that were already out of college–or who had never gone to college but who were out in the work force already. The simple fact is that much of society today pushes kids to grow up more quickly than they should, which leads them into thinking they’re ready for adult relationships while not considering the consequences of the actions. In most cases, this leads to adult situations with people their own age, but it is also (to my mind) leads into relationships with their teachers.
The following three, however, are the ones where I think the main issue rests with the explosion of these relationships on the radar. First and foremost is the media’s desire for scandal to throw on the air waves. Many media outlets have come to the conclusion that people want this sort of things, and unfortunately the ratings tend to back up this viewpoint. In the era of the reality television show, news outlets are left playing catch up and trying to give the same sort of feel to their news casts so that people will want to watch. Therefore you have them throwing out stories about one of the big taboos when it comes to education to gather readers/watchers. This puts it much more on the radar in the country when the standard in the past had been to sweep it under the rug. While arguments could be made that simply sweeping it under the rug isn’t the best of things to do, I tend to think the media has gone a bit overboard with the level they’re broadcasting this.
This leads into the next thing, which is the ‘coolness’ factor of it. In many of these cases, the ones reported are the ones of the female teacher and the male student. I’m sure many of us of the male persuasion had those teachers in high school (and in some cases Middle School/Junior High) that we drooled over. Sexual prowess often becomes a status symbol in high school. After all, losing your virginity in high school tends to be something of a separation value between students, and the idea of it happening with an adult adds something to the luster. While not a teacher, this is shown rather humorously in the American Pie movies. The prevalence of this in the media adds to it, moving things up another notch. If you’re in high school and you’re able to get it on national TV that you nailed the hottie teacher at the school, that’s going to make you gleam in the eyes of many of your peers. Therefore it’s entirely possible that you have kids who are more receptive to this than they normally would be because they want the status bump in their peer group. By no means does this excuse the teachers, but is rather a viewpoint on the reason why the kids would be more receptive to this or even actively pursuing it in other cases.
The final reason this many be happening more is purely a power issue. There have been cases of nature in the past that when all is said and done have been found to have been fabrications on the part of the students. Instead of something having actually happened, the students made up the allegations in order to lash out at the teacher in question. Given the stigma something of this nature attaches to a teacher, bringing out allegations of this nature (true or not) is a sure way to ‘get even’ with a teacher that gave them a bad grade or made them look bad in class. With the attention the media gives to this (leaving out the name of the student in the majority of cases), it makes it even more tempting for a disgruntled student to use this as a means to attack a teacher.
In the end, I’m fully cognizant that this has been happening for years and will likely continue to happen for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, I think the media attention it’s being given is a negative thing in the long run and will simply encourage it to happen more. However, I freely admit it may be happening just as much as it always has with more attention being given to it. I could make an argument in both the direction of the attention increasing the amount of cases and the case for it discouraging them. Having taught high school, however, I have to take a bit of a cynical viewpoint on it and lean toward it increasing the problem.