Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

22.11.05

Power and its abuse

For some strange reason, last week I was thinking about the abuse of power. It was, perhaps surprisingly, not in the context of our current political situation, although that would apply. I was thinking on a smaller scale - teaching. I can't remember why I was thinking about it, but I was considering the power teachers have and how easily they can abuse it. As a man, of course, it's pretty obvious - sex. I taught a lot of impressionable young girls, and I really believe that if I had wanted to, I could have had sex with several of them. That may sound horrible, but rest assured - I didn't do it, nor did I sit around fantasizing about it. I was just thinking about the kind of people teenagers are, especially in today's society. I haven't ranted about society for a while, but today, it seems that kids are missing positive male role models more and more (they're missing female ones, too, but not to the degree). Whose fault this is doesn't matter, but so many kids today are living with stepfathers or with single women, and they don't have a lot of contact with positive male role models. This is a problem even in the schools - there simply aren't enough male teachers, which is a shame, because male teachers can be positive role models to kids. I certainly hope I have been, even to the ones who yelled at me or called me names or tried to get their parents to intervene with the administration because I failed them. Being a teacher is definitely not about the money (okay, in some places it is, but not where I've taught) and it's certainly not about the fame - the administration blames you when the parents get mad, and the parents blame you when their kids get mad - so it must be about something else. For me, it was always about trying to pass on specialized knowledge about subjects that I found fascinating and thought would help the kids be better in society. Idealistic and stupid, sure, but that's what teachers are.

But consider how easy it is to give in to the Dark Side. As a teacher, you have a tremendous amount of power over a vast number of very impressionable people. Sure, teenagers didn't allow Hitler to gain power, but they're still extremely suggestible. Female teachers have it, and we've certainly seen stories of women abusing their positions as teachers. Men, however, are in more danger of falling into the trap, for a few reasons:

1. Men are scum. Okay, it's a generalization and an easy excuse, but, sadly, a lot of men think with other body parts than their brains. Maybe women do this too, but I'm not a woman, so I can't speak for them.
2. Teenage girls today are a LOT more worldly than they used to be. Back in the day, I would argue, the abuse of the teacher-student relationship was largely one-sided on the teacher side. Today, it's much more of a two-way street. It still doesn't excuse it, but it's a certainly a factor.

As I said, I hope I have been a positive influence in my students' lives - both the boys and the girls. But let me give you a few examples, trying to be as vague as possible. I have talked to female students in my classroom when no one else is in there. The door and the windows were open, but I was still alone. Some of these girls are desperate for a father figure, because theirs is absent or lacking. How easy would it be for me to be that father figure, gain their trust, and then take advantage of it? Not the easiest thing in the world, probably, but certainly not impossible. I have had students who have actively flirted with me. Because I'm stupid, I often miss flirting until later when I actually sit down and think about it, but it still occurred. It's fascinating to know that a student is flirting with you, because you see things in a whole new light. It's also frightening, because you don't know what to say or do around the student. Luckily for me, this student wasn't in my classes all that much, so I could avoid her. As I have mentioned before, I have also had plenty of girls in class who were either pregnant or had kids. This, of course, means they are adverse to having sex, and for many of them (not all, but a lot) it means that they are raising the kids on their own. I'm not saying they would try to hook an older man to get a father for their kids, because I tend to think these kids aren't that conniving (they're conniving, sure, but not to that degree), but it goes back to the father figure idea - you could be their father figure and their baby's - all in one fell swoop.

It's also dangerous because of another aspect of the second reason I mentioned above. Some of the students I taught were older than normal high-schoolers - they were 18, 19, 20 - but all of them have grown up in a culture that values sex and flashiness a lot more than even the culture I grew up in, 20 years ago. I have seen 14-year-olds dressed like whores in my school. Even with the dress code, they were dressed like whores. And they know it. These girls are hitting sexual maturity younger and younger without the emotional maturity to handle it. It becomes a very dangerous situation for a male teacher to be in.

Now that I have you thinking I'm a pervert, let me go on. The point of this is that power is an aphrodisiac. I know it's a cliché, but that's why it's true (or is that the other way around?). I don't know how many of my readers have ever been in a position of power, but even the smallest amount is quite a heady brew. Even as a teacher, where you're buffeted by the administration on one side and evil kids/parents on the other, you still have power. I can't speak for all teachers, but the ones I have known LOVE it when they can fail a crappy student. I certainly love it. Now, that's not to say I want to fail them, or even that I cook the books in order to fail them. I've had to pass or give very good grades to any number of students whom I didn't like. I have integrity, after all. But when there's a student who always pisses you off and talks back and skips class yet still needs the class to graduate and you're the one who gets to fail him or her - that's good stuff. It's horribly petty, but the power to tell a kid that, because of his tardiness and absenteeism and lousy work and rejection of offers of help (a good teacher will always try to help even the most evil kids) and foul language, you're failing him and seeing the look on his face when he knows his grandmother is going to smack him with a broom handle for failing the class is priceless. Yes, I'm a horrible person. Deal with it, future subjects.

Why this matters is because of what's going on in the country and the world right now. Politics is all about gaining and holding power. If I felt the pull of sex from the miniscule amount of power I held, can you imagine what George Bush feels? I'm not saying that Bush trolls for skank in Arlington after Laura is asleep - sex takes many different forms, after all. I'm just saying that the lure of sex is in everything that has to do with power, and it manifests itself in many different ways. A monsignor in the Phoenix Diocese was just arrested on sexual assault charges against young boys. I don't know if he did it or not, but it wouldn't surprise me. The lure is very great to abuse your power - I'm not saying that as an excuse, just as I wouldn't use it if I had abused my power - I'm just saying it's axiomatic that when you have power, people treat you differently, and it's something you have to overcome. Look at Bush and his bunch in Washington after the last election. They had power, and they abused it. You can argue all you want about whether Bush is a good president or not or whether what he is trying to do is the right thing or not or whether the Democrats should just shut up and go along because they're traitors if they don't - none of that is important. My point is that even if you support Bush, you can't deny that he abused the power that was given to him. How? He tried to subvert the checks and balances system that the Founding Fathers set up to counter this very situation. If you agree with what Bush has done, you might call bullshit on me, but it's true. He abused his power because he believed he could get things done by fiat, and that's not the way we do things in the United States. Whether or not he's right, he went about achieving it in the wrong way, and now there's a backlash. The backlash, I don't think, is against Bush's policies per se, but against the ways he went about achieving them. Americans don't like despots, even if they agree with them. Especially when the despot think he has more power than he actually has. It's a double-edged sword, and we see the results now, as Bush and Cheney lash out against anyone who dares question their policies. They have lost power, and the sexual urge to get it back is causing them to say stupid things. How many of us have been dumped and done stupid things to get laid one more time? Come on, raise your hands.

We need those 3 Congressmen who voted for J.D. Hayworth's proposal to withdraw immediately from Iraq, despite the criticism of those who did. Not because they're heroes for standing up to Bush - again, this isn't about whose side you're on. We need them because people like that constantly prick the delicate balloon of power that politicians and others crave. We need attacks on sacred cows. It reminds us that power is ephemeral and that's good. It also reminds those in power that no matter how much power they have, they can't abuse it indiscriminately, for sex or for anything else. There are checks against teachers abusing their power, there are checks against priests abusing their power (although the Catholic Church does its best to shield them), and there are checks against the government. Those who whine about people who take shots at the government might question why those in power get so bent out of shape about it. Those who support the war in Iraq always say that if these killjoys had been around in the 1940s we would have lost to Hitler. Well, I don't know about that, but don't they think that if Bush had prosecuted this war (the one that Kerry and others voted for) a little better, there wouldn't be so much dissent? Abuse of power needs to be pointed out no matter where it occurs.

Power is a tricky thing. The temptation to abuse it is great, and I doubt if anyone doesn't feel it. When (or if, I suppose, even though I'm still planning on it) I run for office, there will be great temptation, I'm sure. The point is to resist it. Policing ourselves is part of what makes us human, and unfortunately, people give in too often. I'm certainly not saying I'm perfect, which is why we need the checks and balances of the system. We may not like these people who are constantly pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, but they are essential to our society functioning as it should. It's far too easy to gain power and abuse it, so it should be easy to take that power away. We would all do well to remember that.

4 Comments:

Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

There was a female teacher around here who had sex with teenaged students of hers. But she has been portrayed (and maybe she is, I don't know) as a victim of her allcoholic state and these young men taking advantage of HER vilnerability.
So, where does the power lie in that equation?

23/11/05 3:32 AM  
Blogger Thomas said...

I never had any problems when I taught but I was always worried that a vindictive student would say something about me because the students know teachers are vulnerable on this issue.

23/11/05 7:35 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Roger, teenagers have power too, and boys who think they're hot have a great deal of it. I can't speak for the teacher because I'm not female nor alcoholic, but it sounds like an extreme case. As I mentioned, teenagers today are a lot more worldly than they used to be - it doesn't go just for girls.

And that's always a worry, Thomas - these kids have just a tiny knowledge of the law and I have learned, especially with parents, that everyone always believes kids. Even parents whose kids have lied to them and gotten caught want to believe them. Very touchy subject indeed.

23/11/05 11:56 AM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

Hey, Greg- Happy Thanksgiving. You are one of my favorite bloggers, and you have pretty good taste in music, even if you're power-mad yourself. I promise to read your novel when it's done. (Haven't read word one yet.)

24/11/05 4:42 AM  

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