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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Discovery, "Bad Teachers," and Illicit Sexual Relations

Investigation Discovery was set to air a three-episode series featuring real-life teachers involved in sex crimes and highlighting educators who had illicit sexual relationships with their students. Investigation Discovery, which describes itself, as airing "compelling true stories of mystery and suspense," is one of many offshoots of the Discovery Channel. Among its shows are "A Stranger in My Home," "Beauty Queen Murders," and "Momsters: When Moms Go Bad."

In the light of controversy, one of the Discovery cable TV channels this week canceled Bad Teachers, a documentary series, after just one episode had aired. The episode of "Bad Teachers" that aired, on April 22, was titled "Teacher's Pet." It featured an Alabama high school teacher who underwent gastric-bypass surgery and "experienced a renewed self-confidence," the release says. "Not long after the procedure, she seduced a 17-year-old student, and they soon engaged in a dangerous and illicit sexual affair. As the romance intensified, [the teacher] became obsessed with her student lover and took drastic measures to ensure the taboo affair didn't end, even crashing his prom to check on him."

The other episodes, which didn't air, were titled "Repeat Offender," and "Hot for Teacher," and were also about teachers accused of sex crimes with students.

On Tuesday, April 29, the company allowed Steve Dembo, the director of online community and social media strategy for Discovery Education, to announce the "Good News" that Bad Teachers was being canceled. Dembo is also a self-pronounced media whiz and school board member at Skokie School District 69. The cancellation was directed by Discovery Communications, the parent company of the Discovery Channel, and not the Discovery Channel itself.

"Discovery Education's mission is to celebrate and support the millions of dedicated professionals around the world who have made teaching their life's work," Dembo wrote on his blog. "As such, we share your concerns with the ID program Bad Teacher.'"

He noted that the show was not affiliated with, "nor does it reflect the beliefs of," Discovery Education. (Also note that he used the singular, Bad Teacher.) I do wonder how it came to be aired if it does not reflect the beliefs of Discovery Education, don't you?

"We appreciate the support of the educational community for bringing this to our attention, and we are pleased to share that Discovery Communications has decided to immediately cancel this program, removing it from ID's on-air and online schedule," Dembo added.

The cancellation was welcomed by the national teachers' unions and may have come about in part from pressure from teachers. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, issued a statement praising the decision. The National Education Association applauded the move on its NEA Today web site. 

Bad Teacher and Bad Teachers

First of all, some of the apparent confusion over Discovery's Bad Teachers and Bad Teacher may be because a CBS comedy series titled Bad Teacher is currently running on CBS. The series is based on a raunchy comedy film also title Bad Teacher starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel that was quite a success pulling in over $216 million at the worldwide box office.

The CBS television series Bad Teacher stars Fringe's Ari Graynor as Meredith Davis, a newly divorced trophy wife who takes a job in a middle school, looking to meet rich, divorced dads.

Faced with an iron-clad prenup, foul-mouthed Meredith stumbles onto the idea of using the school as her springboard to a live-in meal-ticket when she agrees to pick up a friend’s daughter. She wins over the emotionally needy principal (David Alan Grier) and befriends a nerdy teacher (Sara Gilbert) who is desperate for a friend, even if that means letting Meredith take advantage of her. Meredith also butts heads with fellow teacher Ginny (Kristin Davis), essentially the queen bee before her arrival.

On one hand, I completely understand the teachers' union objection to airing Bad Teachers. Such a program viewed by a sex-hungry, scandal-loving mass of viewers entices those who are fascinated and infatuated with perversity. All television networks bend the envelope and feed viewers tantalizing content to insure high ratings. Money drives the network television industry, and blatant sex on television increases revenues, rivaling graphic violence as the most questionable popular material. Stories about teachers seducing students are very tantalizing, and twisted sexual deviants may even see such shows and believe the teaching profession is fertile ground for new victims.

Yet, on the other hand, is it beneficial to suppress decent attempts to inform the public about bad, criminal behaviors, especially those that victimize innocent children? Advocating suppression of Bad Teachers may actually be protecting future perpetrators by contributing to cloaking their deeds. I strongly believe this is a possibility. Intelligent human beings should understand that airing stories about the crimes does not represent an attempt to paint the overwhelming majority of teachers as sexual abusers. Perhaps the few "bad apples" it does expose brings greater public awareness to a problem that absolutely does occur with some regularity -- terrible sex crime.

But, then again, we must rely upon "intelligent" viewers to get the correct message about the series. That is the scary proposition: "For airing to be justified, people must view the programs to better understand how a very small fraction of criminal school personnel commit inexcusable, heinous child abuse." It seems intelligence is often the last word used to describe the average reality show "boob tube" enthusiast. It seems many tune in because they are lured with racy, seductive teasers.

Perhaps, CBS is just as guilty of sexual exploitation by airing Bad Teacher. I understand the series is a comedy about developing adult relationships, yet reading the plot of the shows does nothing to improve the public perception of noble, hard-working, dedicated teachers. Should teachers' unions also be protesting Bad Teacher? I'm relatively certain most of you will say "no" due to its comical treatment of teaching situations. Hold that thought.

Take a look at CBS's own promo material for Bad Teacher:

"Meredith (Ari Graynor)  may lack the proper academic credentials to run a classroom, but one lesson she has mastered is how to get a date with a student's father.  Take a look at a list of tips that might come in handy next time you find yourself trying to land a man!

1. Primping is mandatory. You always need to put your best face forward.
2. Be aware of your surroundings. You want to get in the sack, not sacked.

3. Show off your skills to get his attention. (Clip features Meredith sucking a lollypop.)
4. Be open to new experiences. You never know...

6. Never roll your eyes at him.
7. And always flash a "killer grin."
8. A killer dress and flawless slow-mo walk are a perfect entrance must!


 I ask you again, should teachers' unions show concern for the CBS show?

What really pisses me off is how the mainstream media consistently downplays teachers as lazy, inept non-professional babysitters and lecherous losers. The teaching profession is the major core of intellectual and social improvement in America.

Despite the constant bad rap for low tests scores and isolated ineptitude, teachers selflessly serve the taxpayers of the United States by producing the most well-rounded young adults in the world. In addition to their classroom instruction, they go overboard to supplement the moral education, nutritional needs, and emotional security of so many children who grow up in homes where little instruction and care occurs.

Every teacher who sexually abuses a child should be exposed and properly punished. I think we can all agree on that. Cancelling shows, believing in network motives, trusting union pressures, enjoying sarcastic comedy --  decisions, decisions, decisions -- each must be made with the good of the general public in mind. Now, that's a long, long, blog entry that seldom draws fire because it lacks the titillating elements of sex, violence, and perverted, seedy pleasures.

I am not prepared to tackle such a major project in its entirety. All I know is that teachers and the profession of education should get a well-deserved break.

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