Hot for Teacher

The most shocking thing about sexual relationships between students and teachers is how ordinary they seem to be



It's a staple of the metro section, the teacher apprehended for sexual conduct with a student. Sometimes it's assault, sometimes statutory rape. If the teacher is a woman, and preferably a blonde--that is to say, "a babe"--the story will fill hour after titillating hour on Inside Edition and CNN.


While the sensationalism may seem rank, the sheer multitude of claims suggests that teachers are engaging in sexual behavior with their pupils as a matter of course. An Education Week survey of media and databases back in 1998 counted 244 such incidents in a six-month period. (That organ, not unreasonably, favors the term "abuse.") Yet the Seattle Times uncovered 159 incidents involving school athletic coaches over a decade, in Washington state alone. Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer revealed dozens of sex-abuse reports in state and national schools for the deaf. Unreported cases, one presumes, dwarf these numbers.


Media stories about this obviously common phenomenon tend toward the sober, the salacious, and the hysterical. What makes BBC Radio 4's recent half-hour documentary on the subject extraordinary, then, is how nonjudgmental reporter Rosie Goldsmith chooses to be. (A British survey suggested that one in twenty students has had sexual relations with a school instructor.) Not all of the four or five speakers in "Married to Teacher" look favorably on what occurred--but then a few of them decidedly do. One of the more plaintive, and typically thoughtful, comments comes from a man who recalls that the relationships he had after an affair with his 42-year-old art teacher struck him as "childish." He wasn't devastated, just cheated out of the dizzy experiences of youthful romance.


Perhaps the most radical thing about this radio piece is that it presents teacher-student affairs as something that happens all the time--not a freakish aberration of the five o'clock news. You can listen to the story here (look in the middle/left-hand column for "Married to Teacher").

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