Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Jerk of the Week

Our Jerk of the Week goes to high-school teacher John Kelly of the Beaver Falls Area School District in Pennsylvania.

He has been awarded for humiliating 17 year-old Joshua Vannoy who wore a Broncos jersey to his ethnicity class.

The Steelers beat the Broncos on Sunday.

Kelly called Vannoy a "stinking Denver fan" and forced him to take a test while sitting on the floor while students threw wadded up paper at him.

"If he felt uncomfortable, then that's a lesson; that's what [the class] is designed to do," Kelly told The Denver Post. "It was silly fun. I can't believe he was upset."

Giving Mr. Kelly the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the lesson was about how it feels to be in a different ethnic group: the fear and anxiety it causes when you are the minority in a demographic hostile towards you. But another important lesson is empathy, the lack of which is the root of violence aimed at minority ethnic groups. Humiliation is all too common in our society and high school, but empathy, as demonstrated by Mr. Kelly, seems to be in short supply. While humiliating a student may be a lot of fun for the teacher and other students in the class, and while it may even teach a lesson, I think the negative impact speaks for itself.

Teachers have to go through a pretty rigorous training process, and yet how do we end up with someone like Kelly teaching your kids? A teacher's primary role should be about educating and empowering. But how many teachers did I have whose primary concern was being dynamic and popular while actually making sure students learned anything was an afterthought. If my son were treated like this at school I'd be down there the next day to talk to Mr. Kelly myself.

For using a position of power to destroy a student in front of his peers, John Kelly wins our Jerk of the Week award.

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