Boy, growing up I thought the Catholic nuns were tough. Yet another elementary teacher has been caught on tape using public humiliation and class condemnation as a pedagogical tool. In New Albany, Indiana, Kristen Woodward (a teacher at S. Ellen Jones Elementary School) verbally abused 5-year-old Gabriel Ross in front of the class, even getting his friends to condemn him. It is something out of the Pol Pot Guide to Elementary Teaching. The tape recording is linked below.
Gabriel appears to have class behavior problems of listening and disrupting class. However, like the recent outrage over the abuse of an autistic child, here, the use of public humiliation is hardly the solution and the teacher has been suspended with pay.
Besides calling the boy “pathetic,” Woodward says the following before the class: “You’ve punished everyone in this building with your behavior. Everyone has been affected by your nasty behavior. Everyone. Cafeteria workers, the monitors, the art teacher, music teacher … ten people in this building you have tormented and tortured for 149 days. I’m done. . . . You’ve been ignorant, selfish, self-absorbed, the whole thing. I’m done . . . He has made every wrong choice possible and he has had more help to make right choices and he has chose not to. So you guys think, is that somebody you want to be with?”
The class responds with a loud “Noooooo!” which Woodward follows with “See, your friend doesn’t want to be with you.” Nice.
The parents had heard complaints from Gabriel so they sent him to class with a hidden tape recorder. They ended up capturing the bizarre scene. For a tape recording of the scene, click here.
The Indiana State Teachers Association is protesting, saying suspension was improper and that the school did not hear Woodward’s side. Hmmmm. As an educator, I am not sure what that other side would be. With the exception of an evil twin, I cannot imagine a context where such conduct would be viewed as permissible. I am very sympathetic with the problem. Woodward appears to have a flawless record of 13 years of service and this may have been an atypical breakdown of judgment. Children with such behavior problems can be a terrible disruption and frustration. For those of us who teach on the graduate level, we rarely have to deal with such problems. However, that is part of the job and this is rather obvious abuse. Teaching young children requires a huge amount of restraint and care. None of that is apparent on the tape.
For the full story, click here
15 thoughts on “Pol Pot Elementary: Condemn Your Classmate and Be Free”
SIN has pounced upon this class room…the flock has strayed…
From stocks to ritalin.
Mespo, Jill and Gino,
I admit that I’m possibly seeing this through a glass darkly but as I read/heard the teacher’s words I flashed on the image of a Preacher berating a sinner. She may have 13 years (a strange demon-ridden number)of good service but I would argue that she should be fired outright. My reason is how many five year olds do you know that could follow this line of reasoning coherently?:
“You’ve punished everyone in this building with your behavior. Everyone has been affected by your nasty behavior. Everyone. Cafeteria workers, the monitors, the art teacher, music teacher … ten people in this building you have tormented and tortured for 149 days. I’m done. . . . You’ve been ignorant, selfish, self-absorbed, the whole thing. I’m done . . . He has made every wrong choice possible and he has had more help to make right choices and he has chose not to. So you guys think, is that somebody you want to be with?”
The child may indeed have problems, but the teacher and the school also seem to be problematic. Besides a decidedly religious overlay to her screed there is a definite authoritarian theme that I suspect reflects the school (local?)culture. I would be quite interested in knowing the nature of the his “crimes.”
From a review on rotten tomatoes of the Seventh Seal:
“…Block witnesses much suffering and anguish along the way (an encounter with a woman accused of witchcraft who is about to be burned at the stake is especially jarring) but also finds evidence of human kindness and love, prompting him to realize that even a single gesture of goodwill might make the long struggle of his existence worthwhile. The title of Ingmar Bergman’s highly acclaimed allegorical film stems from the Book of Revelation.”
When it comes to Bergman, I’m more of a Seventh Seal man myself.
Wooliebacon’s got me all freaked out about hidden signs after yesterday. To post on this blog you have to press “submit”.
Come on Gino, we’ve got to have a little fun now and again. I concede no logical nexus between the facts as revealed and the comment. I thought the nun reference was close enough so out it went. Sure its broad but has some basis in fact. I give you “Jesus Camp,” and the Hagee vomitorium as just two recent examples. I will try harder in the future to have my comments more closely resemble a logical proof.
Don’t forget the protestants. I’ve always liked Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander. Perhaps this was formative in the teacher’s life. I know it made an impression on me!
So it was the Catholic nun comment that led the story? Ok, but I still think you paint with too broad a brush. I’m not particularly religious — indeed, I’m a closet atheist — but I don’t have much tolerance to disdain either. Your observation, true or not, just doesn’t follow from the story.
I agree. My favorite Biblical quote — since I apparently have the mantle of quote-smith today — is : “… if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (Mark 9:35 KJV)
That’s the humility I don’t see much these days and the most needed. Haggard, Swaggart, et al, are you listening?
And my last quote today:
“Jesus walked on the water,
And I know that is true,
But sometimes I think that preacher man,
Would like to do a little walkin’, too….”
Much farther south, but I did spend a week in Indiana one day and have some feel for the inhabitants —very, very nice but just as religious. You need some experience with Catholic nuns to modify your views. Biblically based or not, they were the masters of compliance through humiliation. By the way, there are plenty of Bible quotes praising submission, slavery, prostrating yourself, etc.– all kinds of degradation. That’s why the thing is R-rated. Let me know if you want all the passages, but here’s some teasers:
1. Use of women “humbled, humiliated, brought low” by rape
Gen. 34:2 – “lay with her by force”
Deut. 22:24 – “violated his neighbor’s wife”
Lam. 5:11 – “ravished the women”
Ezek. 22:10 – “humbled her in her menstrual impurity”
2. God “humbles, afflicts, makes men submissive”
Deut. 8:2 – “He might humble you, testing you”
Deut. 8:3 – “He humbled you and let you be hungry”
II Kings 17:20 – “the Lord afflicted them”
Ps. 119:71 – “It was good for me that I was afflicted”
3. Attitude man is to have “submitting, humbling oneself” to God
Exod. 10:3 – “How long will you refuse to humble yourself”
Dan. 10:12 – “humbling yourself before your God”.
An RC priest friend of mine calls this Old Testament barbarity, the historical-context of the Bible that we can ignore. I call it Hollywood — pre-history style. That’s what I do like about the Catholics, they know when to get off a ship before it hits the rocks of logic.
I take your point on there not being an overt connection with religion and apologize for taking that leap. I will leave the quotes to Mespo but I do have to ask why any church or secular organization should require humility towards authority. We all owe each other respect until proven otherwise (ie bush/cheney). But I feel it is the person in authority who most needs to exercise humility. Authority gives power over others. This power will certainly be misued without humility both towards the limits of one’s authority and humility to recognize the talents and worth of others. A person who has true authority does not need people sucking up to them. They delight in robust questions and engage in self questioning.
I dunno, mespo. I know churches that teach humility (the condition of being humble) before authority, but none that teach humiliation (the act of degradation). I’m sure your quote book can clear that up, though. But I’m not sure how you came up with the school-religion connection in the first place. There was nothing the blurb above, or the linked article, tying the teacher’s acts to any religion or religious practice. If you’re basing it on geography (those nutty Northern Bible Belters), then I’d say you’re jumping to conclusions. Are you from New York? Boston maybe? If so, then I have a conclusion to jump to myself.
I agree that most religions encourage this very idea. (Prostration before the “authority figure” of god features large in many.) It also appears to be quite popular with secular T.V. shows (which other teachers doing this kind of thing have imitated). Why not reinstitue the stocks? One up/one down seems to be the dominate (ha) operating model of human interaction in this society. This cannot stop soon enough for me!
When you’re in the Bible Belt (Northern Region) and you have been told on Sunday that humiliation before authority figures is a good thing- in fact it’s divine — what do you think you would do on Monday in your job when you’re the authority figure?
I continue to be dismayed by the use of public humiliation on children. It makes a victim of the one child and all the others who are told to act with cruelty towards another child by an authority figure.
I understand this teacher was at the breaking point, but she had many choices in dealing with her complete frustration, one of which is to call the principal and walk out until she could regain composure. She was not alone and without resources for confronting this problem. Adults have no excuse for this behavior.
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