Horace Mann

April 2, 2013

I read the article by Marc Fisher in a recent issue of The New Yorker about a teacher named Robert Berman who taught at Horace Mann, and the issues of teacher-student sexual relations in the context of high school.

To me it was more illuminating about a whole dynamic than being about “he said/he said” controversies about sexual abuse.

Here’s a quotation from near the end of the article that sums up what I found so interesting:  “According to the studies, abusers are disproportionately teachers who have won awards for excellence; they groom their targets, often selecting students who are estranged from their parents and unsure of themselves, then inviting them to get extra help in private sessions. This means, of course, that it can be very difficult to distinguish a superlative teacher from an abuser. ”

I wondered how often the pattern occurs in slightly different contexts, with or without overt sexual behavior, including those involving mentors and their young adult protégés, and whether it could explain some of the seemingly blind loyalty of acolytes to charismatic leaders in their field, even after the younger partners move out into careers of their own.

I guess my assumption had been that even with participating in this sort of incubation period, a person will eventually burst out of the cocoon and become an independent thinker and their own person.  But maybe some people can’t and never do.


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