Humour me as I open this post with an Ogden Nash quote, from his 1940 compilation The Face is Familiar:
Oh, what a tangled web do parents weave
When they think that their children are naive.
So! Churchill High School is in the news, maybe you've heard about this.
(A disclaimer: this is a really, really long post, so set some time aside if you intend on reading it all at once. And if you are related to me by blood, I would strongly recommend not clicking through the "Read More" link; there will be, shall we say, Mature themes discussed in this post. I'm serious about this, don't do it. MOM IF YOU ARE READING THIS JUST CLOSE THE BROWSER, CLOSE IT RIGHT NOW GO DO SOMETHING ELSE.)
Yes, the past few days have been a ceaseless tempest of microanalyzed bad decisions and old-fogey outrage, as a minute-and-a-half-long faculty dance routine for Churchill's School Spirit Week devolved into THE END OF THE WORLLLLDDDDDDDD AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
WE HAD ALSO BETTER LOOK AT IT FROM ANOTHER ANGLE JUST TO MAKE SURE WE ARE OUTRAGED
COMPLETELY INNOCENT AND EASILY INFLUENCED TEENAGERS WERE EXPOSED TO LASCIVIOUS CHOREOGRAPHY
(That's the Lambada they're doing up there, right? I hear they call it the Forbidden Dance.)
A lot of handwringing and highest-decibel complaining has emerged from the whole thing, not unsurprisingly. High school students? Exposed to the concept of oral sex? Scandalous! Shocking! Entirely unheard of!
Except, well, pffffft. If you go up and down that school -- both sides, the English and the French -- and ask every student if they know anything about oral sex, the only ones who'll say they have no idea are either lying to get attention or fresh out of homeschooling for the first time in their lives. (I assume we're pretending, for the sake of the discussion, that these kids weren't all born during the Bill Clinton Presidency.)
Yes, by your outdated standards, a public simulation of oral sex may seem like it would be shocking -- but, honestly, what doesn't publicly simulate oral sex these days? Teen comedies publicly simulate oral sex; American Idol ex-contestants publicly simulate oral sex on live television; anti-smoking campaigns simulate oral sex on public transit and billboards where everybody can see it. Dictionaries don't really simulate it, but they apparently describe it well enough -- and even that is enough to get parents flipping their collective lids, decrying the state of the world today and imploring everybody to Think Of The Children.
(Why can't these kids just learn to behave themselves and stage a good, clean, completely non-controversial Sexual Revolution like their parents and/or grandparents did at that age?)
Now, let me ask you this: did you notice that the first video above, originally filmed and uploaded by a fourteen-year-old girl, is titled "Two Teachers One Chair"? Do you know -- the following link is a Wikipedia article with no attached images, but the text alone is the very definition of Not Safe For Work -- do you know what that title is a reference to? Does that sound like material you were watching at that age? And does it worry you to consider how much savvier high school students are with the internet than you'll ever be?
Just trust me when I tell you, gentle reader, that the routine those two teachers were doing is comparatively tame by high school interpersonal standards. (Ah, memories.) For that matter, even the girl who originally filmed the lapdance thinks that everyone is overreacting -- and, again, her generation knows and watches things that you would be terrified to learn exist.
So do the comparatively lax standards of the modern era mean that the teachers should get a free pass? No, son. Hell no. Longtime readers may recall my reaction to the Blue Bomber Cheerleaders 'scandal' from a couple of years ago, and my reaction to these teachers is entirely similar.
The problem isn't that the teachers' behaviour was 'sexually provocative', because it wasn't -- not by our modern standards, not by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly not by the standards of fourteen-year-olds who've already seen 2 Girls 1 Cup on their own time. But people focusing on the sexuality aspects of the story (and that's really all that people tend to do, as you may have noticed in the past few days) are missing the real underlying point: the problem here is that the teachers' behaviour was stupid. And that's the part I take exception to.
Teachers are generally expected to conduct themselves like role models, just as athletes and politicians and entertainers and writers and musicians and other public figures are expected to (but usually don't). A role model can have plenty of sex and still be a role model; heck, in some cases, that's why people take them as a role model. But once a role model says or does something irredeemably and undeniably stupid, especially right out in public, that's when the goodwill evaporates and the public figure loses his or her credibility.
Sexy is in the eye of the beholder, but stupid is universal. And doing a completely unsubtle lapdance in a high school gymnasium in front of an unknown number of cameraphones and a squad of co-workers who report directly to your boss? Eeee-yep. That's stupid. That's almost police helicopter stupid.
Rest assured, Winnipeg: your children are no worse off than they were before the whole thing, and the only individuals damaged by the teachers' actions are the teachers themselves. (It hasn't been determined yet what penalties and punishments they face, but I think it's safe to say that they probably aren't going to get out of this lightly.) The Winnipeg Sun had a cute quote from psychologist Toby Rutner, who busted out this gem on the prospects of corrupted and damaged youth:
"I don’t think it will have a devastating psychological effect on a kid because he witnessed two dogs going at it on the front lawn[.]"
And no less a Canadian icon than Pierre Berton seemed entirely convinced that the kids would be alright, when he wrote the following for Maclean's Magazine in 1963 (!) about his underage daughters:
"My daughters are pretty level-headed girls and if, in a moment of madness or by calculated design, they find themselves bedded with a youth (and I trust it will be a bed and not a car seat) I do not really believe the experience will scar their psyche or destroy their future marriages. Indeed I would rather have them indulge in some good, honest, satisfying sex than be condemned to a decade of whimpering frustration[.]"
So, as I'd said, don't worry about the students; on an individual level, everybody will be fine except for the two people who brought this on themselves. What you should be concerned with is the impact that this is going to have on an institutional level, which I'm going to bring up right this second because this post is obviously not long enough yet.
It just so happens that I graduated from Churchill High School, eight years ago -- wait, eight years already? Jesus, I'm old. Well, be kind and let an old-timer ramble about his experiences anyway, will you? Ahem.
I was a Churchill High Student, and I grew up to be legendarily sexy, so I think I'm pretty well qualified to consider and discuss the matter before us today. It's certainly not going away any time soon; every media outlet in town wants a bigger piece of the story now that it's gone worldwide, and you can tell that they're pretty desperate about it, so we could be hearing about this for a long, long time yet.
What you need to know about Churchill High School (besides its adorable little dichotemy between the French and English sides) is that A) it's one of the city's smaller high schools -- about half the enrollment of Grant Park High, Tec Voc or Daniel McIntyre, and about a third the enrollment of Sisler -- and B) it is, first and foremost and above literally all else, a football school.
I only attended the school for the last two years of high school, having just moved back to Winnipeg from Nova Scotia, and it was quite quickly obvious that the administration emphasized its athletics program above anything else. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad scholastic experience -- particularly since it was six blocks away from my house -- and I had plenty of perfectly fine teachers while I was there, but there was really no questioning what the school believed its identity was. There were football players and then there were us second-class citizens, and as long as you could roll with that you were guaranteed an easy ride.
(Which was fine by me; the resulting easy marking made me look a lot smarter than I actually am, to the tune of some pretty sizeable entrance scholarships from the local universities. If any minors are reading this right now, word of advice: being the big fish in the small pond can pay some pretty sweet dividends.)
Now, this isn't to say that there weren't other programs; I remember there being a film club of three or four guys with one camera, an improv group emerged entirely through student willpower, and the music programs (two bands and a choir) survived only through the tireless individual efforts of their respective leaders. (Consider this a shout-out to Trevor Uruski, who busted his ass to build the band program from nothing into a surprisingly impressive unit.) But the funding battle was a lot longer and a lot harder, and the focus was still entirely obvious: where other schools might have framed these assets with the message "we're not a football school", Churchill framed them as "we're not just a football school". A small distinction, but a telling one.
I'm not saying this out of any malice or ressentiment, of course; I'm telling you this because it represents a perfectly understandable branding strategy on their part. Football excellence is -- or at least, before all this, it was -- the only characteristic the school is known for; take away the legacy and reputation of their longstanding football program and Churchill just becomes a nondescript small school, at a time when the province is making it no secret that they'd really like to amalgamate or close any smaller schools they can.
And it hasn't been a very smooth ride for Churchill, either, certainly not in recent years. They had football Coach McKay defect last year, and then there was that basketball stabbing a couple years back, and a few years ago there was that crack cocaine giveaway, and then of course there was that whole to-do when a Churchill graduate -- and former football player! -- shot two police officers when they tried to seize the drugs he was dealing. None of these make for very good selling points when you're trying to solicit donations from your alumni to fix up the field.
So, for better or for worse, Churchill High lives and dies by its athletics program. It just so happened that this week it found worldwide notoriety for something that happened in its gymnasium, during a school spirit rally, between two teachers. And who, seated in a chair and stuffing money into a lapdancer's clothes, was at the centre of the whole thing? Well, of course: the gym teacher. These stories write themselves, sometimes.
(Hear tell along the neighbourhood grapevine is that the unidentified male is a term-position gym teacher, as well -- but take that with a grain of salt. Too bad nobody in the room had that Recognizr app, or we could have saved everybody a lot of time.) [ Correction Notice Edit: it turns out he's a scientist, which is even funnier. ]
Churchill High School: Pride and Tradition! I can't imagine how the story is going to shake down next, but I do know this: it should be really interesting to keep tabs on Nick Martin for the next couple of weeks.
Oh, and as a postscript to the whole thing -- I never did see any faculty lapdances during my time at Churchill, but I did know a couple of girls who were very obviously pregnant by the time they graduated. Kids these days! Kids these days.