A Playwright, Grooming, Education and Religion
Whenever I think about what my life would be like if I were a teacher, current events remind me why I didn’t follow the family tradition.
One way or another, I’m sure you’ve encountered its most memorable scene.
On Mr. Levin’s show, Mr. Mamet didn’t promote the revival of his 1975 play American Buffalo, which opens this week. Instead, he focused on his new book, Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch.
Mr. Levin steered the conversation towards modern education, which has been politicized as of late with rampant book bans and bills such as Florida’s “Parental Rights in Education”, referred to as “Don’t Say Gay” by critics.
Mr. Mamet contended:
“We have to take back control. If there’s no community control of the schools, what we have is kids being not only indoctrinated but ‘groomed’ in a very real sense by people who are-whether they know it or not-sexual predators. Are they abusing the kids physically? No, I don’t think so, but they are abusing them mentally and using sex to do so. This has always been the problem with education, is that teachers are inclined, particularly men because men are predators, to pedophilia. And that’s why there were strict community strictures about it, thank God. And this started to break down when the schools said, ‘You know what? We have to teach the kids about sex. Why? Because what if they don’t do it at home?’”
These comments are reminiscent of so many right-leaning or conservative figures talking about ‘groomers’ and ‘grooming.’
Initially, this gibberish got me pretty riled up. Here’s the line of questioning I wanted to ask on my hypothetical show Mortality, Musings and McCorkle:
“Mr. Mamet, Cultural Conservative, do you think people become educators because they want to abuse kids? What percentage of teachers do you believe are ‘grooming’ children? What exactly is an ‘inclination’ to pedophilia? Do you believe we’ll solve the growing teacher shortage problem by throwing around insults at a demoralized sector of our population? Why focus on sexual abuse in education and not in religious institutions, like the Catholic Church?”
I calmed down a bit and reflected. Do Mr. Mamet’s comments have a grain of truth? If anything, they demonstrate that oftentimes, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sir Newton’s Third Law applies not only to physics but also to politics.
Alternatively stated: what politically goes around politically comes around.
Mr. Mamet wants to ‘take back’ control of education from teachers. Generations ago, prior to prevalent public schools, who instructed children?
Parents and religious authorities, in a much more religious United States. Discussing sexual activity was controlled by a group of people who weren’t comfortable with sexuality, to say the least.
Not only has the U.S. become more secularized, but in some instances, it’s hostile to religion.
For us millennials, the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandals were constantly in the news as we grew up. Similar issues plagued other religious groups, but weren’t as highlighted.
And rightfully so. Not only did priests abuse the young rather than guide them, but bishops and cardinals protected these priests from prosecution, often sending them to another posting in which they could abuse more children.
Based on constant coverage and explosive headlines, what percentage of priests would you expect to be abusers?
In 2004, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (JJC) produced a systematic study for the United Conference of Catholic Bishops covering the years 1950–2002 which found 4% of priests accused of sexual abuse.
Certain dioceses were far higher- Boston for instance had a rate of 10%. Granted, JJC estimates that only 30% of sexual assault victims came forward in 2018. So the true number of priests involved might be 10–12%.
While all of these ranges are far above the acceptable answer of 0, the most extensive and current data reveals a clear minority of priests were accused of sexual abuse. It’s safe to say a solid majority didn’t commit any.
Despite the data, the public perception of priests and the Catholic Church has completely soured. According to a 2010 poll, 64% of Americans contended that Catholic priests “frequently” abused children. Anecdotally, I remember that among my more secularized and areligious associates, Catholic abuse often came up.
Beaten and battered, defined by their sinful and fallen members, what societal group did religious authorities and their allies attack in retaliation?
Teachers, school boards and education.
For us millennials, teachers hooking up or seducing students were featured in the news as we grew up. Not to the degree of the priest abuse, but enough.
In 2004, the same year as the JJC study, the U.S. Department of Education released their own report in which they found 10% of K-12 students ‘experience sexual misconduct by a school official’ before graduating high school.
Is 10% a majority?
Far from it.
Is 10% far too much?
Could the true figure be higher?
Much like religions and their institutions became defined by their sinful and fallen clergy, public education and educators have become defined by their most inappropriate and criminal members.
Furthermore, both religions such as the Catholic Church and public schools are struggling to acquire sufficient staff.
Considering the attacks a prospective candidate faces, can you blame them?
In both religious and secular environments, too many innocent suffer from sexual misconduct.
All because what politically went around has to come around.
All because no one can resist the urge of striking back.
All because the Left and the Right have to score political points.
Mr. Mamet’s comments are the latest edition of this bizarre game.
What will the next one be?
Let’s hope something different.