"Hyperjingoistic Douchebaggery" And Your Children

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A few weeks ago reader David Rimple sent in this link to a video of Brick Township, NJ high school teacher Stuart Mantel making a jackass of himself in front of his classroom. I didn't think much of the video because you can hardly see anything, I was pretty much unsurprised that a baldheaded, mustachioed, Heinrich Himmler-looking rageaholic would be teaching a technical class at a New Jersey high school (that's just about only variety of teacher we had back at dear old ACHS), and I was only curious about how long it would take before Mantel's catchphrase "I don't wanna hear a SOUND not a SOUND!" showed up as a regular sound effect on the Howard Stern show.

But I guess Rimple has a better news sense than I do, because Mantel's hissy fit continues to take the nation by storm. The anti-Mantel side of the debate says the teacher is a dangerous lunatic who should be punished, while pro-Mantelists (including, believe it or not, Bill O'Reilly) claim the kids themselves were a bunch of punks who needed to be disciplined. (Inevitably, there now appears to be a Rodney King-esque missing section of tape that we are to imagine reveals the authority figure as a great hero undone by the out-of-control forces of political correctness.)

I don't see how one argument cancels out the other. Can't the kids be punks and the teacher still be an idiot? For better or worse, in loco parentis customs are normal at the high school level, and on that basis alone, Mantel clearly belongs in another line of work: Whatever stern measures or even physical punishment might be necessary to discipline your kids, throwing a spaz attack is not one of them. It's simple: If you're going ape while the kids you're supposed to be controlling are having an extended laugh at your expense, you've lost.

Since none of my own Mantels of sainted memory ever got canned for this kind of stuff, I'm not expecting such a reaction here. What's more interesting is Brick Township's proposed solution to the problem: Banning cell phone use by students. Is this a variation on the old "Doctor, it hurts when I do this" joke? What are these publicly-funded teachers getting up to that they have to be shielded from public scrutiny? There's also a safety consideration: It's not clear that cell phones actually saved any lives during the Columbine shootings, but it is clear that public high schools are institutions of involuntary confinement where kids spend the day getting hollered at by idiots. You want your kid out of contact the next time some Private Pyle cracks under the strain?

NEXT: Shallow Throats

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  1. Note to self: make sure the kids have a video cell phone. Just in case.

  2. I was under the impression he flipped out because the “punk” didn’t want to stand for the Pledge or the National Anthem or something. Regardless, I think Tim nailed it. The kids probably are punks (involuntary confinement doesn’t help) and the teacher is likely an idiot that can’t be fired thanks to his union contract.

  3. This guy may be Ho-Hum to Tim. And aren’t all kids punks? But I think this he’s more than just an idiot, looks to be about one armpit-fart away from going postal. Perhaps we don’t need to lock him up today, but if this berserker ever attacks anyone, I say the principal, the superintendent, and the whole fucking school-board that let him keep his job is equally culpable.

  4. Anybody else think the idea to ban cellpones was brought up by old people who simply don’t like that the kids have them? I don’t see what the phone could have contributed to the incident.

  5. “I don’t see what the phone could have contributed to the incident.”

    It didn’t. The school doesn’t want the kids to have the option to film the bad stuff the teachers do. I’m waiting to see the teachers union’s take on it.

  6. “one armpit-fart away from going postal”

    Well now I know what today’s phrase of the day is!

  7. Teaching in a public high school is a form of torture – no wonder this guy cracked. He needs sympathy and an extended sabbatical. Oh, and he acted like a complete jerk in the face of some all too normal punkish behavoir.

    I recall that I was a active member of the early-teen punk brigade when I was in junior high and high school. I think I started to act more respectably around senior year.

    Anyway, my 8th grade math teacher, Mr. Olsen, was a great, gregarious guy who simultaneously delighted in teaching attentive, hard working students AND torturing wiseass punks such as myself. He was deadly accurate with a chalkboard eraser from anywhere to anywhere in the room. It was not uncommon for some fool student to be sitting in the back of the room having, what he thought was, a whispered converstation, only to be struck in the side of the head by a speeding eraser that would bounce to the floor in a cloud of chalk dust.

    In today’s world Mr. Olsen would be in jail. My mother’s reaction when I told her about being hit was to ask me “Well, what did you do to deserve it?” – so much for maternal sympathy.

    Give the teachers a paid year off every ten years or so. Expel the unruly students. Tell the child coddling parents to grow the f*%! up and take responsibility for their asshole kids behavior. And if you’re going to ban cell phones you better ban the computers too because the kids are IM’ing each other when they’re supposed to be working on that physics lab.

  8. School is daytime kiddie jail. What does anyone expect? We didn’t evolve for this…

  9. I heard that among his defenders were some students in the class. It doesn’t defend his behavior, but interesting to note.

    Does anyone else remember when pagers and cell phones were banned not due to annoyance reason, but because they were common tools of drug dealers?

  10. “School is daytime kiddie jail. What does anyone expect? We didn’t evolve for this…”

    I can’t remember what the name was, but some chicago charter elementary school meets for eight hours a day, but breaks every 45 minutes for a yoga workout. A little new agey and gay, but the physical activeness seemed to keep the kids in line. Let’s force the schools to evolve to us, instead of the other way around.

  11. Tell the child coddling parents to grow the f*%! up and take responsibility for their asshole kids behavior.

    i have to agree that this is core to the problem. many children are given far too much room to be irresponsible individuals — and, having too little experience with enforcable social expectations of behavior, act like antisocial anarchist malcontents.

    i have to think that in times past, a kid that did something so gratuitously antisocial as that kid did would have been beaten by his teacher, his principal and his parents in succession as an expedient to teaching him what behavior is and is not acceptable. we are, after all, animals — and heraclitus said, “every animal is driven to the pasture with blows.”

    unfortunately, in the age when everyone is a hothouse flower, everyone an artist, everyone an individual inviolate — especially the children! — society is what must suffer as we deny them the direction to the pasture.

  12. Welcome back, gaius marius!

    badius mockerius is waiting somewhere in the wings for you…

  13. I told you anti-jerseyites to watch it. Sadly, to dump on the Garden State is one of the last acceptable prejudices.

    Well, I have to admit that Brick Township is total crap. Pretty much anything North of a line from Manahawkin to Mount Holly is crap. Stupid North Jersey.

    In our HS we had “Rock” Smith who was a marine in the second war. Big dude. He once held a kid upside down by one leg with one arm. That kid pretty much shut up from then on. He scared the hell out of me. Not a bad history teacher, either.

    The french teacher we called “la vache qui fume” was particularly incorrect. There was a “special school” across the street that had a really loud bell. Whenever it rang, she’d say, “les idiots echappent” or some such. She was enormous and stank of cigarettes (and sometimes brandy).

    QFMC cos. V

  14. That was every gym teacher and football coach at my high school–from Boom Boom Michalik to that Cohen guy that played a couple of years for the Lakers back in the mid-60’s.

    Big Effen Yawn.

    And you know what else? When the low riders made Jew jokes that Cohen happened to overhear, he gave them the finger and told them to take a couple of laps. That was the end of it. Nobody called the ACLU. Nobody got kicked out of school.

    Yet another reason to abolish public education.

  15. As long as we’re telling tales out of school, my 9th grade English teacher used to tape my mouth shut every so often because I just wouldn’t shut up. Fancied myself some kind of class clown I guess. Or maybe I was just babbling because she was so freaking hot (I mean, Dude, she was a 10 +, 23 years old, long blond hair……)

    Imagine what would happen to a teacher today if she taped a kid’s mouth shut.

  16. I’m too young to have seen the good old days (graduated HS in ’99). But the best teacher I ever had, in reaction to an unruly class, lit a can of compressed butane on fire and sprayed it out over the class room. Everyone shut up and learned what a mole was. Can’t imagine how he ever got away with that… oh wait he didn’t. He got a higher offer at a private school before they could fire him though.

  17. Whoa whoa whoa.

    TWC, your HOT teacher was taping your mouth closed in class? Fetishy!

  18. Mr Crane, LOL. Fetishy, indeed, but there were far worse things at 14 than being that close to a real woman that was as beautiful as any centerfold.

  19. Cappy, I’ve done something similar with hairspray and a lighter (don’t tell my kids). I’ve got a tad more sense these days.

  20. “Cappy, I’ve done something similar with hairspray and a lighter (don’t tell my kids). I’ve got a tad more sense these days.

    TWC”

    In the classroom?

  21. This is a bit OT, but speaking of “hyperjingoistic douchebaggery,” a popular radio station morning show in my area had some simple-minded greenshirt or jarhead in the studio this morning to remind us that the Iraq war was a success because the U.S. hasn’t been attacked since it began. And I thought, well, we haven’t been hit by giant meteors or invaded by Martians or flying monkeys since the war began, either. Apparently, the war’s been preventing a lot.

    Since Stuart Mantel is a proud patriot who seems ready for some violence, perhaps he, too, should sign up to fight in Iraq. Clearly, he’s no longer into his day job, or it no longer affords the purpose he’d hoped it would. Not that I have any feelings for the smartass kid who got dumped out of his chair. I agree with gaius marius that the sooner the little punk-ass is hectored to his future with blows, the fewer problems he’ll give us later.

  22. Captain Awesome,

    That’s a great suggestion. Maybe they could try something like that in the schools and call it “recess.” I don’t know why they phase that pedagogical tool out of the rotation after sixth grade ….

  23. Another confirmation of my childhood observation that school is just a part time prison.

  24. “but it is clear that public high schools are institutions of involuntary confinement where kids spend the day getting hollered at by idiots.”

    Tim,
    If I gave you 1000 examples of students actually having a good experience in high school with a majority of good, well intentioned teachers that inspired them, would that make any difference in your attitude?

    Teaching is one of the hardest things I have ever done, so it is really refreshing to see so many people dumping on it without providing any real alternatives based on one asshole. Oh, there will be no more money, but here is a bunch of cynicism for you. Maybe that will reduce the amount of students in your classroom.

  25. Cappy, yer making me laugh. That would have been so cool. I mean the hairspray and the lighter IN A CLASSROOM. No, not in a classroom. 🙂

    Zero, like you, I don’t have sympathy for the stud that got dethroned. I think the teacher was over the top too. But here’s my observation/question:

    I can see ignoring the punk while he sulks in his seat during the pledge or whatever it was. Okay, that isn’t that important. But, how do you handle a similar situation with the same kid when it does matter and you, the teacher, get exactly the same crap out of him?

  26. Mark, according to the resident expert on education at Reason Foundation, one of the primary problems in public education is a lack of respect for teachers that is fostered by a lack of support by school administrators coupled with a lack of discipline also fostered by that same lack of support.

    I have two friends who taught high school and quit to teach college because they couldn’t deal with the chaos and lack of discipline at the high school level. I have two other friends who retired early from teaching high school because they were sick of the lack of discipline. Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but I think it illustrates a general problem.

    Don’t get me wrong, I could care less about dress codes, cell phones, school uniforms, et al. But I do believe that every school should be focused on education and you can’t do that without rules, discipline, and respect for the teacher.

  27. But, how do you handle a similar situation with the same kid when it does matter and you, the teacher, get exactly the same crap out of him?

    I’ll throw in my two cents since I spent several years teaching the kids who got thrown out of public schools for all kinds of negative (and often violent) behavior.

    The first thing a teacher has to do is desire a positive relationship with the students. That desire creates a bunch of different approaches towards earning respect (not fear), based on the personality of any given student. If a student is so incorrigible that he can’t follow the rules, then it has to be made clear to him (in a shoulder-shrugging, eternally content, “nothing you do can get to me because I’m just happy to be here” type of attitude) that they have choices. If they make positive choices, positive things happen and vice-versa.

    If they make the wrong choices, then the consequences are completely out of your hands and you move on to the students who want to learn something.

    Unfortunately, a lot teachers think that because they know something, they can teach it. A lot of teachers have a typical civil-servant type of attitude which longs for the weekends and holidays much more than improving the craft of education. And a lot of teachers just plain don’t like kids.

    Okay, that was more like a dime. And I don’t have any change on me. Sorry!

  28. Regarding banning cell phones in schools… I am am 36, back in School full time, at a Community College an hour north of LA. Every day, almost every class,cell phones ring,the 19-20 year olds answer them, while teachers lecture. They check and reply to text messages or get up and walk out of class to “take a call”. It would be funny, in a pathetic way, if it wasn’t so distracting too. So,I understand why they would want to ban them. Cell phone Jammers would be easier though…

  29. “The school told Corey that it “violated the teacher’s constitutional rights” for them to film the teacher without his permission.””

    Huh?

  30. 1. It was Alvin and the Chipmunks’ version of the anthem. Quite cute.

    2. I respect the kid who refused to stand. He was making a statement, no doubt.

    3. Video phones in the classroom almost oblige a kid to play the clown and provoke. Otherwise, there’s nothing worth recording.

    4. They didn’t look like punks to me. What little I could see of them.

    5. At that level, authority comes from the kids. Or should do.

  31. I think these kids are learning a valuable lesson that idiots have power over us, and can force us to stand in deference and swear loyalty to the national collective. To hear their giggling at this lunacy is refreshing.. there is hope.

    I like that punk, too, especially when he slams the door on the way out. You go, dude.

  32. “violated the teacher’s constitutional rights”

    Penumbra right to privacy? I, however, doubt that it extends to the workplace. Dunno what NJ law says.

    I’m surprised we haven’t heard from ever-astute and cynical Jennifer on this subject. Maybe she has PTSD (post-teaching stress disorder) and is just damned tired of telling horror stories.

    Proof that good teachers are sorely needed: the “Heil Furor” comment on the blog. Ja, das ist ein Furor(e) all right.

  33. My Son’s wife quite teaching at public schools after 11 years of being a High School teacher. Made the decision to leave because she no longer felt physically safe and had zero backing from administration. As an aside, she is a very liberal democrat.

    My opinion:
    1.Too many P.C. rules and lawyers.
    2.Learning is no longer the prime reason for children to be in school.
    3.Children will immitate what they see their parents doing.

  34. I teach 10th graders in a rural community, and ya know, I sympathize with that Jersey teacher. Those kids knew exactly how to push his buttons, too. And they are punks, not glorious agents of protest. Apparently the day before, they saran wrapped a student to a desk while a sub was in room, according to http://www.politicalgateway.com/news/read.html?id=3068
    And yet…you have to just suck it up. I would have told the kid that fine, if he did not want to stand, he could sit…in the hall, and I would have carried on.
    Do you think, though, that maybe the teacher was a veteran, and so their attitude was especially bothersome?
    As far as cell phones go, as someone said earlier, they are banned primarily because they are a disturbance. At my school, you can carry them but not use them.

  35. By the way: Firing teachers — at least in Texas — is hard. But “firing” isn’t the only way to get rid of them.

    Teachers have teaching contracts — one or two years, generally. If they’re egregiously bad, you can fire them. (Has to go through the school board — elected nitwits, mainly). If they’re merely “bad” you shove them on admin duty, hire a long-term sub or a replacement, and then don’t renew their contract.

    I don’t know what teacher’s unions you guys rant about, but the one I’ve seen isn’t especially powerful. They can’t even safeguard their own damn pension system from the Leg.

  36. Poco-
    Your PTSD theory is entirely correct.

  37. TWC, the scenario you mention is certainly within the realm of possibility. Kids push buttons because they know they can get away with it; there are no longer any consequences with teeth for disrupting class. Ridiculously, severe consequences have been applied to such non-offenses as carrying Midol or writing horror/violent fiction for English class, while schools will tiptoe around true deviant, disruptive behavior.

    My solution would be to switch that. Restore punishments for those who want to behave like assmonkeys. Does the pimply little punk wanna sit there when he’s told to stand up or leave the room? He wants to waste others’ class time plastic-wrapping some other kid to a desk? Fine, expel his worthless ass. Have him escorted off school grounds by armed security guards. Suspend him for a week and let his parents deal with him each time he acts up. Third suspension, he’s gone; he can enroll in the “special school” next year, but can’t come back to a mainstream public high school. If he’s such a charming, sweet, harmless boy, let his parents enjoy his company.

    Things won’t seem quite so funny when everyone he knows is graduating, and he’s not.

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