We’re back to the Land of Ed for this week’s Odd News. Recently, a jury found a teacher guilty of felonious lesson planning. This case sets a new legal precedence for government intervention in the schools and strikes at the very heart of academic freedom.
Sheila Kearns was convicted of showing a movie to her high school classes. Sure, she should probably have been teaching the students something, but it’s common practice for teachers to show movies to students when they run out of material – or when they’re bored – or at the end of the school year – or when they didn’t have time to plan a real lesson – or…
But it wasn’t just that Kearns showed the students a movie, it was her choice of movie that was on trial.
It’s Oscar season and everyone’s a film critic.
The prosecution argued that the movie in question – “The ABCs of Death” – was a particularly poor choice for a Spanish class.
It’s obvious that the prosecutor in this case is not a trained educator. The “ABCs” in the title automatically makes it an educational film – numbers fulfill the same function (28 Days Later, Seven Psychopaths, Friday the 13th).
The prosecutor further argued it was a waste of educational time since the students already knew most of the content from watching basic cable – though he grudgingly admitted that there were one or two horrible ways of dying that were probably new to the students.
Thankfully, this particular Spanish class was all theory and no practice.
The defense countered that the educational content of the film wasn’t in question as Kearns didn’t know what the film was about when she showed it to the students. Kearns testified that she thought it was “The ABCs of D’Eath” – a Spanish-language primer. When asked what she thought “D’Eath” meant, she replied that she didn’t speak Spanish.
Given the violent nature of the film (three jury members threw up in their popcorn), Kearns was asked why she didn’t turn the film off. She shrugged and admitted that she wasn’t paying that much attention. Anyway, if she turned off the film, what would she do with a classroom full of kids?
At this point, questions were raised about Kearns’ eptitude, but the judge pointed out that educational ineptitude is not actually illegal. If it were, the school district that hired a non-Spanish speaking teacher to teach a Spanish class would also be on trial.
The defense was very clear in a press conference following the verdict that Ms. Kearns had not been convicted of showing the movie – the first time – since it was proved to the satisfaction of the jury that she had been merely educationally inept. However, the jury convicted her of showing the film to four other Spanish classes – after she should have known better.
The NEA had been expected take a lead role in this case as the unofficial motto of the organization is “Protect Teachers – No Matter How Incompetent”, but Kearns was a substitute teacher and thus not a real teacher.
“We assume substitute teachers are inept,” said one official “if not, they’d have gotten a job.”
This case was a one-off example and will not lead to teachers having to submit lesson plans for approval by the DoE and the FBI – though it’s not a bad idea just to be safe.
The film’s maker was pleased with the verdict and has released a sequel.
I’m Jae and I’m certified to write this message.