As 2011 winds down, virtually everyone is compiling end-of-year lists, polls, and the like. Ever the pack-follower, Curmie can’t resist getting in on the act. Inspired by the Censorious Asshat of the Year voting over at Popehat, I have decided to award the 1st Annual (Maybe) Curmie Award.
Here are the rules. Unlike the folks at PolitiFact, I agree to present the coveted honor to whomever my readership selects. Of course, I choose the nominees, so I do have more say in the process than any other individual does. And I also get to decide the category. Being a professor, I have a natural interest in all things related to education.
So: The Curmie is awarded to the person or institution who most embarrasses the profession of education.
There are two further stipulations. First, the nominees will all be people I’ve written about in the past year and the events in question must also have occurred in 2011 (this leaves out, therefore, the Silsbee High brain trust who saw fit to throw a cheerleader off the squad for refusing to cheer her rapist by name, as the actual events happened prior to this year; the lawsuit made news this year, but the case is a couple years old). I also acknowledge that some folks will have slipped through the cracks while I was in rehearsal or whatnot.
Second, the transgressions in question must be directly related to the profession, to someone acting in an official capacity: junior high teachers who sleep with their students are abhorrent, but there’s nothing about that act that links directly to education. That there are unethical teachers is not news, and the same person might initiate a similar relationship with a child s/he knows through church, Little League, or the neighborhood.
I have narrowed the field to the eight candidates I consider most outstanding. There are no write-ins. If you wish to comment, please do so here rather than at the Facebook page. You may vote for as many nominees as you choose, although I ask that you not vote for the same candidate more than once. (I suspect the poll app at Blogger isn’t able to shut down multiple submissions from the same person. Please don’t try to find out.) The poll will be up for a week, with a winner to be announced in early January. So: there are the rules. Don’t like ‘em? Fine. Write your own damned blog.
I compiled a list of well over a dozen perfectly reasonable nominees. It was quite difficult narrowing the field, and I do apologize if your (no doubt worthy) favorite got left out. But after some thought, I present the nominees for the 2011 Curmie, in the order I wrote about them:
Dean Linda Ammons and Widener Law School, for threatening the job of law professor Lawrence Connell because he had constructed an obviously hypothetical story about killing the dean, accusing him of racism and sexism because the dean happens to be black and female.
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld and the rest of the Trustees of New York University, for overstepping the largely ceremonial function of Trustees in such matters and overturning the selection of Tony Kushner for an honorary degree on the grounds that the Pultizer Prize-winning playwright was insufficiently supportive of Israel.
David W. Rasmussen of Florida State University, for allowing Charles Koch’s foundation to have veto power over faculty hires in exchange for a grant, then claiming there are no repercussions to his program’s academic integrity as a result.
Dwight Probasco, Principal of Wasilla (AK) High School, for caving to pressure “from at least one parent” and (initially) suppressing the Symphonic Jazz Choir’s rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” because it was written by a gay man. He… erm… changed his tune when the ACLU got involved.
The administration of the University of Missouri for censuring two faculty members and pressuring one into writing a letter of resignation based solely on an obviously edited video compiled by serial prevaricator Andrew Breitbart: a tape which was (of course) subsequently proven to have been maliciously edited to show something quite the opposite of what actually happened. (By the way, even if the tape were accurate, the administration should have backed the faculty.)
Thomas Fleming, Superintendent of Schools in the Richland School District in Pennsylvania, for shutting down an upcoming high school production of Kismet (of all things!) because the characters are Muslims.
Police Chief Lisa A. Walter, Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen, and the rest of the gang at the University of Wisconsin-Stout for threatening to arrest (!) theatre professor James Miller for having an utterly inoffensive poster on his door, then lying about whether they’d censored him or not.
The unnamed teacher at Mercer County (KY) Intermediate School who thought that cramming an autistic 9-year-old into a bag intended for gym balls was an appropriate form of punishment.
So there you have it, Gentle Reader. Make your voice heard! The poll box is in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Polls close at 2:10 pm CST on January 5.