When I was in school we boys used to sing a silly rendition of "On Top of Old Smoky" in which "we shot our poor teacher with a .44 slug." Today, if a student sang that childish ditty, he would be immediately expelled and ordered to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
Then again, in my day students and teachers were not expected to be the 1970s equivalent of Facebook friends. Real teachers couldn't have cared less about their students' self-esteem and they certainly weren't interested in providing entertaining, interesting activities. Like any good German schoolmaster (which mine were), they cared mostly about order and discipline.
So I was surprised to hear that so many students at Parkway North (Mo.) High School were upset that one of their science teachers was placed on administrative leave. Why weren't these students overjoyed?
The educator of whom I speak, Tera Myers (a.k.a. Rikki Andersin), recently informed her principal that some 15 years ago she performed in 11 "adult films." And not the art housey adult films that star Vincent Gallo and Chloe Sevigny performing real sex acts on screen, but the porny "lacking artistic merit" kind.
Apparently, Myers was approached by one of her students about her back catalog. It's unclear whether this future lawyer was trying to blackmail her, or just wanted an autograph. Either way, the jig was up. (The same thing happened to Myers -- then known as Tericka Dye -- five years ago in Kentucky.)
The school board found itself in a tough spot. Teaching high school students is hard enough without 17-year-old boys making moaning sounds every time your back is turned. On the other hand, there was no evidence Myers did anything unlawful. It is perfectly legal to act in adult films -- unlike prostitution, which is illegal -- because no one is aiming a camera lens at your crotch.
There is a reason school districts perform rigorous background checks on potential employees. Because they are entrusted with our impressionable children, teachers are rightly held to a higher moral standard than, say, congressmen and carnival barkers. Even the most trivial incident in a candidate's remote past often disqualifies him or her for a teaching post. Certainly this is the case at the better schools.
PARKWAY NORTH IS one of those better schools. Therefore the district has opted not to renew Myers' contract, claiming she'd be a "distraction" to students. On the other hand, I bet truancy rates would decline precipitously.
One St. Louis talk show host was apoplectic over the district's actions. Jamie Allman was outraged that schools often allow gays and lesbians to teach, but not former porn stars who have, ostensibly, turned their lives around.
Did I mention that Ms. Myers claims to have found Jesus? Her support comes not only from evangelicals, who relish redemption stories about lost lambs being found, but from the community at large. Even pop television guru Dr. Phil McGraw once encouraged Myers to "just keep fighting, keep moving forward." Others see her story not as a cautionary tale, but as a heroic triumph over adversity.
Feminists, too, support Myers, portraying her as a victim of the evil male patriarchy. It's a claim Myers seems to embrace with her standard sob story about how she appeared in her first porno at 22, while a homeless mother of two, after being abandoned by a no-good boyfriend.
The former Army MP freely admits she made a series of bad choices, which she blames on an alcoholic father, growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, and bi-polar disorder. One of those dumb choices was to major in secondary education, knowing she'd have to live in constant fear that a student would come across one of her films. You would think someone who graduated top of her university class would be smart enough to take up a relatively anonymous career like computer science or accounting. Myers, however, seems addicted to thrill-seeking, high-risk behavior (bad boy boyfriends, military service, adult films, and high school teacher/volleyball coach with porn film history).
Myers insists that as a woman who has overcome adversity and dumb choices, she could be a role model for her students.
That's exactly the problem. A lot of parents don't want a former porn queen as their daughter's role model. If nothing else, Myers has taught her students an important lesson: the choices one makes in the bloom of youth will follow you around the rest of your life. I can think of no more important lesson for the Facebook Generation.
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