This article is excerpted from the Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal.
Each issue of the Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal is published by
High Plains Arts and Sciences; P.O. Box 620604, Littleton Co.,
80123, a Colorado Non-Profit Corporation, under a Public Domain
Copyright, which entitles any person or group of persons to
reproduce, in any form whatsoever, any material contained therein
without restriction, so long as articles are not condensed or
abbreviated in any fashion, and credit is given the original
IN GRANDMOTHER'S LAP
by The Spinster Aunt
After last month's excellent article [from Earthrite BBS --
Ed.] on the duties, responsibilities and qualifications of a High
Priest/High Priestess, let's talk about those of a teacher.
In the wonderful ideal world, where all women are wise and
beautiful, all men strong and sensitive, and all children are
uniformly adorable, teachers would all be stable, secure,
ethical, reasonable, and open to their students. In those
circumstances, they would be fully aware of the powers and
drawbacks of their position.
The primary power/drawback is "expert power." Sociologists
describe this as the power derived from the powerful one's
perceived expertise, knowledge, and understanding, which are
superior to and not shared by the one attributing the power. At
its worst, this can lead to "white coat syndrome", where experi-
menters in white coats were able to persuade naive subjects to
push a button which supposedly gave a stronger and stronger
electric shock to another experimental subject; even after the
other subject's voice was heard groaning and pleading for mercy.
Not just a horror story--it really happened.
At best, the teacher's expert power leads to a desire on the
student's part to develop into another such powerful person, who
knows what to do and how to do it, and that desire makes students
study hard and really work on their development. But even then,
this will induce feelings of admiration and awe in the student
which can make him/her easy prey for an unscrupulous instructor
-- think of Aleister Crowley.
This leads to two guidelines. For the teacher, don't
borrow money from your students unless you're prepared to really
sweat to pay it all back. Don't attempt to get sexy with them
unless it's a serious, love-affair, honorable situation --
they're really vulnerable to you, and the karma of sexual abuse
is heavy stuff. There are bound to be some "taking advantage"
situations that aren't, really...many students will want to bake
you cakes, help paint your roof, or clean out your garage, and it
can improve their self-esteem and give them a lot of good
feelings to let them. But by and large, if you wouldn't want to
see your little brother or sister doing it for Bhagwan Shree
Rajneesh, don't let your student do it for you.
For the student, you need to be aware that a lot of your
feelings of "Gee you're wonderful to know all that" are for the
knowledge, not the person. Admiration sex can be a big thrill,
but not if you later find out it's a thrill shared by all your
fellow students. If you wouldn't do a particular favor for a
friend/neighbor/sibling, why would you consider doing it for your
teacher? The worst that will happen if you say "No, I don't
think I want to do that", is that the teacher will fire you --
and if this person is unwilling to work with you unless you "come
across" in some way their ethics may not be what you want to
emulate for yourself.
It's also necessary to look at the fact that all this can
work in reverse. Teachers need their students in order to keep
on being teachers. Students also can borrow money/insist on
sex/demand favors, and their very vulnerability makes them
powerful. The teacher can fall into going along with whatever
the students want without noticing it, and thus do a disservice
to both him/herself and the student.
Most of these issues never arise between students and
teachers in the real world, but the potential is there, and both
parties need to be aware and to take responsibility for their own
choices. They also need not to judge hastily, and that means
saying "Hey, I may have mis-heard you, but I feel like you're
trying to ........ and I'm not comfortable with that." Bet you
that four times out of five the response will be "No, I wasn't"
or "I was, but it's not a big deal, let's drop it.", and you can
go on from there. Honesty about feelings is highly recommended,
and fosters trust and good feelings in both teachers and
Feedback is rewarding, people. Did this article annoy
you/enchant you/bore you? Do you have questions, concerns,
suggestions, topics you'd like addressed? Please send your
comments, etc to Grandmother's Lap c/o R.M.P.J. -- it gets
lonely communicating with the void.
The Spinster Aunt
.......from RMPJ, Oct. '86