On Horace Mann

This is an incredible article (though a tough read) about sexual abuse at Horace Mann. There are a few really good things to note–how the grooming plays out, the mixed feelings survivors can have, how a cult of personality can develop around the abuser, and even how the abuser justifies his abuse by framing it in the context of his larger actions, which are about helping the child.

But the thing that really struck me is how not only was nothing done, there was just a sense that there was nothing that could be done.  Even the guy in the story who’s all like “It was the 60s” is bumping up against a truth. There has been a massive cultural shift about what children should be expected to tolerate and what white men could do without criticism.

But it also kind of explains why all these institutions are getting hit with all these accusations now–the paradigm has shifted. Sexual molestation isn’t considered “a sad secret thing that inevitably happens to some children, but what can you do? It was a white dude with authority.” anymore. Now it’s widely accepted as wrong.

But it must be strange for those white dudes with authority, who don’t seem to have realized that our culture is tired of them abusing our children (at most) or failing to protect our children from their peers who abused them (at least) and that we’ve changed.

This, honestly, is a good example of how white male authority as wielded in our culture is so damaging to white men, too. It’s a pyramid scheme. Shut up and endure it and some of you will get to be put into positions where you can force others to endure your fucked-up-ness. But, of course, there aren’t enough positions for all the kids fucked with. And no consideration of how damaging it is to fuck with kids. The bargain it demands men strike is one that hurts men.

And now the reckoning is here.

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3 thoughts on “On Horace Mann

  1. I read that today and it’s been hanging around in the back of my mind ever since, like the smell of smoke. The shadow that one man cast is so lingering, I can feel its pull today. I would’ve been a sucker for that as a teenager.

    Those poor boys. The one man, at the end, with his pig. The suicide. The guy whose life never really “worked” after that.

  2. Jess, that’s what I think is so important about this article–it really tries to get at the ways this shapes a person’s whole life.

    But also, the more I think about this, the more I think it’s important to make something explicit that is just lying there implicit in the story.

    For child molesters–like all rapists–the pleasure they take is in the suffering of their victim. This is the kind of sex they like–with someone who cannot give them a “no” they’ll respect.

    To me, that was really obvious when the dude dismissed the suffering of student after student of his as them just being dramatic nuts or unhinged from other things. Even if nothing sexual had happened between them (which, let me be clear, I don’t for a minute believe), a teacher with a student who develops an unhealthy fixation on him who then goes on to suffer from it and maybe commits suicide, is going to be deeply bothered by it. A normal person who has consensual sex with someone and accidentally hurts that person is going to be deeply bothered by it.

    I know I’m making a rather broad generalization, but I really believe that only someone who enjoys the suffering of others could be so easily dismissive of it, especially in his own students.

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