Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The DOE Murders

I'm a huge fan of whodunits. One of my all time favorites is Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders. It's about a sociopath who tries to collect an inheritance through murder. To throw the police off, he convinces a man who suffers from headaches that he is a psychopathic killer.

I mention it because I made one of those text-to-world connections that we're constantly telling kids they have to make and which take all the excitement out of reading. In the book, the immortal detective Hercule Poirot is disdainful of the murderer because he tries to pin it on the man with the headaches, who will forever have to live with the guilt of crimes he did not commit. The line that jumped out in my memory was when Poirot claimed the crime was not sporting, indignantly saying, "To catch a fox and put him in a box and never let him go! It is not le sport!"

I was reminded of that line when I had a talk with a teacher at my school. He has been U rated for the last three years. No one seems to know why. He seems competent, at the very least. Certainly he keeps his students in order and they learn from him. Yet, he keeps getting U's on his annual review. He is headed for his fourth U this year, because he has already collected a nosegay of unsatisfactory observations. I asked him how he had escaped the rubber room, given this litany of stinkers from the administration.

"I'm too useful," he replied. "They keep me around as a kind of warning to other teachers, that it can happen to them. It keeps teachers scared. If they sent me to the rubber room, I'd be out of sight. They need me as a reminder to the staff that they'd better not step out of line."

As I said, from what I can tell, he seems like a good teacher, so I think he may be right. They could have sent him to the rubber room on incompetence charges a year ago, but they didn't. They will U rate him again this year, and offer him us as an example of what happens to recalcitrant teachers.

It's a disgrace, really. If they guy is incompetent, they should charge him, and if not they should leave him alone. They caught themselves a fox and put him in a box and they plan never to let him go. All part of a sequel to Christie's classic, called The DOE Murders, in which no one is killed but someone's soul dies a little bit every day. Hopefully, this installment will never make it to your school.

As Poirot would say, "It is not...le sport!"

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