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Volume 27, Number 5
September/October 2011

Good Teachers (the Movie You Will Never See)


It all began with a trip to the cinema to see Cameron Diaz in her new comedy, Bad Teacher. It was a bad choice, really. But what can I say? My editor was curious.

Not a great flick, but as a parody of bad employees, in terms of things that can get you fired—drugs, alcohol, cheating, foul language, inappropriate sexual behavior—Ms. Diaz slams pedal to the metal. You’ve probably heard: she nips out of the airline booze bottles hidden in her desk, smokes a bong in the parking lot, hands her bra to a seriously uncool kid to improve his street cred, and steals the answers to state tests.

Firing offenses? Sure, but “bad” teacher? Hmmm. Not quite. A bad teacher is different than a lousy role model. A bad teacher is someone who fails to teach, someone more like say, the teacher I had in third grade who lazed through an entire year with mimeographed worksheets and spelling tests, ignoring with equal disinterest those breezing through the too-easy work and those staring in despair at the sheets of problems.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.