Teacher vs. student: An ancient relationship gets turned on its head

Teacher vs. student: An ancient relationship gets turned on its head

(Flickr/Shan Ran)
The power dynamic between teachers and students has changed in recent years. What was once a teacher as leader, student as folllower relationship has switched, something many have credited to the turning tides of technology, when the personal life of teachers is so easily accessible to students who once knew little about this person they see daily.

The Paper Machete co-founder Ali Weiss Klinger brings us this story of teacher vs. student that’s just the latest in this long string of students triumphant. Read an excerpt below or listen above:

“High School Student Files Lawsuit Over C+ Grade in Chemistry”

Let’s stare into the inkblot of that headline. What we see there likely stems from our visceral reaction as Americans to the legal system, the education system, and nerds.

A DJ in Seattle tweeted it best: “Bowen Bethards, 17, has sued his chemistry teacher after she gave him a C+. I think we can all agree that Bowen is probably a virgin.”

Yes, some kid suing over his grade is one of those rare stories upon which we can all agree.

That’s probably why it made national news last week, sprouting from the pages of the Albany, CA, Patch to the sun-drenched Huffington Post, wherein the intertubes rose up like a thousand lawn spinklers to douse it with nutritive hate.

From professors at overlwayered.com to chem students at gamespot.com, commenters spewed forth faster than Mentos in a bottle of diet coke.

Here’s what we know. Soon-to-be High School senior Bowen Bethards, through his mom Lauren as guardian, has filed a Federal lawsuit against the Albany, CA, school district, the superintendent, the Albany High Principal, and his former chemistry teacher, for upwards of $10,000 due to a C+ grade she gave him in chemistry when he was a sophomore.

Bethards has since transferred schools, and the teacher, a veteran of more than 30 years, has slipped away on a leave that will blend into her retirement.

Before we go any further: What do we believe now? What does “30-year veteran teacher” mean to us now?

Cast your mental movie at this point. What actor is currently playing the chemistry teacher? It’s Bryan Cranston, right? A season one, still sympathetic Mr. White. Even if you don’t watch Breaking Bad, trust me, this is who you’re picturing. An overqualified, disgruntled, under-dressed professional who’s had enough with this funny business.

As one 20-something in New Orleans tweeted after reading this headline appparently: “I will lose all respect for @UCLA and [UC San Diego] if Bowen Bethards gets in. We don’t need another entitled brat being glorified and rewarded.”


The Paper Machete is a weekly live magazine at the Horseshoe in North Center. It’s always at 3 p.m., it’s always on Saturday, and it’s always free. Get all your The Paper Machete Radio Magazine needs filled here, or download the podcast from iTunes here.