School House to Penthouse-Notional Standards


“I simply modelled for some photographs in my role as a model, not as a teacher. ..Even if I was teaching I do not believe that you or the NZTC has any right to impose Victorian moral opinions on my life outside the classroom.”  Struck off former teacher Rachel Whitwell to Radio New Zealand.

“Teachers registered to practice in New Zealand are committed to the attainment of the highest standards of professional service in the promotion of learning by those they teach, mindful of the learner’s ability, cultural background, gender, age or stage of development…
The professional interactions of teachers are governed by four fundamental principles:
Autonomy to treat people with rights that are to be honoured and defended,
Justice to share power and prevent the abuse of power,
Responsible care to do good and minimise harm to others,

Truth to be honest with others and self
Application of the Code of Ethics shall take account of the requirements of the law as well as the obligation of teachers to honour the Treaty of Waitangi by paying particular attention to the rights and aspirations of Māori as tangata whenua…”  NZTC Code of Ethics*

Chefs can be naked but out of work teachers must keep buttoned up when in both the public and private eye.

A former Auckland teacher has been deregistered after posing nude in Penthouse, a glossy magazine  for which there is probably no great pent up demand these days, displayed (coyly wrapped, unlike the former teacher) at a wide range of non-porn shops.

I haven’t done any recent research but the mag is probably all rather tame in an age when dubious digital video vice can be delivered free to your own device if and when you like.

Rachel Whitwell was investigated by the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC) after a member of the public complained her actions had brought the profession into disrepute.

Ms Whitwell was featured in the New Zealand and Australian editions of Penthouse in various states of deshabille including totally clotheslessness. Apparently one picture showed her draped over an old fashioned school desk, though this was surely a political statement about antiquated furniture in an antiquated education system.

Teacher registration was introduced in 1990 and certifies that a teacher is satisfactorily trained, qualified and suitable to be a teacher and provides the assurance to future employers, parents and the public that the requirements for registration have been met.*

In the context of this case the NZTC’s Code of Ethics makes interesting reading, though its layout on the official website is a bit dodgy and the content stilted.*

At the time of the photo shoot Ms Whitwell was not pedagoguing but practising a new career. Her new role as a model was not quite the kind of role model required by the NZTC. The more censorious would label it bare-faced effrontery, if not bare-fronted non self-effacery. In the wake of some other recent teacher scandals others might regard it as a bit ho hum.

Mrs Grundy is still alive and if not well well at least on life support, doing her best to uphold Notional Standards: quite an achievement in the face of social change.*

We can understand Marilyn Monroe not being actively recruited into the teaching profession after her debut Playboy appearance in 1953. The year before Monroe had faced a possible scandal when one of her nude photos from a 1949 session was featured in a calendar some years later. She gave an interview in which she discussed the circumstances that led to her posing for the photographs, and the resulting publicity elicited a degree of sympathy for her plight as a struggling actress*.

No such slack was cut for a possibly struggling would-be teacher nearly 60 years later. The news reports do not explain why Ms Whitwell was not teaching at the time of her photographic foray and whether the absence of a teaching job led to a search for saucy sources of alternative income.

Hugh Hefner first let his rabbits loose five years after the groundbreaking Kinsey Report on male sexual behaviour.  Kinsey’s companion female work was about to be released and both Masters and Johnson’s work on female sexuality and the later Hite Report were still in the dim future. (To answer sensitive questions dealing with the most intimate details of women’s sexuality, Hite’s evidential approach was simple if somewhat anecdotal: she simply asked lots of women everything about their intimate lives and published the results).

Ms Whitwell is no doubt in a class of her own prancing with the would-be stars and demonstrating that she is a teacher pet-(or is that HH’s publication?).

Even if her Penthouse appearance has resulted in a photo finish to her short teaching career at least  it does help clarify the distinction between sex education and sex training. Now that prostitution is legal, though not yet compulsory, do secondary school careers offices have brochures on sex-working and the pathway training courses leading to it? Are there unit standards? How are meritorious or excellent qualifications attained and who does the assessment?

SE is, of cuorse, nowadays an old fashioned term. Post-Hite the term is Sexuality Studies, which some would see as a rather un-DIY gender orientation programme*.

In submissions to NZTC’s complaints assessment committee, Ms Whitwell said Penthouse was a lawful publication and she had done nothing illegal. She said she had not been working as a teacher for about a year when she posed for the photographs. She said that she had no idea the magazine would highlight her previous work as a teacher. “I take on a lot of different modelling assignment, this was one of them. I’m not the editor of that magazine, I didn’t decide to put that content in,” she told Radio New Zealand.

Ms Whitwell said she was not interviewed by the magazine and the article’s quotes were the product of editorial licence.   (The magazine had quoted Ms Whitwell as saying: “I am submissive in the bedroom because during the day I have to be in control in the classroom.”) This may have unfairly indicated that Ms Whitwell was not continuously capable of administering discipline, a drawback in today’s whiteboard jungle.

NZTC found Ms Whitwell’s actions constituted serious misconduct, reflecting badly on her fitness to be a teacher and the profession as a whole. It ordered that, as she’d already been self-defrocked, she be deregistered and pay costs associated with the disciplinary process.

It’s a moot point whether the foray into the glossies which cost her a teacher’s licence was licentious, unwise though the homework may have been from a professional perspective.  As an ex-licentiate she is not taking the NZTC’s decision lying down and plans to appeal it.

As an alternative to de-registration perhaps the Council could have simply added the information to her file and let future potential education employers, if any, draw their own conclusions after looking at all her assets.

It is all very tricky territory. What if between teaching contracts she had been working in a legalised brothel?  She could have then sold the movie rights to To Madam with Love. It could have been a lulu, with or without any resulting hullabaloo.

Part-time or previous career choices and full-time life-style choices are a cv swamp for educators.  We recently had a Minister of Education with a same sex partner who also happened to be both a school principal and the chairman of his partner’s electorate committee. Neither fact seemed to cause many eyebrows to be raised although the second, at least, certainly merited discussion.*

There are a range of lifestyles, religions and philosophies represented in the teaching force and, as a cross-section of society, that’s perfectly proper. But it’s harder to define the improper. One example could be teachers involved in sexual relationships with pupils. There were some recent cases involving both male and female teachers. Are any still registered, albeit with their licences endorsed?

Some wish the NZTC was as quick on the draw getting rid of incompetent and otherwise unsuitable teachers as they were in handling Ms Whitwell’s case. It is obviously easier to deregister teachers not currently teaching and more difficult to get rid of the incompetent still in harness.

Working out how to weed out the pedagogically imprudent, impudent and incompetent will exercise the mind of the NZTC. Learners at all levels deserve only the very best. The real challenge is the attraction, selection and retention of quality teachers. There needs to be some big changes in the current teacher recruitment process, preceded by strategies to attract more top people  into the selection pool in the first place.

In the meantime this Pre-Appointment Test For Aspiring Teachers may help. Sample questions (exemplars to follow:)
PATFAT Part C   English (and Irish) Lit.
1. In one short sentence explain how The Playboy of the Western World is similar to the Penthouse of the western world.
2. In an even shorter sentence (txt spk k) explain the difference between Abbey Theatre, Dublin  Abbey Road, London and Westminster Abbey.
3. Which of the following is not a musical item?
A. Synge
B. Singer
C. Song
4. Why?
5. Do you have any naughty photographs, like Kate Middleton’s sister does, on Facebook?
6. If so:
a. either provide evidence so we can assess any moko in terms of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
b. or be-Friend me at (Facebook user name supplied.)

*BLINKS  Young women: No dating, thanks, just sex.

#Lyall Lukey 8 May 2011 My other (bit more serious) blog 


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