Superintendents across the nation are meeting in emergency session to draft memos to educators laying down the parameters for accepting gifts from students and their parents during this holiday season. In Boston the value of the gift may not exceed $50. That’s certainly more reasonable and realistic than the prohibition by Chancellor Klein a few years ago in which a gift of $5.01 or more would need to be returned.
Fresh from ripping the upholstery off the Polar Express, superintendents/chancellors and other educrats of exalted title have redefined contraband as any token of love, gratitude or holiday cheer, worth over an arbitrary retail value, gifted to teachers.
They seem to regard teachers as more prone to corruption than is the general population and assume that they must be protected from their impulse to put their soul and job on the line for a silk tie. In some districts, anything in excess of a slice of cherry pie must be returned to the sender.
It has become the calling card of many bosses to assume the worst of teachers’ judgment. Of course there must never be favoritism shown to students on any basis, including the offering of gifts, but teachers already know that and parents respect that. There’s no need to doubt their honor or motive, either in sending a gift or in receiving one.
There is no crisis of integrity befitting a strict ceiling on gifts. It’s not about bribes or currying favor.
And how are teachers supposed to appraise gifts anyway? Do we send them a flyer admonishing them to attach original receipts to gifts? Do we snip the ribbon and ravage the wrapping paper in view of the kid so that it can be returned without delay if you suspect extravagance? Was the merchandise on sale? How do you know whether it is a designer item as labeled or a knockoff?
Thankfully the City of New York has lightened up a trifle over the last few years in this single small, isolated area, at least. But holiday spirit alone cannot sweep away the awareness, of which we are relentlessly reminded, that some of the DOE’s policies are the stuff of some not too pretty heavy satire.