Horace Mann has been in the news lately. A few weeks ago there was a New York Times Magazine report revealing that 20 years after I left, at least three teachers were sexually abusing their students. Now there is a follow-up story reporting that Tek Young Lin had sex with some of the boys in his classes.
I never knew, or even suspected, that aspect of him, but in retrospect I am not entirely surprised. What also does not surprise me is that he appears in this story far less abusive than those usually reported on. We read of a couple of people who do not feel harmed by what happened, and one who reports that Mr. Lin took No for an answer. Where the earlier story brought tales of traumatized lives, this one has textbook material about "unequal relationships."
When I was at Horace Mann, everyone knew that same-sex relations were bad; the only question was whether the perps should be imprisoned or just cured. Now everyone knows that adult-teen relationships are bad, particularly in schools, which I have to admit is a lot less irrational. Maybe Mr. Lin was harmful to some of those he was involved with.
And maybe he was good for some. There are a number of men my age who are deeply grateful that when they were teens, an adult man showed them that they were not The Only Homosexual in the World, and gave them ways to express their forbidden feelings. I am told the current approach to sanity in these matters means that such adults are no longer needed. It would be nice to think so.
But I believe that in many cases it didn't make that much difference. In Time Enough for Love and later books, Robert A. Heinlein noted that a lot of teenagers experiment with same-sex acts (sometimes with a teacher or scoutmaster) and most are neither traumatized nor converted.
For a long time I felt guilty that I had never written to Mr. Lin to express my gratitude for the knowledge and inspiration I acquired from him. I have now done so.