How Power Explains Itself

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Tek Young Lin was an English teacher at the Horace Mann school until 1988. He estimates he had sex with his students, putting the numbers at "three, I don't know."


Here is how he discusses the topic:

"The only thing I can assure you of was that everything I did was in warmth and affection and not a power play," he said. "I may have crossed societal boundaries. If I did, I am sorry."

Lin goes on to justify the encounter claiming that it was all "casual and warm," and that times were different. To be sure, at least one of the students agrees--and then another ended up in therapy. 

He told The Times:

"Delusional might not be the right word," said the man, grappling with feelings of disappointment and anger. "But to not have the awareness that there's a built-in power dynamic with a teacher and student?"

I've gone into Discipline and Punish, a book I really need to finish. (I read really, really slow.) But this Lin's language is so familiar to me. One can't simply say "Yes, I abused my power because I was sexually attracted to my students." There has to be a pretense of fairness. I remember getting jumped as a kid. Without failure the crew had to invent some sort of justification, a pretense of fairness and morality where there wasn't one.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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