How Power Explains Itself

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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