Can teachers joke about how dumb students are? Can they joke at all?

I can be a smart aleck — or so said the nuns who taught me in high school. I restrained that impulse when I taught college classes. I figured out quickly some students are uncomfortable with humor so I avoided quips that could be misinterpreted or perceived as a personal dig.

Greene County High School history teacher and basketball coach Cory Hunter is in the center of a storm after calling a student the "dumbest" he had ever met.

Greene County High School history teacher and basketball coach Cory Hunter is in the center of a storm after calling a student the “dumbest” he had ever met.

I wish I could give Greene County history teacher Cory Hunter the benefit of the doubt as I’d prefer to think his outrageous comments were a poor attempt at humor rather than abject cruelty.

But there is no doubt Cory Hunter crossed a dangerous line when he told a 16-year-old student in December, “You might be the dumbest girl I’ve ever met in my life, and I have been around for 37 years and clearly you are the dumbest girl that I have ever met.”

If that wasn’t inappropriate enough, Cory Hunter then told Shaniaya Hunter, “You know what your purpose gonna be? To have sex and have children because you ain’t never gonna be smart.” (The student and teacher are not related.)

In a MyAJC.com story, AJC reporter Ernie Suggs said Cory Hunter was known as a joker.  Suggs reports, “…at the beginning of each school year, he makes a peculiar announcement: “He says, ‘I like to joke, so if you can’t handle that, get out.'”

Now, Hunter is out. He resigned Monday night.

Suggs visited Greene County and wrote a story for MyAJC.com on the community’s reaction to the teacher’s comments, which were recorded and heard around the world. Shaniaya Hunter had been recording the history lecture on her iPad because ongoing retina problems made it hard for her to see the blackboard.

The release of Cory Hunter’s comments has sparked criticism of him and the district for not immediately firing him from all corners of the world. “Nasty bully…caught out by quick thinking of one of his victims. Guess she’s smarter than him! Technology is great isn’t it,” wrote a United Kingdom reader in the Daily Mail.

But Cory Hunter has supporters in his corner:

Last Friday, Reid’s Haircare was as busy as you would expect a salon to be going into the weekend. Vickie Cosby, the shop’s longtime owner, took a needed break from doing someone’s hair to weigh in on the controversy.

“I think we are getting a one-sided story and not hearing everything, ” Cosby said. “It is a very unfortunate incident and I feel bad about it. But if they lose Cory, they will be losing a great teacher. I like Cory.”

“It certainly was wrong, but at the end of the day he should not be fired, ” said Lillie Tripp, the pastor of Apostolic Faith Kingdom Life Fellowship Ministry in Hancock County. “His comments were wrong, but something had to (have) happen(ed) before she pressed record.”

But Katrina Breeding, a local attorney who was one of the first black students to integrate Greene County High School in the 1960s, isn’t buying it. “I am trying to figure out a delicate way to say this. But for historical reasons, we as blacks feel compelled to support people who look like us because we have been denied so much. It goes back to slavery and being oppressed, ” Breeding said. “But he needed to be fired and it should have happened sooner. If not for social media, the press and the attorney, it would not have happened.”

 

Reader Comments 0

32 comments
jerryeads
jerryeads

What the guy said was just plain mean. Period. 

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

Sadly.........these kids are being left behind for a false trophy!

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

You people are just silly! Students are out of control! A little honesty would improve education in general. If these kids get any more entitled......just skip the seat time and give them a diploma at birth. 

Teacher bad..... student perfect!!!!!HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHH  

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@OriginalProf @JBBrown1968 Can't say I do or don't. I don't know either one! I do know if it drives that student to greatness! He did his job! It's a results defined job! Just read this blog! He has more interaction with her than you or I !!!!!!!!  

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@JBBrown1968 @OriginalProf 

According to a follow-up AJC article, it's driven her parents to a lawsuit and it's driven her to being bullied by her classmates. And he doesn't have "interaction with her" anymore, for he's been fired. And this incident will probably follow him if he looks for a new teaching job. Huzzah!

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

Greene County School System seems to be experiencing strange days reaching beyond just this Cory Hunter matter.

The school board has five members, three Black, two White.  Just a few months ago, for seemingly unknown reasons, the three Black school board members up and decided to fire the superintendent, who is White.  Then, just as abruptly, the Greene County Sheriff retires and then immediately the school board hires him as their new superintendent.

About the superintendent the board fired, he seemed what Greene County needed.  Last year it was my pleasure to sponsor his no-strings-attached attendance at The Deming Institute's internationally attended First Annual Deming in Education Conference 2015 in Seattle WA with the hope, and only the hope, he would come away from the conference at least knowing it’s possible and very practicable to lead Greene County School System onto a never ending journey of continual quality improvement.  He did not disappoint. 

In addition, it was such great news when I learned each of three Greene County High School young ladies’ essay entry in the First International Environmental Youth Symposium 2015 had received recognition.  I took this news as an example of what the then superintendent meant when he said “great things are beginning to happen in Greene County.”  So, in line with the student’s apparent interest in the environment, I passed to the then superintendent three copies of the book “Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update” to, in turn, give a copy to each student without any expectations for anything in return.

Now what’s really distressing is that the then White superintendent had wanted to “bring a bus load” to The Deming Institute’s Second Annual Deming in Education Conference 2016 that will be held in Atlanta later this year.

So I am just puzzled to no end why the three Black school board members of Greene County would, seemingly on a whim, vote to fire their superintendent who had become aware of how school systems get to be among the best – for example, Leander Independent School District, Leander, TX – and was working and leading with that aim.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

According to the printed AJC article, Hunter reportedly warned his classes that he liked to "joke." What he clearly meant was that he liked to insult. 


What he said to this student in front of his class is infuriating to me as a feminist, now a  white retired professor. I can think of a few former female colleagues, black and feminist and about my age, who would have taken on this black male "educator" with relish. They sure wouldn't have supported him because he "looked like [them]."

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

There is no way a teacher should ever speak to a student the way that man did.  As a teacher, I was taught never to berate a student. Never to be sarcastic.  Kids that age do not usually understand it. You are just asking for trouble.  Now the man has paid for it by losing his job. Good. 

redweather
redweather

"There but for the grace of . . . " is what I thought when I first read this story. Have I ever told a student he or she is dumb? No. But when students ask questions midway through the semester about something that has been covered in the syllabus since day one, I have used creative and humorous ways to let them know that they are not being real bright. 


As for humor, it can be a very effective teaching tool as long as you realize that not everyone is blessed with a sense of humor. Some students are very slow on the uptake. The language and nuance of wit might as well be a foreign language. They just don't get it. I could even say the same for some of my teaching colleagues who seem to think they must be "very serious people" all the time.


Finally, I suspect this student went into this meeting hoping to get something recorded that she could use against him. She had probably told her mother about things Cory Hunter said, who then advised her to get something "on tape."  That doesn't absolve him, but a set up is a set up.

redweather
redweather

@MaryElizabethSings @redweather I must respond to your personal attack, which you've always condemned others for engaging in. I would also note that never once in the hundreds of posts I've read that were authored by you have I seen any evidence that you possess a sense of humor. None. Nil. Nada.

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf @redweather Wait, I thought this occurred during a one-on-one meeting with the student. I will obviously have to go back and look at the original story.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @OriginalProf 

There's been a follow-up AJC story.  The student has since experienced bullying from the other students in the class. He apparently also made fun of her vision disability, which is why she was using the iPhone in class.


This is NOT a guy you want to stand up for!!

redweather
redweather

@OriginalProf @redweather Although I am not standing up for this guy, I think humor has its place in the classroom, which is the question this blog article asks. In this case, the teacher went way over the line.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather 

According to the printed AJC article, the class was discussing slavery and abolition, and this student asked the teacher who Sojourner Truth was. Then the teacher launched into his diatribe against her. I don't see any "humor" at all in what he said to her.

class80olddog
class80olddog

The picture should have a caption noting that Cory Hunter is the one on the right.  AJC has a policy of leaving out race, but this is a case of a black teacher making insensitive remarks about a black student.  This is not a white-black issue.  Same as the "discipline of black students" issue - it is mostly black teachers doing the disciplining.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog 

I agree about the necessity of the caption, for this is a male-female issue of gender discrimination, namely extreme sexism.  It reminds me of the bad old days back in the 1970s when feminists were busy "raising the consciousness" of those who saw all women this way.

Jeanne Lurie
Jeanne Lurie

I am a secondary math tutor . As I worked with a student on a topic many find difficult he told me that his teacher said " If you don't understand this explanation it is because you are stupid." When I mentioned this remark to another student at a different school she said, "Oh, my teacher says things like that all the time." Wow. What is funny about calling students dumb?

TormeyPaul
TormeyPaul

@ajc they joke at great risk. The don't-offend-me left has become the very 'thought police' the free-speech left used to warn about.

redweather
redweather

@TormeyPaul @ajc What is so absurd about this is that the stuff passing as commentary and humor online is so over-the-top that one wonders if anything can or should be considered offensive.

TormeyPaul
TormeyPaul

@ajc comedy proverb: They crack wise at great risk. The don't-offend-me left is now the very 'thought police' the left used to warn against

CSpinks
CSpinks

Students should  NEVER  be the butts of teachers' attempts at humor. "Laughter is the best medicine" but not when generated at a student's expense.

redweather
redweather

@CSpinks Humor typically is "at someone's expense." That's what makes it funny. It is very easy to poke fun at students without singling out particular students. The "butts" usually figure it out.

Virginia Swearingen Stephens
Virginia Swearingen Stephens

I got scolded for reading. Passages from "It All Started With Columbus" ,y first year teaching in 1959!!

ugatree
ugatree

@ajc not only are most students dumb. they are p^$$!€$ that can't laugh at anything b/c their feelings might get hurt. Grow a pair!

CSpinks
CSpinks

@ugatree @ajc "(U)gatree," I don't blame you for declining to affix legal name to your comment.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@CSpinks @ugatree @ajc 

This student is female. I always wonder when a poster scornfully says, "Grow a pair!" (my, how incredibly witty!)--a pair of what? Breasts? ovaries?