The Angle

The Angle: Beware the “Cool Teacher” Edition

Slate’s daily newsletter on the changing Supreme Court, teachers with bad boundaries, and Kendrick Lamar’s new album. 

Teacher’s coolness quotient not recorded. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston, circa 1899. 

Library of Congress

Less than a month after the death of Antonin Scalia, Dahlia Lithwick sees many signs that things are quite different at the Supreme Court these days: Dow Chemical settling an antitrust appeal rather than pursue it further; a gun-rights group dropping its effort to challenge a New York State gun-control initiative.

“There’s … a growing sense among conservative interest groups and litigation shops that the good times and rich bounty of the old Roberts court are no longer on offer,” Lithwick writes, “and that it may be better to cut and run than stick around and lose.”

Donald Trump’s recent statements about war, punishment, and torture have horrified Will Saletan, who groups and lists some of them to make the argument that, as the candidate rises, we are witnessing “an enlightened nation descend into barbarism.”

On retribution: In November, “[Trump] told a crowd in Ohio that waterboarding extracts useful information from terrorists, but that even if it didn’t, he would approve it, and ‘more than that,’ because ‘if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway, for what they’re doing to us.’ ” On hostage taking: In December, “Trump repeated that terrorists ‘care more about their families than they care about themselves’ and that he ‘would do pretty severe stuff’ to a terrorist’s wife.”

I’ve begun to expect that at the end of any given panel or lecture I attend, some audience member will hop up and deliver a speech during the Q&A, possibly prefacing his mini-oration “This is more a comment than a question …” Dave Levitan investigates the phenomenon, asking a few experts in human behavior why (oh, why). “I found that several psychologists offered up explanations for the practice that painted the practitioners in far better light than I could ever muster,” Levitan writes. “Can you blame people for being engaged?”

The response to A. Hope Jahren’s recent New York Times editorial on the sexual harassment she has witnessed in STEM educational settings and workplaces made Christina Cauterucci wonder why anecdotal stories about inappropriate sexual relationships in school often describe the teacher in question as “cool,” “popular,” or “well-liked.” “Of course, #notallcoolteachers are sex offenders,” Cauterucci writes. “The difference between a cool, appropriate teacher and a cool, creepy teacher lies in how he treats different kinds of students.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Carl Wilson loves Kendrick Lamar’s new album Untitled, Unmastered. “A few days after the album’s Thursday-night appearance, it’s too soon to lay bets on which of these tracks will stick most, but not too soon to say there are no true duds among them,” Wilson writes. “Lamar seems to be in one of those rarefied pop zones—the Dylan-in-’65 zone, the late-2000s-Lil-Wayne zone, fill in your idol of choice—that means he probably could generate a couple of albums a year without much letdown.”

For fun: Dig through a database of Victorian trash

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