Burt Prelutsky

Down through the years, there have been a great many movies in which school teachers have been portrayed as decent and hard-working, even heroic. Just a handful that come to mind are “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Holland’s Opus,” “This Land is Mine,” “Up the Down Staircase,” “Good Morning, Miss Dove,” “Cheers for Miss Bishop,” “The School of Rock,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Blackboard Jungle,” “Stand and Deliver” and “Dead Poet’s Society.”

But when it comes to college and university professors, they tend to be portrayed either as comical buffoons (“The Nutty Professor,” “Monkey Business,” “Son of Flubber,” “The Absent Minded Professor,” “It Happens Every Spring,” “Horse Feathers”) or as petty, demented and, often as not, alcoholics (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “People Will Talk,” “The Squid and the Whale”). In fact, the last time I recall a movie about a professor that any normal person would wish to spend time with was the 1948 release, “Apartment for Peggy,” and even in that one, Edmund Gwenn spent most of his time planning to commit suicide.

Feeling, as I do, that most professors, aside from those teaching science or math, are over-paid, under-worked, left-wing narcissists infatuated with the sound of their own voices, it makes perfect sense that it would be nearly impossible to make a movie about them that wasn’t a slapstick comedy.

One of the things that makes them particularly offensive is their hypocrisy. Although everyone of them would insist that tenure is essential -- not because it guarantees them a secure livelihood just so long as they don’t burn down a dormitory or give a star athlete a failing grade -- but because it ensures them the right to voice unpopular, even unpatriotic, opinions. The truth, however, is that, more often than not, they’re the bullies censoring free speech and punishing with low marks those students with the gumption to speak their own minds.

Just the other day, I read about a student here in L.A. whose professor called him a “fascist bastard” and refused to allow him to conclude his remarks in opposition to same-sex marriages. Although I am aware that this betrayal of the First Amendment occurs regularly in classrooms and lecture halls all across America, the reason I’m aware of this particular case is because the student, Jonathan Lopez, is suing. When Lopez, a devout Christian, asked his professor what grade he was getting for his speech, he was told to go ask God!

So, on college campuses, it’s okay to ridicule a student’s religious convictions, but not to voice an objection to homosexual marriages.