Television

Very Bad Ideas: Philadelphia Lets Tony Danza 'Teach' For The Cameras

Tony Danza in New York in May 2009.

Tony Danza is all set to teach in a Philadelphia high school, and you can watch him do it on television. Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

There are as many Tony Danza jokes as there are stars in the sky: Who's The Boss jokes, "Keep On Truckin'" tattoo jokes, accent jokes, '80s-hair jokes, Taxi jokes...let's put those aside.

Those are not the reasons it's a bad idea for him to teach at a Philadelphia high school for A&E's new reality show, Teach. (Yes, this is a real thing.)

Danza has apparently studied education — this isn't something he just came up with. And his on-screen persona doesn't mean he's a dumb guy. The ridiculousness of this idea has nothing to do with that, or with any assumption that having him co-teach a class is going to harm the students or deprive them of an education.

The superintendent says what shouldn't be said, after the jump...

The problem arises from the fact that the Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has said that "this important project will help illuminate the joy, rewards and challenges of one of the most gratifying professions available, a first-year teacher in the city of Philadelphia."

And that is the thing that you know this project cannot possibly do. It might be fun, it might be entertaining, it might provide glimpses of insight into what students are like and perhaps even how they learn. Kids are fun, and weird, and more interesting than they often get credit for. But this project stands absolutely zero chance of illuminating anything about what it's like for anyone other than Tony Danza to be a first-year teacher.

Tony Danza is not in an economic position remotely similar to any ordinary first-year teacher. He is teaching only students who volunteer to be in his class (that's so nobody argues that the school is subjecting unwitting students to reality-show participation). His students are being filmed, making their behavior infinitely easier to control and respond to. He is not an unfamiliar person who has to earn authority from scratch with students who have never seen him before; he is a TV star.

I don't like to be a killjoy about this kind of thing; I love a good behind-the-scenes peek at people who make wedding cakes or work as parking enforcement officers or whatever; I like what you might call "occupational shows." And teaching is 100 percent fascinating enough to support that kind of project.

But the addition of the celebrity throws it completely out of sync. A&E's terrific show Airline, which showed Southwest Airlines employees dealing with delays, angry customers, and lots of other challenges, wouldn't have worked if it had been about Alan Thicke trying to rebook all the passengers to Islip.

There is something that I have to think would be profoundly depressing for an actual first-year teacher about hearing the superintendent tell people that Tony Danza co-teaching students who are volunteering for a reality show is a fair representation of your "joy, rewards and challenges."

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