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'The Simpsons' Take On Rubber Rooms

Did anyone watch "The Simpsons" last night? (That's a question that was more commonly heard on Monday mornings 10 years ago. But yes, the show is still going strong.)

The 22nd season's finale began with a pointed—but not-so-timely—education-policy spoof.

Bart's teacher Mrs. Krabappel slaps Bart in the face and is consequently sent to the "teacher holding facility." There, teachers who have been suspended from the classroom for a variety of reasons collect paychecks while sitting from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. with, gasp, no cell phones or wi-fi (and they have to keep their shoes on!). The writers portray it as a possum-infested jail for teachers. The superintendent tells Mrs. Krabappel her hearing is scheduled for 57 years down the road. ("It was going to be 60," he says, "but I moved it up because I like the way you torment [Principal] Skinner."). Mrs. Krabappel eventually breaks out of the room with Bart's help.

Maybe Matt Groening just got around to reading Steven Brill's August 2009 New Yorker piece about New York City's rubber rooms. But the episode is less funny because, as of April 2010, such facilities no longer exist in NYC.

As it happens, Joel Klein writes about the end of the rubbers room in his divisive recent article in The Atlantic. "Before we stopped this charade—unfortunately by returning many of these teachers to the classroom, as the arbitrators likely would have required—it used to cost the City about $35 million a year," he notes.

It's a bit too easy to rail on "The Simpsons" these days, but I have to say the writers could benefit from at least staying up-to-speed in their commentary.

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