Perhaps my favorite trope of the X-Men has been gifted students in a boarding school. Behold:
Tropes like mutants thought dead in the Australian Outback years, stopping threats before they fester like Remender’s X-Force run, or the more recent Cyclops as guerrilla revolutionist have been fine editorial directions for the X-men, but the halcyon years of the X-Men comics were those that revolved around the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, located in Westchester County, NY.
Xavier’s school was dedicated to helping young mutants fit in in a world that hated them, while also helping them learn to use their considerable powers. The mansion turned school was part of the inheritance of Charles Xavier, but he them outfitted it with some very superhero(y) stuff like a hidden Blackbird jet hanger, a Cerebro unit for telepathically locating mutants, and the famed Danger Room, the holographic training room of the X-men.
Professor Xavier’s first student was the 11-year-old Jean Grey (Marvel Girl), who had been traumatized when she telepathically experienced the emotions of a dying friend. Later, Xavier brought young Scott Summers (Cyclops) into the mansion, then recruited three more students, Bobby Drake (Ice Man), Warren Worthington III (Angel), and Hank McCoy (Beast). Together these 5 students formed the original X-Men.
Then in the 80s, a whole new team of New Mutants were enrolled. What is interesting is that with each of these students, Charles Xavier assumed a sort of foster parent relationship with them. Cyclops, for example, the comics regularly and consistently touted Charles Xavier as his father figure.
But was Charles Xavier a good parent to these young mutants?
First, let’s check on of these mutant’s real parents. Professor Xavier was in the business of raising other people’s children for them, but we don’t blame those kids’ parents for sending them to the Xavier School for the Gifted.
On the contrary, we are pleased that these children’s parents recognized their own inability to offer their mutant children the guidance they needed as they learned to cope with and control their powers. We are understanding that the parents were willing to sacrifice a close parental relationship with the kids in order to give them the best opportunities available. What did they know about raising a mutant child, you know?
In the real world, parents who give their children to the state or a relative are often judged harshly for failing as parents. While there are surely less virtuous reasons for giving up one’s parental responsibilities–selfishness or laziness, to name just a couple–in some cases, placing one’s biological child into hands you know are more capable than your own can be the best and bravest thing a parent can do.
That’s a story as old as Moses and the bulrushes.
Professor Xavier and His Horrible, Terrible, No Good Parenting Skills
Unfortunately, it turned out that Professor Xavier showed he had horrible, terrible, no good parenting skills. Let’s look at the evidence:
- First, Professor X was extremely paternalistic and parochial. Despite entrusting the students with the responsibility to save the entire Earth (many, many times over), he regularly talked down to them. Further, he hypocritically would ask for their trust, yet commonly kept damaging secrets from them. When Kitty said that Professor X was a jerk, she wasn’t wrong.
- Second, he didn’t exactly keep them safe. I’m not sure what the death rate is for boarding schools, but I bet they don’t lose as many students as Charles Xavier did. I’d do the math here, but let’s just say it’s BIG NUMBERS when if comes to dead mutants. Luckily, it’s comics so they come back to life, but still, Xavier shouldn’t have been trusted with caring for children.
- Thirdly, your parents might have been brainwashed into sending you there! In Uncanny X-Men 131, Jean Grey used her psychic powers to brainwash Kitty Pryde’s parents into allowing her join the X-Men. Even though Jean was the Dark Phoenix at the time, you’d still think a powerful telepath like Professor X should pick up on things like this.
- Fourthly, your teachers at Xavier’s school might be supervillains. It’s at least a 137% chance that someone at the school is unwittingly in cahoots with brainwashing supervillains like Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, Onslaught, or the Shadow King. At let’s not forget that Xorn completely bamboozled Professor X.
- Fifthly, Xavier has famously used students for self-serving gains. The depths of Xavier’s hypocrisy just kept getting depthier in the comics. Perhaps the worst offense was Xavier brainwashing his original students, making them forgetting about early teammates who were lost in action, including Cyclop’s brother. But the offenses are much more common than that: Xavier routinely was self-serving in his needs, but rationalized it with his students.
- Finally, do they even transfer degrees? In mean, is it a real school? Do you get like a diploma and stuff? IDK.
Raising a mutant child is tough. We shouldn’t be hard on parents who don’t know what to do when their child shoots beams out of their eyes, blasts like a cannonball, or phases through walls. It’s understandable they sought help.
But what’s in question is if Charles Xavier was the right person to turn to for help.
What do you think of Professor X’s parenting skills? Drop in on our Nerds on Earth-616 Facebook Group and take a side!