Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sexual Predator Teachers: 1) Not Funny 2) Epidemic 3) Now What?

Child rapist teachers! LOL!

Two nights ago, Tonight Show host Jay Leno included in his monologue a joke about Christine McCallum, the Brockton, Mass. teacher convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old boy over 300 times. Jay can make jokes about whatever he wants, but the fact that we are laughing about this kind of conduct by teachers rather than asking hard questions and insisting on some accountability for the schools shows how tolerant our society is of a supposedly essential institution and a once respectable profession that have both fallen into rot and ruin.

In 1996, when Mary Kay LeTourneau was revealed to have made an undereage student her lover and fathered a child by him, it was national news. For me, it was the first I had ever heard of a teacher abusing her power and profession to that extent. This month alone, March 2012, I have counted thirteen such cases making the local news across the country, including McCallum, and I’m sure I missed some. I’m also reasonably sure that for every one of these cases that get prosecuted, many more are covered up or never discovered at all. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

It’s You, Keith.

The news that The Angry Man of the Self-Righteous Left, Keith Olbermann, was fired by Al Gore’s Current TV was hardly news at all, since most of us had entered a pool on when Olbermann would get jettisoned from his latest gig. The predictable episode does have an ethics lesson for all of us, however, that involves the virtues of accountability, humility, honesty and contrition.

Olbermann, true to form, attacked his former employers and blamed them for his exit, writing  via Twitter…

“…I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV. Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract. It goes almost without saying that the claims against me in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.”

This, of course, is not really an apology. It’s not an apology when your message is, “I’m sorry my employers are unethical slobs who didn’t appreciate the excellent job I was doing.

Keith Olbermann has either been fired or quit under acrimonious circumstances in engagements with, count them, five broadcast organizations: ESPN, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and now Current TV. This, despite being obviously talented and often getting excellent ratings. Olbermann is a smart guy, and yet even now, his reaction seems to be, “Why, oh, why, do people keep treating me so badly?”

It’s you, Keith! Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Journalism & Media, Professions

The Principal Who Helped Gaby Rodriguez Fake Her Pregnancy Just Won “Principal of the Year.” The Frightening Thing Is, He Might Have Deserved It.

Note that it says "Principal." It doesn't say anything about "principles."

I received this news from Ethics Hero Harris Meyer, the journalist who has been trying to preserve some semblance of integrity in his profession by reminding it what ethical investigative journalism is not, through his efforts to rebut the praise for Gaby Rodriguez, the high school student who deceived her family and classmates by pretending to be pregnant as her senior project. The news: Trevor Greene, the principal who helped devise Gaby’s unethical stunt and assisted her in lying to the rest of the school, has been named the state’s top high school principal by the Association of Washington School Principals.

He received this  honor, the release says, by virtue of his organizing a system of student-teacher mentorships, and guiding the school’s effort to expand and improve its science, technology, engineering and math curriculum. The fact that he also mentored a student in a blatantly unethical exercise that was, as I wrote in my original post about Gaby’s scam, Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Professions, Research and Scholarship

Ethics Flashback: A Letter From Kurt Vonnegut

Mr. Vonnegut

[From the lovely website Letters of Note comes the memory  of this, a letter sent on November 16, 1973 to the Chairman of the Drake, North Dakota, School Board by the late author Kurt Vonnegut. The Chairman, Charles McCarthy, (a name evoking, appropriately, both the rights-flattening Senator of "Have you no decency?"  fame and the dummy) had been outraged that a teacher at the high school had used Vonnegut's classic novel, "Slaughter-House Five," in class, and with the support of his board, saw that all the copies of the book purchased were burned in the school's furnace, followed by others that he deemed "obscene." Vonnegut, whose novels teem with ethical themes, especially the importance of kindness, learned about the book-burning from news reports, and wrote the following correspondence.

Apparently he received no reply.]

“Dear Mr. McCarthy:

I am writing to you in your capacity as chairman of the Drake School Board. I am among those American writers whose books have been destroyed in the now famous furnace of your school.

Certain members of your community have suggested that my work is evil. This is extraordinarily insulting to me. The news from Drake indicates to me that books and writers are very unreal to you people. I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Citizenship, Education, Literature

The Curse of Michael Steele: The Republican National Committee’s Shameful, Outrageous Supreme Court Lie

Michael Steele, when he was its Chair, brought Republican National Committee operations to a new ethical low that might have been favored by Michael Corleone. He never did anything this despicable, however, perhaps because he was replaced just as he was getting warmed up. Or maybe, just maybe, it was because even Steele knew that some political tactics were just too despicable to engage in.

In a web ad circulated this week designed to attack the health care reform law, the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation to the Supreme Court by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, defending the law’s constitutionality. In the ad, he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water. “Obamacare,” the ad concludes, in words shown against a photograph of the high court. “It’s a tough sell.”

The transcript and recordings, however, give a different impression. Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period and completed his thought — rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the ad. In short, the tape was edited by the RNC to misrepresent what occurred inside the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is a lie, and a particularly heinous one, even by political ad standards, which are a cut below Shamwow and the Fishin’ Magician. Even by Michael Steele standards—he who twice approved fundraising appeals disguised to look like U.S. Census documents. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Quote of the Day: The Editorial Board of the Washington Post

“Sadly, even before the sessions on health-care reform had ended, some liberals were preemptively trying to delegitimize a potential defeat at the court. If the justices strike down the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, they said, they will prove themselves partisan, activist and, essentially, intellectually corrupt. We share in the disappointment that the justices on both sides of their ideological divide are, for the most part, so predictable. That’s not, in the ideal world, how judging is supposed to work. But we also think there’s a kind of cynicism, or at least intellectual laziness, in asserting that this is an easy or obvious call — that no justice could possibly strike down the mandate out of honest, reasoned conviction.”

The Editors of the Washington Post in this morning’s superb, balanced and fair editorial entitled “Civics Lesson From

the Supreme Court.”  The Post leaves no question that it supports the individual mandate as necessary—at least now, after the fact of

"Biased political hacks!! The ones who disagree with us, that is..."

Obamacare’s passage into law—because “no American should go without health care, and that society as a whole should be willing to pitch in toward that end.”  But the editors also properly chastise the cynical and cowardly political calculations by the bill’s supporters that placed the constitutionally-dubious mandate in the position to jeopardize the whole law, as well as criticize the unethical phenomenon that Ethics Alarms discussed here-–the preemptive effort by Democrats and their pundit allies to blame the rejection of Obamacare, if it occurs, on “judicial activism” and political bias by the conservative justices. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

What A Race! It’s A Thrill A Minute With Roseanne Barr Lapping Spike Lee As The Biggest Celebrity Dunce in The Trayvon Martin Ethics Train Wreck!

An earlier classy career high for Roseanne...mocking the National Anthem.

And you thought Spike Lee had established an unapproachable low point in celebrity, self-indulgent, arrogant irresponsibility by trying to tweet George Zimmerman’s address (all the better to get him killed), and inadvertently siccing the sickos on an elderly Florida couple who were minding their own business? How charmingly naive of you! For remember, no matter how ignorant and unethical a celebrity may be, there are always, always, bigger, more ethically clueless jerks and fools with an entry in Wikipedia and an itch to get back in the limelight.

A celebrity like…Roseanne Barr! She lapped Spike’s mean-spirited Twitter idiocy in his own chosen medium by… Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Race, The Internet