Category Archives: Education

Instant Mini-Train Wreck in Taunton: The Facebook Airsoft Homecoming Photo

Homecoming photo

From ABC:

1. The photo was beyond irresponsible and stupid, and looks more so in the wake of the recent school shooting. It’s creepy, Bonny and Clyde-ish, and the caption, “Homecoming 2014,” could be reasonably seen as a threat.

2. The fact that the guns were Airsoft replicas is irrelevant. My son left one of his Airsoft rifles in a car outside our house, and a virtual police S.W.A.T. team showed up. These toys are close enough to the real thing to be threatening.

3. Generally, punishing students for what they say on Facebook exceeds a school’s authority, but not in a case like this.

4. The punishment is wildly excessive. No threat was intended, no weapons were brought on school grounds. The kids broke no laws. They just used terrible judgment.

5. They needed to get a lecture, an assignment, and maybe a suspension of a single day. Hitting them with ten days and possible expulsion is just typical anti-gun bias and hysteria.

________________________________

Pointer: Jeremy Wiggins

10 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Education

Cowardice, Censorship And Betrayal At Maiden (N.C.) High

Almost Maine

Here is a strong candidate for teacher/blogger Rick Jones’ annual Curmie Awards on his blog Curmudgeon Central. He recognizes the most despicable conduct by teachers and school administrators, and while this year’s award may go to some fourth grade teacher who sets autistic kids on fire, I know he will share my disgust at this story.

The theater club at Maiden High School in North Carolina was in production of John Cariani’s newly-popular stage dramedy “Almost, Maine,” a series of vignettes about bittersweet love and romance. A brief scene touches on a budding same-sex relationship, and this so worried school administrators that before green-lighting the production, Principal Rob Bliss and Catawba County Schools Superintendent Dan Brigman decreed that every student wishing to audition or assist with the production must turn in signed parental permission letters. Only one student was prevented from auditioning through this screening process, and production commenced. The club to reserved the rights, rented the scripts, cast the parts and began rehearsals.  The local churches learned that that the show contained (Ewww!) gay people, and the school abruptly reversed course, cancelling the production. Principle Bliss issued this weasel-worthy statement:

“In regards to the request for students to perform the play “Almost Maine,” careful review and consideration was given to the contents of this play. The play contained sexually-explicit overtones and multiple sexual innuendos that are not aligned with our mission and educational objectives. As principal of Maiden High School, I have an obligation to ensure that all material, including drama performances is appropriate and educationally sound for students of all ages.”

He did not mention that the production had already been approved, and that he and the school caved to community censorship by right-wing bullies, intolerant religious jerks, or local jerks who didn’t have the resources to go to New York City and picket “The Death of Klinghoffer.” He had one, and exactly one, response available to him once complaints began rolling in from anti-gay, anti-same sex marriage citizens of fair Maiden. It would be this... Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Government & Politics, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions

The U.N.C. Scandal Accountability: No Punishment, Just “It’s OK…Just Don’t Do It Again”

Oh…and don’t get caught next time.

"BAD University! BAD! OK, that's over---keep on doing your lazy, sloppy job for obscene tuition fees...."

“BAD University! BAD! OK, that’s over—keep on doing your lazy, sloppy job for obscene tuition fees….”

Has the NCAA taken serious action against the University of North Carolina for 18 years of outrageous academic fraud? No.The organization placed the school’s football program on three years’ probation and banned it from the 2012 postseason, but that punishment was for other infractions too. Indeed, it is likely that the revelations about the fake courses credited to athletes and others resulted in no athletic sanctions at all. The NCAA’s position is that this is an academic rather than an athletic scandal. Funny, I seem to recall Penn State getting walloped with massive sanctions from the NCAA because it allowed an ex-assistant football coach to continue molesting little boys. That was a sick organizational culture scandal, and had nothing to do with the players on the field at all.

What would be a proper punishment for 18 years of allowing student athletes to play basketball and football while taking fake courses? I would say the forfeiting of  every game played in by one of those fake students, and 18 years of being banned from inter-collegiate competition. Perhaps then what laughingly calls itself an institution of higher learning might begin to take steps to ensure that its diploma is worth the paper it’s printed on. Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Sports

Ten Questions Regarding The U.N.C. Fake Courses Scandal

fake classes

Have you read about this astounding scandal at the University of North Carolina?

From the Times story:

Wednesday’s report, prepared by Kenneth L. Wainstein, a former general counsel at the F.B.I. and now a partner at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, found that between 1993 and 2011, two employees in the university’s African and Afro-American studies department presided over what was essentially a “shadow curriculum” designed to help struggling students — many of them Tar Heels athletes — stay afloat…More than 3,100 students, 47.6 percent of them athletes, were enrolled in and received credit for the phantom classes, most of which were created and graded solely by a single employee, Deborah Crowder. Ms. Crowder was a nonacademic who worked as the African studies department’s administrator and who told Mr. Wainstein that she had been motivated by a desire to help struggling athletes.Some of the classes took the form of independent study courses in which the students never met the professor; others took the form of lecture courses in which the classes were supposed to meet at specific times and places but never did. Over time, Ms. Crowder was joined in the scheme by the chairman of the department, Julius Nyang’oro, who became the professor of record for many of the fake classes. Mr. Nyang’oro retired in 2012, after news of the scheme came to light.

From CBS: Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Race, Sports

Pop Song Ethics Flashback: “Why Do They Always Say “No?” by Lawrence Cook and The Jim Dandies

It probably isn’t the winner in the Ethics Alarms quest to identify the most unethical pop songs, but the 1949 ditty “Why Do They Always Say No?” is one of the most instructive nominations. The fascinating and essential feature of ethics is that our understanding of right and wrong evolves, changing and advancing with wisdom, cultural debate and reflection. This song is a tuneful reminder, arriving at our attention just as the culture, especially on campus, is struggling over exactly the dilemma the song celebrated. In 1949, however, literally no one thought about romantic or sexual gamesmanship as an ethical issue, or at least not a momentous one.

Have a listen (It’s on the B side of the record pictured, and starts playing at the halfway mark):

The lyrics are credited to Harry Pease, Frank Davis, Ed G. Nelson and Billy Glason. Only the latter has much of a footprint on Google, and none of them rate a Wikipedia entry. I doubt that it took four guys to write this song: It’s not exactly “A Day in the Life.” Glason (b. 1904) was probably the author. He shows up in the Encyclopedia of Vaudeville as a “singing comedian,” known for devising new punchlines for ancient  jokes, such as

Q: “Who was that lady I saw you with last night at that sidewalk cafe?”

A: “That was no sidewalk cafe! That was our furniture!”

Pease, Davis, and Nelson were all musicians, though it’s also hard to imagine that the elemental tune required three collaborators. The lyrics are more disturbing read than heard:

Why do they always say no
When they know they mean yes all the time
You ask a girlie for a kiss or two
She’ll let you know that’s something I don’t do
How can they tell such a lie
And still look you straight in the eye
Whenever they say no to you go right ahead
Cause it’s 10 to 1 that they mean yes instead
Oh, why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time

Why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time
You start to love them and they pout and fret
Down in their hearts they want all they can get
What keeps them acting that way
They don’t mean a word that they say
A girl that said she’d never marry me
She’s the mother of my happy family
Why do they always say no
You know they mean yes all the time

Why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time
You ask your girlie for a kiss or two
She’s lets you know that’s something I don’t do
How can they tell such a lie
And still look you straight in the eye
Whenever they say no to you go right ahead
Cause it’s 10 to 1 that they mean yes instead
Oh, why do they always say no
When you know they mean yes all the time

You know they mean yes all the time.

“You know they mean yes all the time.”

Sure you do.

_________________________

Special thanks to my volunteer scout Fred, whose wife found this piece of musical ethics archeology.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire, Popular Culture, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

When A Reality Show And A Self-Promoting Billionaire Are More Trustworthy Than TIME, American Journalism Is Seriously Ill

astrology

This week’s print TIME and the magazine’s website has a story titled “Astrologer Susan Miller On Why You Should Pay Attention to the Lunar Eclipse.” The TIME writer, Laura Stampler,  promotes the astrologer as if she was Nate Silver,  a reliable, respectable expert in a legitimate field  who has something to teach us. Susan Miller is not a reliable, respectable expert. She is an astrologer, meaning that she is as legitimate as a palm reader, a douser, or the Amazing Kreskin. She is a fraud, in a fraudulent field, however ancient or popular. There is no scholarly controversy about this. There is more evidence of the existence of Bigfoot, Nessie, ghosts and flying saucers than there is that astrology is more than pseudo-scientific claptrap. Continue reading

17 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Science & Technology, The Internet

Free Speech vs. Ethics: Goddard College and the Cop-Killer Commencement Speaker

Next gig for the Cheshire home invaders: Commencement honors at Goddard?

Next gig for the Cheshire home invaders: Commencement honors at Goddard?

Convicted  cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal was the commencement speaker at Goddard College, in Plainfield, Vermont today, having been chosen by graduating students. He is a controversial figure, convicted in the 1981 slaying of Officer Daniel Faulkner, sentenced to death, and eventually sentenced to  life in prison without parole after a long legal battle.  Abu-Jamal’s speech was prerecorded by Prison Radio and broadcast.

Goddard is not your typical college. It is liberal/radical even by current college standards. Students design their own curriculum. It holds 20 commencement ceremonies each year so students in each degree program can have personalized graduations. Abu-Jamal, himself a political radical, received a bachelor of arts degree from the college in 1996, completing his coursework by mail. Before the killing, Mumia was a member of the Black Panthers. While imprisoned he has become a cultural icon to the radical left as an activist against institutional racism.

As you would expect, a lot of people have problems with Mumia receiving this honor. Maureen Faulkner, the widow of the officer killed by Abu-Jamal, condemned Goddard’s decision.The Vermont Troopers Association issued a statement saying that it was “ outraged that Goddard College is hosting a man who shot and killed a police officer.”  But Goddard is proud as punch that its students chose the convicted murderer. Said the acting President:

“As a reflection of Goddard’s individualized and transformational educational model, our commencements are intimate affairs where each student serves as her or his own valedictorian, and each class chooses its own speaker. Choosing Mumia as their commencement speaker, to me, shows how this newest group of Goddard graduates expresses their freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that.”

Well, that’s one way of interpreting it. Or, we might justly conclude that the graduates of Goddard have been taught to have contempt for decency, justice, law enforcement and the legal system, and since they admire murderous criminals, might see nothing wrong with being one. Ask me if I want to hire anyone with  a Goddard degree. Go ahead. Ask.

Naturally, defenders of Mumia’s honor think it is perfectly acceptable because it embodies the principle of free speech. I’m not sure it does….not at all. Unpopular speech embodies free speech. Encouraging popular and offensive speech by someone who is not worthy of emulation embodies bad taste, dubious values and anti-social priorities. Show me that Goddard students would welcome speeches by Ted Cruz, Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney, and then I’ll accept that the campus is supportive of free speech.

Meanwhile, why stop with Mumia? Why not have that Isis guy who beheaded the American journalist speak at commencement, with his hood, of course? Surely that would expresses graduates’ freedom to engage and think radically and critically in a world that often sets up barriers to do just that. How about the Cheshire home invasion killers, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who raped the family’s young girls and mother before burning their house down around them? If it’s free speech to allow the scum of the earth speak at a commencement, if someone is crazy enough to want to listen to them, let’s really go for it.

That doesn’t make it right, however. All allowing Mumia to speak at commencement shows me is that the students are exercising their rights to promote freedom of expression, and doing so in a context and manner that is less dignified, justified, respectful or reasonable than having the honor delivered by a circus performer who communicates in farts, Carrot Top, or Honey Boo Boo. It shows me that the culture created by Goddard is toxic, and that the students who graduate from there without sufficient resistance to its influence will range from useless to annoying to dangerous.

Their parents must be so proud.

________________________
Sources: Washington Post, Huffington Post, Philly

30 Comments

Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights