Category Archives: Education

Sixth Grader Lauren Arrington Is No Plagiarist—This Science Fair Ethics Train Wreck Is Adult-Engineered

You know, it's really all YOUR fault!

You know, it’s really all YOUR fault!

Florida sixth grader Lauren Arrington found herself a sudden media star when her science fair project was featured on NPR, CBS, and other media outlets for allegedly breaking new ground.  Rather than rub hormones on chicks or build models of volcanos, Lauren’s project focused on the Indo-Pacific lionfish, a troublesome invasive species that is causing ecological havoc in ocean waters along the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean. The NPR story, “Sixth Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists,” was typical: it quoted Lauren’s “Eureka!” thusly…

“Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean. So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ “

Gee, I wonder why a 12 year-old girl was thinking about that? Well, it seems that her father, Dr. Albrey Arrington is the executive director of the Loxahatchee River District, and has been involved in lionfish research. Not that there is anything necessarily unethical or unusual about a parent suggesting a science fair project to his child that is in that parent’s own area of expertise, or even providing access to resources for the child to accomplish the project, but as we will see, Dr. Arrington set his daughter up for trouble she couldn’t possibly understand. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Education, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Senator Walsh’s Plagiarism

Walsh (top); Paul (bottom) "Whooo are you? Who, who, who, who?"

Walsh (top); Paul (bottom)
“Whooo are you? Who, who, who, who?”

U.S. Senator John Walsh (D-Mt) has an obligation to resign.

He was never elected to office;  Montana Governor Steve Bullock appointed him to fill the vacant  seat of Max Baucus, who resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China. Though he was Montana’s Lieutenant Governor at the time, Walsh’s primary qualification for the job was his military record and honors, including a master’s degree at the U.S. War College. The New York Times revealed this week that Walsh’s  2007 thesis, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” was substantially plagiarized, copied from other sources without attribution. Now the War College is investigating to determine whether Walsh’s degree should be revoked.

If this happened to a partner at a law firm, he would be fired. If it happened to a professor at a respectable university, he would be terminated. When it has happened to high ranking corporate officers, they have usually been forced to resign. The importance of honesty and trustworthiness to the duties of a U.S. Senator are more important than either of these.  Moreover, the fact that he could not complete an adequate 14 page thesis ( I am still reeling that the War College hands out masters degrees for such paltry work) without stealing the word of others does not inspire faith in his abilities as a lawmaker. Walsh has an obligation to resign.

Instead, he has been making lame excuses and rationalizations, and encouraging others to lie for him. He and his supporters are calling this  “a mistake.” Using someone else’s work to make up 25% of your masters thesis and taking credit for it is not a “mistake.” It is proof of a deficit in character. Had his plagiarism been discovered when he submitted the paper, he would have been kicked out of the masters program, presumably. The military is especially strict regarding dishonesty and dishonorable conduct. Would he have been appointed  if that had occurred? Presumably not. At least I hope not.

Flailing to find an escape, Walsh has played the veteran pity card, suggesting that the plagiarism may have been the result of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It doesn’t matter why he plagiarized, though this seems like a particularly slimy excuse. He plagiarized. His current credentials, which were among the factors that got him nominated, were based on a lie. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Government & Politics, Leadership, Research and Scholarship, War and the Military

Apology Of The Year Nominee: Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep

JESSICA_URBINAIn May, I wrote about the wretched treatment of student Jessica Urbina by her high school, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco. Jessica was humiliated by the school when it refused to include her graduation photo in the class yearbook on the grounds that she had worn a tuxedo rather than a dress. I wrote…

“The rule is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong. The best way to change a rule that is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong is to break it, and see if those in charge have the sense and compassion to do the right thing. The administrators of Sacred Heart Cathedral High School flunked. I doubt that Jessica was even trying to provoke a confrontation: like any normal student, she wanted her image in the most important piece of memorabilia of her high school years to accurately portray her as she was, not as some alien ideal dictated by the Catholic Church. There was nothing to be achieved by banning the photo.”

It turns out that by the time I had discovered the story and commented on it, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep had already reversed its decision. It wouldn’t normally garner much praise here for that: we have seen legions of stories of schools taking cruel, mean-spirited and idiotic measures against innocent students and then back-tracking later, only because the publicity and public backlash became too toxic. In this case, however, the school announced its reversal with an apology of unusual sincerity and grace, which I will reprint in its entirety: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Quotes, Religion and Philosophy

Ethics Dunce: Anyone Who Thinks Hillary’s “I Gave It All To Charity” Excuse Excuses Anything

Money-box-giftI apologize in advance for this, because I assume all of you are as sick of commentary on Hillary, her book promotion tour, and her endless stream of statements that validate everything her critics have been saying for over a decade. However, her latest ethically tone-deaf statement is a special category of dishonesty that I vowed long ago to flag every time it was tried by a public figure, and given a pass by the news media. So here we are.

Hillary responded to the growing controversy over her absurd speaking fees, which she charges to universities as well as corporations, by saying this to ABC’s Ann Compton:

“All of the fees have been donated to the Clinton Foundation for it to continue its life-changing and life-saving work. So it goes from a foundation at a university to another foundation.”

Giving money to another individual’s charity of choice is indistinguishable from giving money directly to that individual. If a lobbyist gives corporate money to a politician’s charity, for example, that’s a crime in most states, and should be. The charity dodge is a popular one with corrupt individuals, because the average member of the public, being among those whom Abraham Lincoln noted that you can fool all the time, and also possessing the ethics analysis skills of the typical whippet, just nod and say, “Oh. Okay!” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Dunces, The Internet

Those Huge University Speaking Fees: Hillary Clinton A Venal Hypocrite? Say It’s Not So!

To be fair, she really needs the money...

To be fair, she really needs the money…

Hillary Clinton has sounded the alarms (lest Sen. Elizabeth Warren sound it louder) over student dept and the high cost of college education. Then she has blithely accepted nearly two million dollars to give one hour canned speeches at eight universities, including four public institutions.

This is causing some anger on campuses, as it should. How can a school raise tuition, claim that it is strapped for funds, and then pay a wealthy woman over $200,000 to give a speech? It can’t—not responsibly or ethically. Nor is it responsible or ethical for the speaker, while stating publicly that she deeply cares about higher education, to ask for and accept such funds.

The issue came to light after University of Las Vegas students began protesting a scheduled speech by Clinton at her going rate of $225,000, asking her to return the fee. What has followed is a lot of rationalizing and lame defenses of the indefensible.

Fact: no school should be paying the equivalent of a student’s multi-year tuition for a one hour speech, even if Abraham Lincoln has agreed to come from beyond the grave to give it.

Fact: no decent, caring public figure should charge or accept such a fee. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz (Inadvertent Offense Division): The Transsexual Vote

dancing-with-the-stars-paddlesIn a one of my ethics seminars last week before a large audience, my usual practice of polling participants using hand-held numbered ballots, was unwieldy. The client group did not color code them, and there were over 400 present, as opposed to the Dancing With The Stars panel, which is three. I got around the problem by segmenting the crowd and picking different groups to represent the whole. Sometimes just men voted; sometimes women, sometimes one of the four sections of the hall. In other cases, I asked groups that were involved in the case being discussed: family law attorneys. Government attorneys. Mothers.

One of the cases involved a transsexual individual, and I suggested that the transsexuals in the audience vote. Nobody volunteered. The group laughed.

Today I received a very nice note from one of participants, praising my session but criticizing my judgment in that incident:

“You asked the transsexuals to vote, and said you were sure there were some attending [I don't recall doing this, and I suspect she is thinking of my comment about another potential group] , which produced laughter. Were I a transsexual, I would have felt ostracized and deeply offended. These are people with congenital/hormonal conditions that clash with our social constructs of gender identity. But most importantly, they are people. You are, of course, statistically right to guess that in a group of lawyers of that size, probably there were not many, probably not any, That does not make it OK to perpetuate their ostracism. This is not about political correctness, it is about acknowledging shared humanity.”

Your Ethics Alarm Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Is this a fair complaint?

Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Humor and Satire

Ethics Quiz, “Naked Teacher Principle” Division: The Alleged Naked Naval War College Professor

schnitzengrubenA helpful reader submits this Ethics Quiz question based on the following news item:

The AP reported that U.S. Naval War College professor John Schindler was placed on leave after a photo of a penis with the professor ‘s name over it was posted on Twitter.  It was unclear who sent it and who posted it.

After a blogger sent a complaint to the War College’s administration, the college’s president, Rear Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr., ordered an investigation. A college spokeswoman said that investigators would look into whether the photo was not really of Schindler.

Now THAT should be an interesting investigation.

Schindler, a professor of national security affairs and a former National Security Agency intelligence analyst, has deleted his Twitter account. He has said his criticism of NSA leaker Edward Snowden and others has caused him to be the object of harassment on various social media.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day  has two parts:

1. Is it fair for the War College to place Schindler on leave before it has even been established that he sent the photo or that the body part in question belonged to him?

and

2. If he didn’t send the photo himself but it is established that the body part in question does belong to him, should the Naked Teacher Principle* apply?

Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Professions, The Internet, War and the Military, Workplace

The Campus Sexual Assault Witch Hunts Ethics Train Wreck, Complicated By The Fact That The Witches Are Real

"Wait...are you raping me, or am I raping you?"

“Wait…are you raping me, or am I raping you?”

There is no question that there are sexual predators on college campuses, or that some colleges let them get away with raps on the knuckles for sexual assault or worse. There is also little question, though various parties and activists deny it, that what constitutes genuine sexual assault and even rape has been so thoroughly politicized and muddled by irresponsible rhetoric, dubious statistics and cynical political maneuvering that addressing the problem of actual campus sexual assault is becoming impossible without harming, indeed destroying, the innocent in some cases.

At Stanford, women are rallying for a more stringent process and harsher punishment after student Leah Francis protested in an e-mail to the campus that she had been “forcibly raped” by a fellow student and he was permitted to graduate. Of course, Stanford didn’t find the she had been raped: her assailant was found guilty of sexual assault. The loose use of “rape” to describe sexual assault for political purposes is one of the reasons universities seem incapable of finding a satisfactory balance in handling such cases. At the risk of getting ahead of the post, I would say this: if it is alleged to be rape, then turn the matter over to the police and the justice system. Schools are not allowed to use internal procedures to investigate and punish murder; it makes no sense to permit them to do so with the serious crime of rape. The fact that the standards of proof and the requirements of due process are less stringent in a campus procedure is what simultaneously leads to inadequate sanctions for the guilty and railroading of the innocent. The solution to this problem has always been available: treat allegations of campus rape like any other kind of rape.

Unfortunately, colleges are often in thrall to the political agendas of feminists and their allies, so “rape” can mean many things, as can “sexual assault.” In the casual, morality-free sexual atmosphere now not merely tolerated but nurtured on college campuses, lines of consent are blurred, and missteps are inevitable. At the same time, the permissive sexual environment is a playground for predators, exploiters and manipulators. How are the genuinely culpable sexual assailants to be distinguished from the clumsy, the confused, the misled, or the drunk and overly aroused? Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Romance and Relationships

Ethics Quiz: The Overly-Trusting Law School

The almost lawyer, learning about the justice system...

The almost lawyer, learning about the justice system…

Mauricio Celis, 42,was expelled from Northwestern Law School, just before he was due to graduate, for not telling the school when he applied that he was a former felon in Texas,  convicted there for falsely holding himself out as a lawyer and also for  impersonating a police officer. Northwestern confirmed that it never asked him to disclose any criminal history, but argued that Celis should have known that his criminal record was material.

The school didn’t check on his background; it didn’t even google him. If it had, it would have learned that Celis was infamous in Texas, and called “The Great Pretender.” A prosecutor called him “the biggest con man in the history of Nueces County.”  He certainly was audacious, opening law offices in multiple cities, raking in fees, using his success as a fake lawyer to raise money for Democrats. Compared to his scam, Northwestern was timid. It just took his money, $76,000, and then expelled him without giving him a diploma.

Your strange Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Was it ethical for Northwestern to expel Celis?

Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Hillary Clinton On Government Control Of Non-Conforming Viewpoints

mind-control-tests

“I believe that we need a more thoughtful conversation, we cannot let a minority of people — and that’s what it is, it is a minority of people — hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people.”

—-Hillary Clinton, forcefully inserting her leg in her mouth up to the knee during a CNN town hall as she talked about gun control, and, apparently, the new Democratic-progressive goal of government censorship of words, thoughts and beliefs.

Yup, Hillary really said that we cannot allow a minority to hold viewpoints the majority objects to. Oh, I know: she just said “terrorizes.” But if you can stop people from holding terrorizing viewpoints, there will  no longer be any prohibitions on barring other viewpoints that “the majority” believes are unwise.  This is the progressive paradise, I guess: all dissenting thoughts, opinions and viewpoints banished. I can almost feel the electroshock treatments now.

This is just a gaffe, right? I doubt it. I don’t think someone committed to free speech, open discourse, liberty and pluralism makes such a gaffe. The Left has been working over-time to suppress opposing opinion, dissent and non-conforming views for much of this President’s administration. Why should we believe this is a mistake?

Hillary will, and should, have this quote shaken in front of her face from now on. It is disgraceful, and terrifying (but I’m probably not part of Hillary’s “majority,” so what terrifies me doesn’t matter) for a former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State to assert such an un-American sentiment.

And immediately, the news media has begun trying to clean up the mess. The Huffington Post, realizing most people read headlines, not full posts, titled its report this way:

“Hillary Clinton On Gun Control: We Can’t Let ‘A Minority Of People’ Terrorize The Majority”

That is, you will notice, a lie. That is not what she said, and it is not up to journalists to decide for us what she “meant.” She said, very specifically, “holding viewpoints” is what we cannot permit, although the Constitution and a long line of Supreme Court cases says quite specifically that viewpoints are exactly what the government must permit. Later she said,

“I don’t think any parent, any person, should have to fear about their child going to school or going to college because someone, for whatever reasons — psychological, emotional, political, ideological, whatever it means — could possibly enter that school property with an automatic weapon and murder innocent children, students, teachers.”

This is less totalitarian, arguably, but dumber. “Could possibly” enter that school? I guess we have to lock them up, then, right, Mrs. Clinton? Can’t take any chances.

_____________________________

Pointer: Democratic Underground

 

 

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