Category Archives: Literature

One Class, 114 Valedictorians….W.S. Gilbert Warned Us About This

Apparently this has been going on at Arlington, Virginia’s Washington and Lee High School, from which my niece graduated, for years.  The school calls about a third of its graduating classes “valedictorians,” so 1) the school can put it on their college applications and deceive those who haven’t connected the dots; 3) make certain the school can claim a female valedictorian, a black valedictorian, an Asian-American valedictorian, a trans valedictorian…you know, because everyone is above average, like in Lake Woebegon, and 3) the official rationalization, to eliminate competitiveness for honors among students, because life isn’t competitive.

Back when I wrote about this in June, 2010, the news was that…

In many high schools around the country, as many as fifty graduating seniors were designated “valedictorians…

Now honor inflation ins some schools is  more than double that, so this atrocious practice is obviously catching on. Integrity is such a chore. Excellence, superiority, achievement…they are all chores too.  As for the genuinely superior students, they are out of luck: this is the high school equivalent of all the gladiators standing up and crying “I’m Spartacus!,” except now it’s “I’m the smartest one in the class!” This Maoist denial of the fact that some of us earn more success than others and that there is nothing wrong with doing so is all the rage, and you can expect to hear more such ideas as the various candidates to lead the nation, one founded on the principle of personal self-determination based on ambition and enterprise, argue about how to deal with “income inequality.” Income inequality is but a subset of talent, industry, risk-taking and ability inequality…and good fortune inequality too. Might high schools sending graduates out into the world with the cuckoo concept that everyone should be regarded as equally accomplished whether they really are or not also contribute to income inequality?

Why yes, I think so. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Literature, Quotes, U.S. Society

Of Atticus Finch, “Go Set A Watchman,” And Icon Ethics

AtticusToday Harper Lee’s “sequel” to “To Kill A Mockingbird” is officially released, though reviews have already been published. The big story is that the new novel’s now grown “Scout” discovers during the civil rights upheavals of the 1950s that her father and hero Atticus Finch is a racist, had attended a Klan meeting, and is prone to saying things like …

“Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”

The new Atticus is providing ammunition to those who enjoy tearing down American heroes and icons. Finch is perhaps the most revered fictional lawyer in American culture, admired by the public as well as the legal profession. The American Bar Association named its award for fictional portrayals of lawyers in films and literature after Finch, whose pro bono defense of a wrongly accused black man in a bigoted Alabama town forms the central conflict of Lee’s classic. Burnishing Atticus’s reputation further was the beloved portrayal of the character, reputedly based on the author’s father, by Gregory Peck in the Academy Award winning film adaptation. Peck received the  Award for Best Actor as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and as a civil-rights activist often stated that he admired Finch over all his other roles. In 2003, American Film Institute voted Finch as the greatest hero in American film.Wrote Entertainment Weekly, “[Finch] transforms quiet decency, legal acumen, and great parenting into the most heroic qualities a man can have.”

Atticus, however, has had his detractors through the years, notable among them the late Monroe Freedman, a  habitual iconoclast and contrarian who wrote two law review articles declaring that Finch was neither hero nor a particularly admirable lawyer. He wrote in part: Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Literature, Popular Culture, Professions

Ethics Heroes: The Sweet Briar Alumnae And Their Supporters

victory

What an inspiring story! I hoped, and I so wanted to believe, but I confess that I really thought that the traitorous, unethical Sweet Briar College board had delivered a fatal blow to this storied all-woman’s college by operating by surprise and stealth, waiting to announce its plan to close the institution so late in the academic year as to render counter-measures futile.

Like that disgraceful crew, I underestimated the determined women of Sweet Briar and their allies.

From the Washington Post:

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s office announced Saturday night that an agreement has been reached to keep Sweet Briar College open next year.

The agreement, which requires court approval, involves a $12 million commitment from an alumnae group and permission from the attorney general to release $16 million from the school’s endowment.

The president of the private women’s college in rural Virginia shocked many in March when he abruptly announced that the college, which is more than 100 years old, would close in the summer. Since then, supporters have been working feverishly to save the school, protesting, raising money and filing lawsuits challenging the closure.

On Saturday, Herring’s office announced that — if Bedford County Circuit Court Judge James W. Updike Jr. approves the agreement — Saving Sweet Briar, the alumnae group, would give $12 million for the operation of the college for the 2015-2016 year, with the first $2.5 million installment to be delivered in early July….

Both the alumnae group and other challengers to the closure say the funding would be enough to keep the school operating for the 2015-2016 academic year.

The agreement comes barely a month before the historic school was slated to close — and in advance of court hearings on multiple lawsuits. It does not resolve the ongoing issues that the school’s current leadership cited in making the decision to close, such as concerns about enrollment and revenue. It does not explain where next year’s class will come from, since accepted students were told to apply elsewhere and current students were told to transfer. But it provides a stopgap…

Leadership would change: If the agreement is approved, at least 13 board members would resign, and 18 new ones would be appointed — a majority that would control the board… Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Gender and Sex, Literature, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity

The Idiot Effect

Or would you prefer, "The Old Man and the Sea"?

Or would you prefer, “The Old Man and the Sea”?

Last night, in a rash moment, my wife and I used pay-per-view last night to watch a film called “The Lazarus Effect.” The “effect” seems to be that when you use an experimental medical procedure to bring someone recently deceased back from death, what arrives is not the same person but an altered, super-powered mutation FROM HELL!!!! The movie wasn’t terrible as mad experiments gone horribly wrong films go,  but what was immediately impressive about it was its length: the thing was running credits before an hour and fifteen minutes was up.

That’s a movie? In the Sixties and Seventies there were weekly TV dramas longer than that even if you didn’t count the commercials.

Recent studies have documented the diminishing attention span of the average American, with the young leading the way. The reasons for this are a matter of debate, but there is no doubt that the news media, entertainment industry and the arts are both accommodating this disability and contributing to it. The consequences are dire. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Education, Journalism & Media, Literature, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

Search Engine Ethics Bulletin: Google’s Not Perfect, And That’s Not Unethical

Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden hit the dinosaurs HARD...

Adam and Eve being thrown out of Eden hit the dinosaurs HARD…

Late last month, someone discovered, probably in the wake of all the pre-release publicity for “Jurassic World,” that the search “What happened to the dinosaurs?” turned up this site as its top result. This is a fundamentalist Christian site that is hilarious in its misinformation and ignorance, along with the inevitable smugness that routinely accompanies this kind of stubborn immunity to fact and logic. Here’s my favorite passage:

Representatives of all the kinds of air-breathing land animals, including the dinosaur kinds, went aboard Noah’s Ark. All those left outside the Ark died in the cataclysmic circumstances of the Flood, and many of their remains became fossils.

Boy, that must have been some boat. Today there was news of a controversy over whether the recently discovered “heaviest dinosaur” was only 40 tons rather than the earlier estimate of 65 tons. Since the beasts boarded the Ark two by two, this is  about 80 tons for just one species of dinosaur, Dreadnoutus, to go with 84 tons of Futalognkasaurus, 78 tons of Brachiosaurus, and 32 tons of Diplodocus, and that’s without the other 700 or so dinosaur species, which are estimated to be about a tenth of the actual total. Then Noah had to fit all the other animals on the ship…green alligators and long-necked geese, some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees, some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born, he didn’t take along no unicorns.

But I digress. Continue reading

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Filed under Animals, History, Literature, Religion and Philosophy, Science & Technology, The Internet

Now THESE Are “Feminazis”…Melissa Harris Perry and Kamila Shamsie

feminazi

Rush Limbaugh assured himself of a permanent place in the Feminist Hall Of Villains when he coined the term feminazis to describe militant women’s rights advocates two decades ago. Limbaugh’s use of the term was excessively broad and unfair to be sure—to Rush, all feminists are feminazis— but it has become newly appropriate and useful as the Left increasingly advocates fascist tactics when it sees no quick route to its objectives using such repugnant means–to them—as the free market, open debate, merit-based advancement, and individual autonomy.

Is tarring these arrogant ideologues who favor enforced “equality” over basic Constitutional rights such a pejorative label uncivil, unfair or hateful? Why no, in fact. Sadly, tragically, frighteningly, it is entirely accurate. Here are two examples:

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry

Bemoaning the fact that male professional sports pay their athletes more than female sports(because they are more popular, because more men follow sports and because male athletes are, on average, bigger, faster, stronger and better) Harris-Perry made this statement on her far-left even for MSNBC show on the network:

During the break I was trying to think up a solution to the problem of building audience (for women athletes), so my solution is in 2016 we go completely dark on all media coverage of men’s sports, just for one year. We have the only televised sports, the only print sports, it’s only women’s sports, and we’ll just see whether or not women could get a fan base if in fact they were the people who were constantly on our televisions and in our newspapers.

That’s a reasonable “solution” to this TV personality, scholar, teacher, author, pundit, feminist, fascist. Cripple lawful businesses. Restrict communications. Limit commerce, advertising, marketing, merchandising. Restrict the public’s entertainment choices, and male athletes’ earning capacity. After all, it’s all about the vagina, right? If women can’t compete against men, then just eliminate the men, their rights, and their advantages by edict. The First Amendment, the right of contract, equal protection, due process, enjoyment of life—why should they stand in the way of the progressive, feminist agenda?

This is how fascists solve problems.

Melissa Harris-Perry is a feminazi.

PS: In the comments, esteemed reader Charles Green chides me for not taking Harris-Perry suggestion as a joke. First of all, the woman is humorless. Second, the fact that she knew her suggestion could never happen isn’t the same as a joke. That would be a solution to her, because she is squarely in the ends justify the means camp, like all extremists. I am sure readers could concoct “jokes” similar in spirit about “solutions” (facsists love “solutions,” you will recall) to other “problems” involving ethnic, racial or gender designations that Harris-Perry, for one, would condemn in the harshest terms. I know Rush could…

Continue reading

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Literature, Professions, Rights, Sports, Workplace

FactChecker Ethics: I Know This Is A Bit Late, But If Glenn Kessler Is Going To Give Out “Pinocchios,” He Needs To Learn What a Lie Is

Time to revisit the classics, Glenn...

Time to revisit the classics, Glenn…

Newspaper “fact-checking” is a mostly unethical and misleading exercise in which media partisans use the format to call positions they differ with ideologically and politically “lies.”  PolitiFact is well established as the worst and most biased of these features; Annenberg’s Factcheck.org is easily the best (but still shows its leftward bias), and somewhere in between is Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s “Factchecker.” Today’s installment of his periodic column shows that after many years at his job, he still doesn’t know what a lie is. Amazing.

This is not, or should not be, necessarily for a factchecker, as long as he sticks to checking facts, and not characterizing why the facts don’t jibe with a particular public figure’s public statements. PolitiFact’s specialty is making questionable interpretations of statistics and events, declaring them the revealed truth, and attacking anyone,  usually a Republican, who has come to a different conclusion. To his credit, Kessler doesn’t do that very often. He is typically fair and objective in his research and presentation of facts. But the Post’s Factchecker uses the device of one to four little Pinocchio heads to indicate the seriousness of a factual misstatement, and as he should know, Pinocchio’s nose grew long when he lied. Even one Pinocchio indicates that Kessler believes he has proven that someone lied.

It seems a little late for Kessler to be mistaking opinions that he disagrees with, analyses of facts that reach different conclusions than he would, and obvious mistakes as lies. Kessler, who is should be in the business of checking facts but has chosen a gimmick that makes him conclude by accusing others of lying, is ethically obligated to know what a lie is: an intentional misstatement of fact that is designed and intended to deceive. He either doesn’t know that, which means he’s incompetent, or he does and misrepresents mistakes and opinions as lies, which means that he’s the liar. Whichever it is, this is ethically unacceptable for a “factchecker.” Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Leadership, Literature, War and the Military