All of a sudden, a post from 2011 is attracting more views in the last four days than it did in the previous four years. Odd are you missed it too, so so to avoid the anomaly of non-Ethics Alarms fans being more attuned to a post here than the loyal throng, I’m going to point the way to the link. The essay is titled “Clark Gable, Loretta Young, and the Betrayal of Judy Lewis,” and told the heart-breaking story of how Clark Gable denied his parenthood of his own daughter (that’s her to his left) to avoid a career-damaging scandal, while the child’s mother, Loretta Young, lied to her as well. It was and is an interesting and disturbing chapter in Hollywood history, and my commentary generated some furious defenses from fans of “The King,” who marshal every rationalization imaginable to try to justify a rich and famous father neglecting his only child, even after she became aware of who her father was. That phenomenon is as illuminating as the sad tale itself. Here, for example, is “Seeker”—see how many rationalizations you can find. I see at least four: Continue reading
Tag Archives: parents
The American culture’s grim determination to raise a race of wimps, weenies, hysterics and delicate snowflakes continues apace. Or is this a necessary adjustment to our growing incivility?
In Ohio, the Thunder United Metro Futbol Club, a kids’ soccer league, held an experimental “silent soccer weekend.” Parents and fans were told that there would be no shouting or cheering at the games. Clapping was permitted, but not whistling or using noise makers. Team coaches were instructed to keep shouted instructions to a minimum. Printed signs and rally towels got a green light, since they are quiet.
The objective, of course, was to combat negative shouts and other demonstrations by parents and fans that might bruise youthful egos and squash self esteem.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for today:
Is banning crowd commentary at youth athletic events responsible, or irresponsible?
The best of all advice columnists, Carolyn Hax, found herself confronted with a tough question this weekend, and uncharacteristically flailed at an answer.
I’m going to try to help her out.
The question came from husband who was trying to decide how to deal with the anxiety of his wife, godmother to two teenagers being raised alone by her brother. The brother, it seems, has decided to take up race car driving as a new hobby, and sister, the wife of Hax’s correspondent, is terrified that this risky pursuit might eventually place the teens in her care. “The kids have been raised in a way that neither of us agrees with, and if they were to come under our care, it would be very difficult for everyone involved,” he writes. What should he do?
Maybe Hax’s reply helps the potential adoptive parent, but I sure found it stuttering, overly equivocal and confusing. It’s not surprising: the issues are difficult, full of ethical conflicts.
Here is my analysis:
1. If one agrees to be the designated guardian of a child or children, one is ethically obligated to be ready to accept the duties of the job. “I’ll take care of your kids happily as long as it’s not your fault that you can’t” just isn’t good enough. Too many people, perhaps most, accept this crucial responsibility as an honor rather than as a very serious commitment, and first and foremost, it is a commitment to the children. If a godmother (or, in a non-religious setting, a guardian) is terrified of the reality of fulfilling the duties of the job, she should give them up, so they can be accepted by someone who is not so reluctant. It shouldn’t matter if the parent is an amateur snake handler or a couch potato.
2. It is reckless, selfish and irresponsible for the sole parent of children to not take this fact into consideration regarding his lifestyle and other choices. Two children depend on him: he is duty bound to do what he can to stay alive, healthy, and capable of supporting them. Taking on unquestionably risky hobby like race car driving, or storm chasing, or being a volunteer human subject for the ebola vaccine, is irrational and wrong. It is right for the potential successor guadians to make this point to him, for the children, for a family intervention, for his friends, for anyone. And they should. He is not free to act as if he has complete autonomy, not with two children who depend on him.
3. If his thinking is “it’s OK to risk my life, because I have two foster parents on the hook,” that is similarly unethical, and he needs to be told that, too. But he should be told it by guardians/godparents who are still committed to being loving parents should the worst occur, not by a couple that accepted the responsibility assuming they would never actually have to deliver.
The bottom line:
- The inquirer and his wife should withdraw as guardians.
- The father should grow up.
- The next guardian couple should be informed of the father’s irresponsible proclivities, and make his promise to take reasonable efforts to remains capable of raising the children as a condition of their accepting the role.
And, of course, if the worst happens and the father ends up a victim of Dead Man’s Curve without having found a suitable guardian, the sister and her husband may be obligated to raise the orphaned teens anyway.
Because that’s what families are for.
Is that what Carolyn says? I’m not sure. If it is, it wasn’t clear enough.
In Longwood, Florida, Patricia-Ann Jackson Denault thought it would be funny to post pictures of her son, 7, drinking whiskey on Facebook, titling it “first shot.” Someone thought it was more alarming than funny, and called the police. Three uniformed officers and Child Protective Services came to her house and interviewed both her and her kids. Denault explained her humor theory, and said she wanted the children “to experience alcohol in a controlled setting.”
They were not impressed. She was arrested and charged with child neglect.
Apparently this is becoming a cause celebre in conservative circles, and example of the nanny state going too far. I don’t see it:
- A photo on Facebook showed an adult persuading a very young child to drink a substance that can be dangerous in large quantities. Was that the only sip, or the first of many? I think the inquiry was responsible.
- The mother used her child not only as a prop, but as a prop involving alcohol. I would be dubious about the judgment of such a parent.
- She said that she wanted a seven-year-old “to experience alcohol in a controlled setting” ??? Why? What else would she like to see a child experience in a controlled setting?
I think these were sufficient reason to check on the welfare of the children in that home, and to be concerned. Should she have been arrested? I don’t know what the children said, or what she told the police. The news reports make Denault sound like a fool, but being a stupid parent does not necessarily make one a dangerous parent. If this is all there is, the arrest is overkill. Continue reading
Patrick McLaw, an eighth grade language arts teachers at Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, Maryland, has been placed on indefinite administrative leave by the Dorchester County Board of Education and the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office. This measure was taken after it was discovered that McLaw had serveal aliases, two of which he has used to write novels. One of those novels was about the largest school shooting in the country’s history, set in the year 2902.
Because these books terrified parents, apparently, Dorchester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Henry Wagner felt it necessary to announce that the Dorchester County Board of Education had moved swiftly, saying, “We have advised our community that the gentleman has been placed on administrative leave, and has been prohibited from entering any Dorchester County public school property.” That’s not all that happened. McLaw was taken into custody for an “emergency medical evaluation.” The same day,police swept Mace’s Lane Middle School for bombs and guns.
This sounds like a Kafka novel. Of course, if Kafka had been a middle school teacher in Cambridge Maryland, parents probably would be afraid that he was going to turn their kids into cockroaches.
How can this hysterical reaction to a teacher’s novel be justified, legally, logically or ethically?
Your Labor Day Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz involves yet another possible variation on “The Naked Teacher Principle”: