The Worst Ethics Exam Ever!

We all know that Illinois ranks right down there with New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Louisiana when it comes to unethical government culture. What I didn’t know was that there is an annual ethics test given to all state employees. Or that these two facts may be related in an unusual way.  I thought the ethics exam was in response to the state’s ethical problems. Now I think the exam may be causing the state’s ethical problems.

I also think it may have been written by Mel Brooks.

This years’ test has some journalists and bloggers scratching their heads. “Ah,” I thought, as I read their complaints, “they just aren’t ethically sophisticated enough, that’s all. The test must be too difficult!”  Then I read the sample questions available on-line. It was difficult, all right.

Unbelievable. It isn’t that Rod Blagojevich would have trouble answering these questions. Plato, Kant, and John Stuart Mill couldn’t answer these questions!  Even I couldn’t answer these questions. Here’s one:

Q:  A new bar has opened in Faketown named University-Club, where several other bars have failed before it. How should the government of Faketown approach the new bar? (Comment: What the heck does “approach” mean here? )

A. Bars will be bars. (Comment: Is this a joke answer? )
B. Create a bidding-pool around how long the bar will stay open to bring in additional revenue, therefore balancing their increasing failing budget. (Comment: Is THIS a joke answer? )
C. Use the violent outbreaks as a method of “University Darwinism.” (Comment: WHAT? )
D. Realize the bar is destined to fail and shut it down before its appearance gets the hopes up of bar hoppers delighted that the Faketown government responsibly permitted a bar to open. ( Comment: No…wait…THIS must be the joke answer! )

None of these answers have any ethics content at all, and the question is so vague as to be meaningless.

Ready for the next one? Okay, you asked for it….

Q:  A group of students from the VSU (Vulcan Student Union) are upset that a university employee who happens to be a Vulcan has been placed on suspension for professional misconduct allegations. How should the VSU show its discontent with the actions of the university?

A. Stage a five-person protest claiming the actions were part of a “phaser mob.” (Comment: Oh, I’m sorry—these are the questions from the State “Star Trek” exam! )
B. Kick members of the press out of their VSU meetings when the media attempts to give them a voice. (Comment: Someone, please– what does this answer have to do with Illinois government  ethics standards?)
C. Create pointless Facebook groups where unintelligible anger and allegations surface. (Comment: Are they saying that students creating pointless Facebook pages is unethical? How? And what does it have to do with the State of Illinois?)
D. Face the fact that the Vulcan employee was removed for 1,000 other reasons beside the fact that he is a different race. (Comment: The fact pattern didn’t give that information, of course. This is the best answer, and it’s still terrible: cynical, confusing, and conceivably racist, as it presumes that the minority employee was guilty of massive misconduct, and because the answer is so badly written, suggests that the Vulcan’s race was one of the reasons he was removed. )

Only one more, I promise!

Q: The City Council of Faketown is having a dispute about building a bigger police department. The aldermen of Faketown are having a dispute that has gone on for several months, and nothing is being accomplished. How should the government of Faketown handle this problem? (Comment: Could this question possibly be written less coherently?  Does it mean building a larger force, or a bigger building?  What is the distinction intended between “the government,” “the City Council,” and  “the aldermen”? What is the dispute about?  Is the problem just that they are arguing?  )

A. Continue to debate the problem pointlessly until a new city council that was voted in with the ability to make decisions approves the plan. (Comment: Hmmmm. I think “pointlessly” is a clue. )
B. Continue to create a series of committees and sub committees until the flow of information has created an infinite loop of bureaucracy. (Comment: Hmmm. I think “infinite loop” is also a clue. So two of the four answers obviously can’t be right. Right? )
C. Admit they are too scared and unequipped to fix the problem, so you don’t have to directly admit fault when the project fails. (Comment: Hmmm. make that THREE of the four. So D has to be the right answer!  It just has to be! )
D. Lock up prisoners on the strategically built synthetic ice rink, eliminating the need for a larger police department and getting some functionality out of a useless $50,000 project.  (Comment: What the…How does this even address the issue in the question????  I THINK I’M LOSING MY MIND!!!!)

I am wracking my brain to try to explain what could possibly be going om here.  This so-called ethics exam can only have the effect of making state workers confused, frustrated, and contemptuous of the whole concept of ethics. It is beyond incompetent. It is surreal in its incompetence. It is incompetence perfornace art. It is the Rembrandt of bad exams. It also makes my head hurt.

So in the spirit of the worst ethics exam ever, allow me to conclude with one final question:

Q: Why is the Illinois State Ethics Exam so astoundingly incompetent?

A. It was designed to make all the ethical state employees quit.

B.  Sen. Roland Burris had his 11-year-old grandson write it to save the state money. And helped him…

C. It’s really a gag for an episode of “Punk’d.”

D. Nobody in the Illinois state government has a clue what ethics is.

The answer, I fear, is “D.”

5 thoughts on “The Worst Ethics Exam Ever!

  1. No kidding. I have searched and searched to find evidence that this IS a parody, because I can’t bring myself to accept that any sane person would let this “test” be published and administered. It seems to be genuine, however.

    And to think: they could have hired me to write a good one!

  2. I think I know the answer. They switched the files. This ethics test was actually supposed to be a test on strategy for government bureaucrats. The correct answers are D, D, and B based on observed actions of local governments. The bureaucrats must have been mighty surprised when they had to answer a lot of ethics questions. The copies of the tests they purchased beforehand didn’t look anything like that.

  3. I don’t usually write on blogs but had to on yours. You have a very unique writing style. A lot of people don’t have that touch, they just drone on and on in the most boring way. But not you – thanks! I don’t have time to read it all right now, I found this site when looking for something else on Yahoo, but I’ve bookmarked your homepage and will check back soon to see the latest news. Thanks again!

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