Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/17/17: Boy Scouts, “Will and Grace,” An Actress Whines, Wedding Cakes, And (I’m Sorry!) More Hillary

Good Morning!

1 I’m giving an ethics talk to a Boy Scout troop this afternoon. Figuring out how to use example that are appropriate to ages 11-14 while avoiding hot-button issues like race, sexual orientation, police, guns and politics in general is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. What pop culture reference points will work is also a conundrum. What movies are they likely to have seen? In the Sixties, I could have referred to Westerns, many of which routinely embodied ethics lessons. But they also often involved shooting people, and kids don’t see Westerns now. In the Eighties, I might have sent Boy Scouts to episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which was virtually all about ethics. But Patrick Stewart is just an old guy doing commercials now, and there have been four TV incarnations of the franchise since Data packed it in, not counting the movies. Pixar movies are usually ethics-rich, but a lot of kids will bristle at being presumed to be cartoon fans. Superhero movies? The ones that raise ethics issues usually do so badly, or the issues are too complex—or too dark– for a Boy Scout Troop. Here we see the serious cultural problem of declining cultural literacy and deteriorating cross-generational communications as a result of the loss of common experience. and interests.

Well, it’s early. I’ll figure out something.

One approach I considered was to suggest they practice ethical analysis by reading the newspaper, picking out the ethics dilemmas and controversies that appear, thinking about them and arguing about them. Of course, that was foolish: they would probably ask, “What’s a newspaper?” However this morning’s Sunday Times is a perfect example. I could teach a four hour ethics seminar based on the stories in this edition alone. Look…

2. The baker who refused to sell a cake to a gay couple is back on the front page, thanks to the case winding its way to the Supreme Court. This time, the focus isn’t on Freedom of Religion (in this case, freedom to act like a jackass using your religion as an excuse), but Freedom of Speech. The government cannot compel speech, nor will the law compel specific performance of an artistic nature. The baker claims that his cakes are artistic creations, and he doesn’t have to make them for anyone or anything if he doesn’t want to.  The gay couple says that they weren’t asking for him to create an artwork, just to sell them a wedding cake. If the cake is a commodity, then the bake shop should be a public accommodation, and subject to applicable laws. Then the baker has to sell his cakes to anyone. If the cake is an “artistic creation” made specifically for the couple, then the law cannot force the baker to make it, or punish him if he refuses. Art is speech.

I hate these kinds of cases, and I’m sure the SCOTUS justices do too. A cake is sometimes just a cake, and sometimes a work of art. The confrontation should have been handled with ethics rather than law. The baker is a bigoted jerk, that’s all. I think he has a right not to make a cake for a gay couple, but exercising that right is cruel and insulting.

3. In the Sunday Arts section is a story about the cultural issues faced by the re-boot of “Will and Grace,” the early 21st century sitcom that made gays funny, for once, in a positive way. [Aside: How long, do you think, before Mel Brooks comedies are banned from TV for their nasty gay stereotypes? Mel’s generations thought gays were inherently ridiculous, so we have the absurdly gay, cross-dressing director in “The Producers” and his creepy assistant, the long gay chorus sequence with Dom Deluise in “Blazing Saddles,” and the especially unfunny gay flasher bit at the beginning of “High Anxiety.” I wonder. Those made me wince when the films were new.]

When the show was still on, I was at a GLAAD awards event (my theater was nominated for reviving “The Boys in the Band”), and Harvey Fierstein, an honore, attacked the show as fake and hypocritical. He objected to the use of gay stereotypes for humor, and he particularly objected to the gay male lead being played by a straight actor, who, he said, was obviously straight. (I agree with Harvey on that part.) Queries the Times story:

It’s about four privileged white people. The characters, in particular the plain-spoken and politically incorrect Karen, occasionally crack racially tinged jokes. Although the lovably uptight gay character at the center of the show, Will, played by Eric McCormack, is best friends with Grace, played by Debra Messing, he sometimes makes quips that could come across as misogynistic in today’s climate. In rehearsal for the third episode, writers had Will joking, “It’s all in the book ‘Men Are From Mars, Who Cares Where Women Come From.’”How will swishy, stereotypical Jack go over? That character, however hilarious, made some viewers wince the first time around. Mr. McCormack is straight. Will the fact that he’s reprising his role earn him a pass from those who think gay characters should only be played by gay actors?

My guess: the reboot is doomed. Tribal hyper-sensitivity and a powerful sub-culture that currently thinks that only jokes denigrating the President of the United States are funny will strangle the show, and fast. Gays are no longer acceptable stereotypes in comedy; indeed gays who intentionally project stereotypical speech and habits demand to be taken seriously. [Listen to the Broadway channel on Sirius-XM. I dare you.] Nerds (but only white nerds), like in “Big Bang Theory”? Sure. Bimbos (but only white bimbos), like in “Two Broke Girls”? Of course. But not gays.

4. In the SundayReview, which is really having a hard time digging for anti-Trump stories this week, the closest being a column by an Obama speechwriter who says that Trump isn’t funny enough to be a good President (whereas Obama, I submit, wasn’t a good enough President to be funny), the best article for an ethics discussion would be the whiny and ignorant column by B-actress Amber Tamblyn, called “I’m done with not being believed.” It’s well-written and passionate, and also a horrible example of the “special privileges for women” genre: Tamblyn, like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s Education Department, believes that women should be uniquely exempt from the basic requirements of evidence, fairness and due process. There is no reason to doubt her assessment of how sexual harassment is tolerated and enabled in her world, show business, but projecting the same degree of misogyny on the rest of the culture is either dishonest or spectacularly naive. For an actress, she sure hasn’t done her movie history homework. I strongly suggest that someone make Amber watch “Rashomon,” which explains memorably how two people can perceive the exact same episode completely differently. No, Amber, just because you are certain you are telling the truth doesn’t mean anyone has to believe you unless you can prove it.

Among the many ethics misconceptions the author displays, she seems to think it is fair to try to embarrass actor James Woods by relating an embarrassing exchange between them decades ago to attack him for his recently tweeted opinion criticizing older men who have relationships with under-aged women. She writes in part,

“Mr. Woods has been known to date much younger women…I was reminded of a memory from when I was 16. Mr. Woods attempted to pick me and a friend up when we were at Mel’s diner in Hollywood, seeing if we wanted to go to Las Vegas with him that very night. I informed him of my age, to which he said, “Even better.” I told this story publicly as a way to back up the claim that Mr. Woods was, indeed, a hypocrite. Mr. Woods called my account a lie. What would I get out of accusing this person of such an action, almost 20 years after the fact? Notoriety, power or respect? I am more than confident with my quota of all three.”

First of all, Woods criticizing now a practice that he might have engaged in when he was younger is not “hypocrisy.”  We are not ethically obligated to keep endorsing out prior misconduct or bad habits.  There is nothing hypocritical in any respect with criticizing behavior one has engaged in the past. Not only is Tamblyn showing her won ignornce, she is perpetuation a misconception that is pervasive and misleading. (A Times editor should have made her fix this.)

What would she out of accusing this person of such an action? That’s easy: exactly what she got out of it—a way to attack the credibility of someone she disagrees with.

After reading Tamblyn’s column, I’m less likely to believe her than I was before. Good job, Amber!

5. Finally (there are more ethics discussion-worthy pieces, but this Warm-Up threatens to become a Wear-Out), the Times gives us yet another pathetic interview with Hillary Clinton. When will a credible, progressive, female commentator have the courage and integrity to point out that when the first woman ever to gain a major party’s nomination for Presidential becomes the first defeated Presidential candidate (there have been over 60) to publicly bellyache, blame, complain, accuse and otherwise be the opposite of professional and gracious, constantly and repeatedly while her victorious foe is in office, it reinforces stereotypes that women are temperamentally unfit for leadership? What a coincidence: the only woman to be defeated in a national election for president is also the only defeated candidate in 250 years to behave like petulant, disappointed prom queen.

Hillary Clinton had a duty not to behave this way. My sister says that Hillary doesn’t care; she’s angry and so there.

This tells me how much she really cares about paving the road for a successful female candidate. She doesn’t. She’s putting potholes in that road, because she’s angry.

58 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, Workplace

58 responses to “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/17/17: Boy Scouts, “Will and Grace,” An Actress Whines, Wedding Cakes, And (I’m Sorry!) More Hillary

  1. A.M. Golden

    How about “Star Wars”? I’m sure most boys 11-14 have seen incarnation of SW. And those films are packed with ethical issues, too?

    • I’m thinking about Star Wars. I wish I had seen the latest, but Episode 7 was such a knockoff of the first film that I gave up on SW.

      • Other Bill

        “The Simpsons?” Bart and Lisa? Of course the show is over twenty years old so they may not watch it. “Family Guy?” “South Park?” Just don’t know if kids watch them. I guess I’d go with “The Simpsons” even if I had to show them an episode. They’d get a kick out of it.

      • Chris

        I have many middle school students who have never seen the original Star Wars trilogy.

        Nearly all of them have either read or seen The Hunger Games. Spider-Man is pretty timeless; maybe something on the theme of “With great power comes great responsibility?” Although that phrase hasn’t been used in a Spider-Man movie since 2003(!), I always have at least a few kids suggest that one when we review the concept of theme. 13 Reasons Why is huge, but more popular among girls than boys. Your point about common cultural touchstones being lost is entirely correct, and often a source of frustration for me as a teacher.

      • Rogue One was not so bad: it had ethical lapses and great sacrifice for the greater good.

        But if your audience is anything like my kids, you will have to delve into You Tube for content. They seem to watch others play video games, and some of those gamers make a great living playing and commenting on their games.

  2. JP

    It maybe too deep but perhaps 13 reasons why could be a good topic for the Boy Scouts

  3. “…the long gay chorus sequence with Dom Deluise in ‘Blazing Saddles,'”

    You mean those guys were supposed to be gay?

    “Listen to the Broadway channel on Sirius-XM. I dare you.”

    Does this mean Seth has turned tedious? I hate to think that – he had excellent taste in musicals.

  4. Other Bill

    Hill and Bill aren’t done yet. Only three years and a couple of months until the election to unseat Trump. The book keeps her in the public eye. She won’t let anyone forget she won the popular vote by three million (Californians). She’ll also do all she can to suppress any younger candidates by letting Bernie get a lot of attention. Machiavelli, they name is now Clinton.

  5. It doesn’t have anything to do with media, but I’ve several interesting ethical discussions that revolved around finding things: what can be kept, and what sort of measures have to be taken to find the owner.

  6. I hate these kinds of cases, and I’m sure the SCOTUS justices do too. A cake is sometimes just a cake, and sometimes a work of art. The confrontation should have been handled with ethics rather than law. The baker is a bigoted jerk, that’s all. I think he has a right not to make a cake for a gay couple, but exercising that right is cruel and insulting.

    Would you write the same regarding a baker refusing to design a cake for a militant Islamist ceremony?

    In any event, here is the USA’s brief.

    http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/16-111-tsac-USA.pdf

    Here is an excerpt. (Emphases mine)

    For those businesses that create inherently expressive
    products, public accommodations laws may
    permissibly require them to conduct transactions involving
    pre-made or off-the-shelf products. In that situation,
    the law does not “significantly affect [the business’s]
    expression.” Dale, 530 U.S. at 656. After all, the
    business has already chosen to speak
    : The painting has
    already been painted or the photograph already taken.
    The law merely regulates the sale of the good. Moreover,
    the sale of a pre-made item does not intimately involve
    its creator in an expressive event at which that
    item appears. Where the product has already been
    made and is available for sale
    to anyone who enters the
    door, as opposed to a product custom-made for a particular
    client and a particular event, the creator would not
    reasonably be perceived as an active participant in and
    sponsor of any subsequent use of the product. The
    transaction therefore lacks both compelled expression
    and compelled participation

    It is amazing how similar it was to my past arguments on this issue.

    • Chris

      Would you write the same regarding a baker refusing to design a cake for a militant Islamist ceremony?

      According to Jack’s post, the plaintiffs are claiming that they didn’t ask him to “design” anything.

      • According to Jack’s post, the plaintiffs are claiming that they didn’t ask him to “design” anything.

        But according to the Colorado Court of Appeal
        http://www.scotusblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/16-111-op-bel-colo-app.pdf

        In July 2012, Craig and Mullins visited Masterpiece, a bakery
        in Lakewood, Colorado, and requested that Phillips design and
        create a cake to celebrate their same-sex wedding

        If the administrative law judge (the trier of fact) had actually found that the cake was pre-designed, then there would be no First Amendment implication. In the case where a baker was offering to bake cakes in accordance with pre-existing designs advertised to the public, “he
        business has already chosen to speak”.

  7. # 5- HRC: “The fact-checking organization PolitiFact, which found I told the truth more than any other presidential candidate in 2016 …”

    Politifact: “The truth is Clinton is right depending on how you calculate truth.”

    Depending on how you calculate the truth???

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/sep/14/fact-checkers-guide-hillary-clintons-new-book/

    • Chris

      It’s pretty sad that, at 51 and 52% respectively, Clinton and Sanders were the most honest politicians Politifact evaluated.

      The best we got in 2016 were candidates who only misstated the truth half the time.

      • Sad commentary indeed!

        Those Misstating/b> the truth and that most honest (least dishonest?) references stick in my craw.

      • Gotta stop referencing Politifact, Chris. Its partisanship is well-documented and palpable. As for “most honest” scores, the real issue is trust. If someone is believable 50% of the time, then they aren’t believable. Simple as that.

        • Chris

          Huh? I referenced Politifact because Paul did. They do have a left-wing bias, but if they’re only judging statements from Bernie and Hillary as accurate 50% of the time, then that tells me their bias isn’t so strong that it stops them from pointing out when lefties aren’t telling the truth.

          • But it’s like the liars themselves. PoliFact has been caught so many times that it doesn’t matter what they say. We know a Democrat or liberals starts any comparison with a presumption of virtue and honesty.

            • Chris

              Yes, Politifact has been wrong a lot, though I don’t know if it’s been wrong more than, say, the New York Times, which you still use as a source.

              You’ve done a good job over the past year documenting how little we can trust anyone in the media. And yet, we still have to rely on some sources of information despite this fact. Politifact is imperfect, but I think it is still useful.

              • I don’t understand the use except to pick out the people from the crowd too woefully ignorant or blinded by bias to trot out nuggets like “Hillary Clinton is more honest than X because Politifact says so, look at these ratings.”

                The fact of the matter is that selection bias is real, and the spinning is profound… Take for instance for despite “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period” was Politifact’s 2015 Lie of The Year, They’d never actually rated Obama saying those words as worse than “Half True” and he had not in fact said them in 2015.

                “If You Like Your Doctor” wasn’t even something that developed over time, Joe Wilson immediately called Obama out on it, even if he did it in a way that was…. spectacularly inappropriate… (Google “You Lie!”). Politifact wither purposefully carried water for Obama, or wasn’t particularly interested in actually fact checking… But if they can rate the related statements from Obama as anything from “Mostly True” to “Half True” until long after the lie is relevant… Then what “use” exactly, do they have?

                • Chris

                  There’s a lot wrong here, HT.

                  –Politifact rated that statement of Obama’s as the “lie of the year” in 2013, not 2015.
                  –Politifact acknowledged their mistake in previously rating his claim as “half true” in the same article where they proclaimed it the “lie of the year.”
                  –Politifact did rate related statements as false and even “pants on fire.” See here: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/nov/06/barack-obama/barack-obama-says-what-hed-said-was-you-could-keep/
                  and here: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/oct/30/valerie-jarrett/valerie-jarrett-says-nothing-obamacare-forces-peop/
                  –Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” statement was not in response to “If you like your plan…” It was in response to Obama’s claim that illegal immigrants were not covered by the ACA.

                  I’ve already conceded that Politifact has a left-wing bias. But again, the fact that they still managed to only rate about half of Bernie and Hillary’s statements as “true,” and that they’re willing to give “Lie of the Year” to liberals, shows that that bias isn’t crippling. Flawed? Yes. Useless? No.

                  • “–Politifact rated that statement of Obama’s as the “lie of the year” in 2013, not 2015.”

                    I’m not a fact checker, I work off memory, and if that’s the kind of complaint you have with my comment, then you’ve pretty much given up the game.

                    “–Politifact did rate related statements as false and even “pants on fire.””

                    No, they said that the lie was when he said “What I said was: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, ‘if it hasn’t changed since the law passed’. They never once actually put a ruling less than half true on “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Period”, and despite qualifying that half true in their lie of the year, they did not go back and edit their previous scorecards, despite a practice of frequently doing so. Aside: I once Emailed a Politifact editor, not only did I receive an Email back, but they actually changed their scorecard. Probably because it was a math related error, and didn’t fall on a particularly partisan line…. But it happened.

                    “Politifact did rate related statements as false and even “pants on fire.” See here […] and here”

                    So… What I said was:

                    “They’d never actually rated Obama saying those words as worse than “Half True” and he had not in fact said them in 2015.”

                    And you responded with a rating they did on Valerie Jarrett. Well, unless Obama got the Michael Jackson treatment, grew some tits and changed his name, my point stands.

                    “Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” statement was not in response to “If you like your plan…” It was in response to Obama’s claim that illegal immigrants were not covered by the ACA.”

                    Huh. Well… Funny story, that:

                    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/sep/09/joe-wilson/joe-wilson-south-carolina-said-obama-lied-he-didnt/

                    And uh…

                    https://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2016/03/25/because-of-federal-health-law-illegal-immigrants-get-care/#180375322139

                    • Chris

                      I’m not a fact checker, I work off memory, and if that’s the kind of complaint you have with my comment, then you’ve pretty much given up the game.

                      It was a simple correction.

                      “Politifact did rate related statements as false and even “pants on fire.” See here […] and here”

                      So… What I said was:

                      “They’d never actually rated Obama saying those words as worse than “Half True” and he had not in fact said them in 2015.”

                      And you responded with a rating they did on Valerie Jarrett. Well, unless Obama got the Michael Jackson treatment, grew some tits and changed his name, my point stands.

                      That part of my comment was clearly in response to this:

                      Politifact wither purposefully carried water for Obama, or wasn’t particularly interested in actually fact checking… But if they can rate the related statements from Obama as anything from “Mostly True” to “Half True” until long after the lie is relevant… Then what “use” exactly, do they have?

                      I agree they should have gone back and changed their ratings on Obama’s early statements. But my point is that a website that calls out prominent liberals when they lie, to the extent of awarding them “Lie of the Year,” can’t be accused of being so biased as to be useless. That they never corrected their previous ratings on this Obama lie is a valid critique. “This means you should never, ever use them as a source for anything, and if you do, you’re an idiot” is not a valid conclusion to draw from that critique.

                      “Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” statement was not in response to “If you like your plan…” It was in response to Obama’s claim that illegal immigrants were not covered by the ACA.”

                      Huh. Well… Funny story, that:

                      Yes, funny that you would link to a source as biased as Forbes while implying that only an idiot would use a biased source like Politifact.

                • Yet it still a valid question that Chris poses:

                  If you can’t be assured of the truth what is better:

                  1) plodding through your daily life with your values and principles to guide you while completely uninformed of current events.

                  2) the only thing you know of current events are probably lies.

                  • The context is Fact-checking. If a Fact-checker uses bias and lies frequently, then you can’t use it. We can check facts ourselves.

                  • Look at multiple sources of current events, and find the common (or uncommon) thread? Go to alternate sources, which may also be biased, albeit the other way?

                    This is a great problem these days.

                    • Yes, but look: I can check Doug Brinkley’s lie about how it is rare for the same party to hold the White House for 12 years straight by looking at any American history book. PolitiFact didn’t check that assertion. Snopes didn’t. The Post Factchecker didn’t. Yet it was flagrant, public, intended to deceive, and unequivocal. If Fact-check services aren’t immediately drawn to that, what is their purpose:

                      To spin for partisan agendas.

                    • All well and good, Jack, if the facts are in a trusted history book. More recent events are more susceptible to ‘reality molding.’ Look at the Kennedy assassination. Many of the accepted ‘facts’ (magic bullet) are not so, despite reams of involved investigation and documentation.

                      Fast forward to the last 20 years and true facts are even more elusive. History books are written with political agendas (right and left) in mind. Meanings are shaded to point to a desired conclusion everywhere.

                      I blame John Ritter. Not that he did anything, but he is dead and no longer cares. 🙂

            • PoliFact has been caught so many times that it doesn’t matter what they say.

              Like the New York Times

          • I think we all believe that we either deem someone “honest;” if we don’t, there’s a default “now wait a minute.”

            There’s only two politicians that I’ve ever deemed honest: the late WI Senator/Governor & Earth Day Founder Gaylord Nelson & my former 20th District Alder Thuy Pham-Remmele.

            Chris, please note that I consider Lefty/Lefties to be proper nouns and thus deserving the respect of being capitalized.

            That by any chance trigger your “now wait a minute”?

  8. I’m not so sure the original Star Wars movies are that outdated for young audiences. The newest movie, Rogue One, ties right in to the opening scene in the original movie as does the Star Wars Rebels which at the new year had a cameo of a gray-haired Obi-Wan ending Maul for good. The Force Awakens does cover most of the same tropes and themes as New Hope, but the original is simpler and more accessible. So don’t neglect to consider popular recent ‘teen’ shows like SW Rebels and Young Justice. Those use familiar settings and sometimes characters that your young audience either knows or has heard of…

    • Chris

      Both Rebels and Young Justice are fantastic.

    • Where are the ethics, though? It’s good guys vs evil guys. I don’t see Lucas or his heirs very ethically astute. Harry Potter would be good, but that series is ethically confused a lot too.

      • Ethics takeaway from Star Wars?

        The good guys aren’t ethical either. They just want to reimpose a corrupt senate in bed with businesses to big to fail and a totalitarian religion intolerant of any other denominations. They just happen to be losing to another set of bad guys.

        It’s like watching the Arab spring.

  9. Jack, you’re something of a scholar on American Presidential history… Can you think of a runner up for most petulant election loser?

  10. Jeff

    “He objected to the use of gay stereotypes for humor, and he particularly objected to the gay male lead being played by a straight actor, who, he said, was obviously straight.”

    I’m a bit confused. The image of a gay man as effeminate and flamboyant is an unacceptable stereotype, but at the same time you can tell when a man is “obviously straight”? Perhaps my thinking is too linear, but that seems like a pretty clear contradiction.

  11. I wasn’t going to reply to this because I think I’m going to sound like a know it all, and everybody hates a know-it-all, especially a know-it-all on the Internet.

    But I’m of the opinion you might be thinking about the problem the wrong way.

    When I was a kid, nothing made me roll my eyes faster, and lost my attention quicker, than an adult who tried to talk like me and tried to only talk about things they thought I was interested in. First, I found it insulting that they thought they could understand me (of course, they could understand me because all adults have been children, but, at least in my own experience, I thought I was the ONLY one who ever had the exact feelings I had and the exact problems I had as a pre-teen and teenager). Second, the adults were always wrong about either what I was into, or what I was pretending to be into to be part of the crowd at the given moment.

    What usually worked extremely well for me was when an adult didn’t try to come to my level. Instead, they would make their points about whatever they were talking about using whatever was familiar to them. For instance, in your case, I would have respected you more and given you more of my attention if you had played the clip from “A Man For All Seasons” with a brief introduction about what the clip was, and some information contextualizing it. I would have felt respected because it would have shown that you expect I can get whatever it is that you’re talking about. If you had tried to make the same points using Harry Potter, for instance, I would have thought you were trying far too hard to make all your points connect to something that I was familiar with. My conclusion, in that event, would likely have been one of two things:

    1.) The speaker isn’t being authentic

    Or

    2.) The speaker doesn’t think I’m smart enough to respond to his experiences/ pop culture references from the past.

    If I were you, I think I would at least seriously consider abandoning the attempt to connect ethics to pop culture that the Boy Scouts would be familiar with. Instead, I would consider using all the pop culture references I normally use, and just think critically about where some context might be needed. You could even bill it as something like an Adventure from the Past.

    Another advantage to this plan is that no one will likely feel any pressure to pretend one way or another about any given piece of pop culture. For instance, they’re at the age where there’s major group think going on, and if a few of them have decided Batman isn’t cool this week, they might all feel pressured to pretend Batman isn’t cool. As many of them will have never heard of him, you can bet there will not be any similar pressure with regards to John Wayne.

    On the other hand, Chris sounds far more familiar with the current iteration of this age group, so maybe he will think I’m way off base. And, indeed, maybe I am. Just my two cents worth.

    Good luck either way.

    • I probably should have used Harry Potter as my “not cool” example.

      Batman has always been cool and will always be cool. (In the 1966 series he was so lame, he managed to become cool again).

      • Jeff

        I’m glad you clarified that. I was about to say that, as bad as things are in the US culturally right now, if kids stop thinking Batman is cool, we’re in seriously deep trouble. 🙂

        I tend to agree with your analysis, too. Trying too hard to make a topic relatable to an audience comes off as pandering or inauthentic. It makes me think of a middle-aged high school guidance counselor sitting backwards on a chair and saying “Hey, kids, let’s rap.”

        Not to mention, Boy Scouts tend to be a little more “on the ball” than the average kid their age. Scouting may have lost some of its appeal to this generation, but it does tend to instill better thinking ability and more adult social skills in the kids who take it seriously.

        • I agree with Chris, Valentine0486 and Jeff on relating to adolescents. Having a 13-year old, I can see (and hear the eye rolls when I try to be topical with him and his friends). If I try to be “too cool” in his eyes, I get that, “oh, c/mon, dad. You’re killing me” look. It is really easy to lose a 13 year old audience by being too familiar. I wonder if it is because they perceive the distinction between adults (authority figures) and teenagers (mostly hormone-crazed, confused [that is not the proper word – maybe “unsure”, “awkward”, or “searching”] adolescents looking for guidance). For instance, my son responds more to his French and Algebra teacher because she is tough, no-nonsense, but fair than he does to his media teacher, whom he perceives as wishy-washy and clueless.

          He and his friends respond to things that I find relevant, even though it may be an obscure reference from when I was his age because it appears that ethics and morals have universal themes. The Boy Scouts tend to be more keyed into things such as duty, honor, dignity, as those themes are part of the motto and the more effective scout leaders talk about them in detail.

          jvb.

    • Chris

      Not only do I not think you’re off-base, I think yours is a good contender for COTD.

    • I read this after I returned from the session, but I reached the same conclusion you did beforehand. I completely agree.

  12. Still Spartan

    11-14? A good thing to talk about is proper use of social media. No sexting, no bullying, not to live on it 24/7, etc. How doing something unbelievably stupid — like inappropriate sexting or pictures — can follow them around for the rest of their life and good wind them up in jail. This is the age where most kids are getting smart phones for the first time.

    • Every generation declares that things were different from when we were children, most of it simple nostalgia. However, with the rapidly accelerating exposure from and on social media, it is truly a new world. We did not have social media when we grew up – our social media was the gossip hotline and the landline. The internet promised every treasure of interconnectivity but we as a society were not ready for it, and we are still trying to catch up. Two years ago, Facebook was the rage; now it is considered lame and antiquated. Snapchat and Instagram are the new thing.

      From my experience, Spartan, 11 – 14 years have absolutely no clue about the impact social media will have on their lives. They live in a constant buzz of Instant Messages, Instagram, Facebook (well, not really – it is lame), Twitter, and Snapchat. Machine gun images are blasted at them all day long. It is no wonder these kids can’t concentrate for very long – they are constantly stimulated with nonsense.

      They, my son included, have no real concept that what is posted on social media stays on social media even though some of these sites declared that once it is viewed it disappears into the web ether. The fight that broke out in the lunch room last Friday will be captured, forwarded, retweeted, reposted and shared ad nauseum, and shared between and among everybody on the internet.

      Try explaining to teenagers that what you post and repost will be reviewed by high school admissions committees when they consider high school applications. That video you posted about how much you think “Ms. Whatshername” is an idiot and Principal “Whoeverheis” is a jerk will most likely result in a revocation your high school’s admission letter along with a request from you child’s school to “voluntarily” withdraw from the school. Frightening stuff..

      jvb

      • Still Spartan

        Agreed. Right now the rule in our house is no phone until they are 14, but they have friends who got them as early as second grade!!! And I am already drilling into my kids what they can and can’t do online — even though they can only be online: 1) if they are with me or their dad (preferably me); and 2) only on a couple of child-friendly websites where we have disabled chat and other features.

    • If I get a second chance, I might do that. It would take the whole hour, though.

      • I absolutely HARP to my kids (teens now, but for the last 5 years at least) that if it is electronic, it is forever. Snapchats are preserved on the server. Instagram the same. Facebook never purges even upon death certification. Our texts are kept, our calls recorded and our email cataloged and search indexed. The NSA said so

        Act like it.

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