Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/11/2018: Of Slave Cheerleading, Fake Degrees, And The Death of Pebbles

Good Morning!

(That’s the Kentucky All-State Choir serenading the hotel where they were staying last night, in observation of an annual tradition. I’m sure guests were kneeling everywhere in protest….)

1 Winter Olympics Ethics: You are all going to have to help me keep up with this, since I regard the whole enterprise as corrupt and cynical. How many of the competitors are doping? How many little girls are being molested by their coaches? How much gauging by local businesses is going on? Why are American citizens marching under flags of foreign nations? How many athletes are going to exploit the opportunity for political grandstanding? I’m dedicated to following cultural ethics, but as my terse and eloquent friend is prone to say in such situations, “There is some shit I won’t eat.”

So far, I note…

  • Vice President Mike Pence is getting roundly criticized for not being properly diplomatic regarding the North Koreans, refusing to shake hands with officials, and not standing when the unified Korean team entered the stadium during opening ceremonies. I would not criticized the Veep if he had behaved otherwise, but I won’t fault Pence for his choice, which I  assume were signed off on  by the President. Cognitive dissonance—my, this has been relevant lately!—applies. North Korea is a brutal regime that savages its people, spends money on weaponry while the public is malnourished, and has devoted a year threatening to nuke us.

They and their leader have earned contempt, not respect. The degree of criticism Pence is receiving from the news media shows how many journalists viscerally prefer North Korea to the Trump Presidency.

  • On that score, the gushing of NBC, ABC and CNN over the North Korean synchronized cheerleading squad is bizarre, dumb and tasteless. The 200+ team is propaganda for totalitarianism, and the less praise it receives from useful idiots, the better.  At one point, NBC tweeted “This is so satisfying” with a video of the beaming slave squad, then quickly deleted the tweet after a faint ethics alarm sounded.

This is one of those times we should be grateful for social media, as the Twitter assassins had their knives out, and appropriately so. My favorite of the many appropriate tweets collected here,

“Look happy or your little sister gets fed to a pack of dogs.”

  • And speaking of idiots, NBC Sports had to apologize after Asian correspondent Joshua Cooper Ramo told the Opening Ceremony TV audience  that “every Korean” respected Japan. This demonstrates astounding ignorance of culture and history, and stunning incompetence by NBC in preparing its broadcasters for covering an international event in South Korea.

2. Animal Ethics:

  • I’m not eager to write any more about “emotional support animals” on airplanes, but an ethics screw is loose somewhere when  you get an episode like this one. Before Belen Aldecosea flew home from college,  she says she twice called Spirit Airlines to confirm that she could bring along Pebbles, her pet dwarf hamster, for emotional support. When she arrived at the Baltimore airport, however, Spirit said that Pebbles couldn’t fly with her. After considering her options, and, she says (though Spirit denies it), after the suggestion of airline staff, Belen flushed her emotional support animal down the toilet. Thanks for your service, Pebbles!

Aldecosea, who is 21 going on 11, says, “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”

Well, that’s wonderful; good for you. I think it’s horrible when people don’t feel properly miserable after they flush their pals down airport toilets. I’m sure Pebbles really appreciates those tears, Belen. You’re a good person. <cough!> 

Aldecosea says she is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit.

Good luck with that, you idiot.

  • I don’t know exactly what to say about this ethics and culture issue: the persistence of  dog meat as an acceptable delicacy in South Korea. Maybe you will have some ideas. My Jack Russell is sleeping on my desk, and I have to consider his feelings…

3. Our incompetent, unethical public education system. From the Christian Science Monitor:

All the seniors at Ballou High School in the District of Columbia – despite poverty and other obstacles – walked across the stage and received their diplomas last spring. But as the high school graduation rate keeps hitting new highs in the United States, it appears now that the rush to celebrate, in some cases, has masked a culture of passing seniors by any means necessary. At Ballou, that meant allowing kids to pass classes despite chronic absences – with about half the seniors missing more than 60 days – and offering short credit-recovery classes before they failed the regular course, all in violation of district policy, WAMU and NPR reported in late November.  Now, an outside evaluation of the D.C. school district has shown such violations were widespread. But D.C.’s is far from the only school system that should examine itself, education experts say.Gray areas around attendance and credit recovery are fairly common, and that can cause confusion or can be exploited. It can also make it difficult to separate genuine improvements in graduation from gains that merely look good on paper.

The big question: At what point does a desire to help struggling students get through high school cross the line into unethical shortcuts, potentially setting them up for longer-term failure?

Why is that a question at all? Isn’t the answer obvious? The fact that anyone in the education or public policy field would argue that it is ever justifiable to graduate any student who doesn’t legitimately meet minimal, realistic standards for a high school degree is res ipsa loquitur: it tells us all we need to know about how the education system has failed students and the nation.

16 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/11/2018: Of Slave Cheerleading, Fake Degrees, And The Death of Pebbles

  1. On #3:
    Yet despite this, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers seem to think that public education is successful and should be the only viable way to prepare students for being productive citizens and that somehow Betsy DeVos is the worst person in the world for supporting charter schools and alternatives to the public school system.

    Yet what was going on in DC public schools is so corrupt and setting students up for such failure that it is too much for National Public Radio.

    Maybe it is time to blow up public education – and carry out a radical paradigm shift in elementary and secondary school education. Almost eight decades ago, Frank Capra’s “Why We Fight” showed a blue-collar worker (he was holding a saw) who was familiar with Washington’s Farewell Address. He probably never got past high school, if that.

    How many graduates from District of Columbia public schools even know who George Washington was, never mind the content of his Farewell Address?

    We have had multiple lose generations due to these failed public school systems – and not just in inner cities. It may be time to destroy the NEA and AFT to save the children.

    • Yet what was going on in DC public schools is so corrupt and setting students up for such failure that it is too much for National Public Radio.

      On my more cynical days (of which this is one) I believe this is being done on purpose, to better control the population. If citizens do not know what their rights, their freedoms ARE, how can they defend them?

  2. 1) As I mentioned, I’ve seen liberals and progressives calling Pence a hypocrite on this matter since he opposed the NFL kneelers. If it’s disrespectful to North Korea not to stand for the all-Korean team, how is it not disrespectful to America when professional athletes kneel for our anthem? Pence isn’t the hypocrite there. And as usual, a double standard is in operation: Obama deliberately poked a finger in Russia’s eye over its anti-gay laws with the White House delegation to the Sochi games in 2013; progressives celebrated that. Were Russia’s anti-gay laws more worthy of protest than North Korea’s regime is? Of course not.

    There also isn’t any particular reason to believe that, this time, the North Koreans are serious about diplomacy and peace; they weren’t in 2000, 2004, or 2006, and their actions over the past year have demonstrated clearly that they have no such interest now. The South Koreans aren’t actually accomplishing any lasting good by cooperating with them here, but I’m sure everyone’s getting a good cry out of it.

    2) All I can think about the hamster story is, “Well, that escalated quickly.”

    As for Korean consumption of dog meat, I think this is more ick than ethics. There are people who have pet pigs, cows, chickens, lambs, and goats, but I’m not going to bat an eye over eating the flesh of those animals. If the concern is the treatment of the dogs before they’re slaughtered, there may indeed be some ethical considerations, but I doubt pigs and chickens receive any better treatment in Korea, so only being concerned about the dogs is an exhibition of our own cultural bias in which dogs are regarded as “man’s best friend.”

    3) I’m sure not a few teachers regard the standards themselves as the problem, probably because they encode white privilege and values.

  3. Once again, I am left to prayers that Trump and Pence know what they are doing, because not standing and not shaking hands seems hardly the way to encourage talks and lower tension.

    When a Western leader refuses to shake hands, it seems a repudiation of a tradition going back to Rome that shaking hands is a sign of peaceful intentions. It made Pence look like a juvenile little prat. And not standing for the unified team insults our friends and their autonomy as well.

    I do not like the number of times Trump and Pence leave me praying to god they know what the hell they are doing because their version of Crazy Eddie game theoretical Calvinball sure seems opaque, highly likely to make things worse, with a huge disastrous negative payoff if they fail.

    • I don’t see the point of the symbolism while one nation has made a never withdrawn threat to nuke you. Even if it’s observed, it’s meaningless. It’s a no win situation. Would we want a Pence to stand for Germany’s anthem during Hitler’s Olympics? What’s the difference? We don’t trade with NK, we deplore its human rights, we have proclaimed it one of the “axis of evil.” Since NK’s peaceful intentions are a manifest lie, why the charade?

      The smartest thing would have been to send Nicki Haley or the SOS.

      • Well, you’re right. If Pence and Trump can’t abide by the symbolism of a handshake with a country they are having a dispute with, they should never attend the Olympics, whose entire modern history is to get athletes together to strengthen peace. So they shouldn’t have gone. But if they do go, instead of their little global thermonuclear pissing contest, they have to go in the name of peace, because that’s the acknowledged history and mission of the Olympics.

        It seems unethical to go to an event whose mission is peace, and then engage in petty insults.

        • Oh please, The Olympics ceased to mean much regarding peace almost from the get-go, with the losers of WWI excluded in 1920, the Berlin super-race fest of 1936, the terrorist murders in Munich, 1972, mutual US/USSR boycotts in 1980 and 1984, and, oh yes, the US hosting the Winter Games in the middle of a war in 2002. The ekecheria is a dream, a wish.

  4. By the way, the All-State choirs singing the National Anthem at that hotel is an annual tradition. While impressive in the video, it is even better in person.

  5. What a magnificent chorus! Truly a beautiful arrangement. As for poor Pebbles, something is really wrong with the woman who did this to her emotional support pet.

  6. The Kentucky choir video reminds me of my visit to the Texas capitol building, shortly before Christmas last year. A friend was visiting from Indiana, and when we walked in, there was a Japanese gentleman who had apparently discovered the impressive acoustics of the central rotunda and was belting out a powerful rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner in an incredible singing voice. We just had to stop and listen, and I thanked him for the impromptu concert after he was finished. It was truly a beautiful moment, all the more enjoyable for its unexpectedness.

  7. I too am enjoying the MSM being skewered as they completely show their hand…

    They legitimately think EVERYTHING can be spun into a poke in the eye of the Trump administration, so they are spinning EVERYTHING to do so. This simultaneously forces them to favor ENEMIES of our nation.

    If scientists want to study the formation of blackholes, all they need to do is observe the massive collapse in on itself of the Leftwing media alongside the DNC.

    My most favorite commentaries on ALL of this Trump derangement are those that fall along the lines of “all the Democrats need to be to win in 2018 and 2020 is not to be a dumpster fire. Yet here they are being a dumpster fire.”

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