Afternoon Ethics Distractions, December 1, 2018 [UPDATED]

Happy birthday to me.

Birthday ethics quiz: When I was 13, my mother decided to throw me a real surprise birthday by having my friends and relatives hiding in our basement, but to stage the ambush four full days before the actual anniversary of my birth. She sent me down into our (creepy, musty) basement on a pretext, and the 25 or so people leaping out of the dark screaming scared the hell out of me. I nearly fell down the stairs. On your real birthday, there’s something in the back of your mind that prepares you for the possibility of a surprise party, however remote. When the surprise comes on another day, it feels more like an attack. As a consequence of that trauma, I detest surprise parties, and am afraid of dark basements. My mother, who loved scaring people, was always proud of her “surprise party that was really a surprise.” I thought it was sadistic and irresponsible, and still do.

What do you think?

1. The Drag Queen Principal Principle? Readers here Know Ethics Alarms frequently explores the various ethical dilemmas raised when a primary or secondary school teacher allows herself to appear naked of nearly so on the web. The tag is “The Naked Teacher Principle.”

This is a variation I haven’t seen before, out of Great Britain, from the BBC:

Andrew Livingstone, 39, is the head of Horatio House in Lound, Suffolk, and he also has a second job outside of work, as an entertainer called Miss Tish Ewe. According to the Eastern Daily Press, his act contains explicit material.

Great Yarmouth Community Trust, which owns the school, said it had agreed guidelines with him to ensure “a separation between his two jobs”. Mr Livingstone’s act is labelled on Twitter as “Queen of Quay Pride and Great Yarmouth!”, and boasts he has performed in places including Cardiff, Bristol and Dundee.

Mr Livingstone was appointed in July as the head of the independent school, near Lowestoft, and its proprietors said he brought “considerable expertise in education and school improvement to the trust”.

The school said his drag queen act came up during checks, but that it did “not believe that the two jobs are incompatible, and agreed with Mr Livingstone clear guidelines to ensure that there is a separation between his two jobs, including the use of social media in promoting his act”.

Both Norfolk and Suffolk county councils said they had not received any complaints.

Note that the key factor in most NTP scenarios isn’t present here. The teacher’s employers knew about the individual’s unusual avocation and approved of it in advance: there was no unexpected revelations or publicity. Note also that this is England, where drag has a somewhat different tradition and reputation than it does in the U.S.

2. George H.W. Bush death ethics. a) Incompetence. Here is the Washington Post’s first obit after the former President’s demise yesterday:

b) Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! The New York Times dredged out the infamous photo it employed to help sink Bush’s reelection in 1992, purporting to show him being “amazed” at a supermarket scanner. Bush was “out of touch” with how real Americans lived, you see, unlike Bill Clinton, who “felt their pain.”  That was the false narrative the news media was pushing against THAT Republican President. It was a lie, of course. Times reporter, later editor, Andrew Rosenthal wasn’t even present at the grocers’ convention where the photographed scene took place. He based his article on a two-paragraph report filed by the lone pool newspaperman allowed to cover the event, who only noted that Bush had a “look of wonder” on his face, But President Bush was wondering at new  a new technology “regular” Americans would have wondered at too—a prototype  scanner that could weigh groceries and read corrupted bar codes.

c) Paranoia! Confirmation bias! Newsbusters and Instapundit found the Associated Press’s obituary nasty and biased. Read it. The piece is fair and accurate. Mine would have been much tougher. Bush joined James Buchanan as men who became President because they had held every other conceivable elected and appointed government post and it was the only step left. That’s a lousy reason to run for President, and both Buchanan and Bush learned that lesson the hard way.

d) This is how it is done, John. The Bush family made it known that President Trump would be attending Bush’s funeral. President Trump was much harder on the Bushes than he was on John McCain. [CORRECTION: I mistakenly and carelessly posted that the Bushes “boycotted” Trump’s swearing in. W. and wife were there; Jeb wasn’t, but he was not obligated to, and H.W. was old and frail enough that he had an automatic excuse, though I doubt that he was inclined to show up. I apologize for the error.] But living ex-Presidents and the one in office traditionally attend the funeral of one of the exclusive club. The Bush’s understand that respect for the Presidency takes precedence over dislike of the man in it.

3. When the going gets tough, the tough get cheating. The unethical tough, anyway. New York Times reported that T.M. Landry College Prep,  a Louisiana prep school that made headlines for sending working-class black kids to elite colleges, cut corners, doctored college applications, made up student extracurricular activities and faked grades to help its students get accepted into colleges. Videos of students from opening acceptance letters from top universities, have become an internet sensation.CBS News and the Today Show extolled the school’s ability to send its students on the way to an elite education.

Michael and Tracey Landry, who run the school, are also accused of fostering a culture of fear with physical and emotional abuse. T

Ana Lewis, a former student there said that she “got this education that meant nothing.” Her mother, Latasha Lewis, pulled her and two other children out of the school. “We feel betrayed — I saw the videos and I wanted exactly what I saw in the videos for my children,” Lewis said.

Ashlee McFarlane represents them and several others in a developing law suit. The school has no textbooks, no homework and employs no specific class schedule.

I see this as just another few yards down the slippery slope public school education and affirmative action has already greased.

4.  Great. The first one of these this holiday season…In Montville, NJ,  a substitute teacher told first-graders that Santa Claus isn’t real. The Cedar Hill School sent a letter to parents apologizing for this abuse of authority.

“During the course of the day, a substitute teacher apparently announced to the class that Santa was not real,” the school’s principal, Michael J. Raj, wrote not identifying  the teacher, but assuring parents that he had spoken with her “regarding her poor judgement in making this proclamation.”

It is interesting that schools will immediately react to a teacher overstepping their proper role regarding Santa Claus, but  frequently ignore other unethical indoctrination from teachers on political matters. There is no ethical difference between telling students that Santa isn’t real and telling them that climate change threatens the planet or that George Washington was a racist. All are positions outside their authority to promote.

5. KABOOM! How bad is that slippery slope I mentioned above? THIS bad:

The Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), will be teaching a seminar to educate professors on how to be “inclusive” to all students . The “Inclusive Teaching Seminar” will be held in Spring 2018. Each session will be dedicated to a specific topic, such as “inclusive grading” or “preventing microaggressions.”

What is “inclusive grading”? Go ahead, guess!

“In a cohort of peers, participants will engage in conversations around topics such as learning through diversity, growth mindset, microaggressions and implicit bias, trigger warnings, stereotype threat, and inclusive homework assessments,” the program explains. Enough leftist jargon for you? Nah, there’s more:  a December 6, 2017 Powerpoint presentation by the CTL extolls “trusting students to assess themselves.” Hence “inclusive grading,” which seems to mean letting students grade themselves.

How is this any better than what the Landry School does?

There have been three major cheating scandals at Barnard and Columbia since 2013, but never mind: we all know that students should be trusted to determine how well they are doing. Besides, “Grades are currency for a capitalist system that reduces teaching and learning to a mere transaction” the CT points out. “Grading is a massive coordinated effort to take humans out of the educational process.”

6. Happy birthday! The former Ethics Alarms commenter who is suing me in Massachusetts for banning him after issuing unkind opinions about his conduct and mental state is appealing the judicial opinion holding that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on just because he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Frivolous as it is, I still have to counter his arguments. The objective, you see, is to waste my time. The notice arrived by mail today.

51 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Distractions, December 1, 2018 [UPDATED]

  1. #5. Silly me, I had always thought that grading was a coordinated effort to objectively determine the extent to which I had mastered the subject matter.

  2. 3 and 5. As I’ve said before, the continued, intractable dysfunction in the black underclass has driven huge segments of American society and its various institutions absolutely nuts. Self grading grade schools, closed prisons, Medicare for all, guaranteed jobs and income. Tremendous ideas.

  3. With respect, Jack, Bush the elder didn’t “boycott” Trump’s inauguration. He was staying home on his doctor’s orders, because he was just getting over pneumonia and some other bronchial problems, and couldn’t handle sitting outside in January for 2 hours +. GWB and his wife did attend.

  4. 2 C ) In fairness to those complaining about the AP’s obituary, most of the vitriol I’ve seen is directed at their twitter feed which blurbed the obituary as:

    “George H.W. Bush, a patrician New Englander whose presidency soared with the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, but then plummeted in the throes of a weak economy that led voters to turn him out of office after a single term, has died. He was 94.”

    That may or may not be a great summary and may or may not be valid to complain about….but I can see some of the complaints being valid given the interesting selection of language used here.

    • I don’t see what’s even wrong with that. It seems accurate and fair. The Bushes were a classic patrician family. Bush frittered away an opportunity to cash in his poll zenith, and when the economy went sour, he had no argument for re-election. He still would have beaten Clinton without Perot in the race.

  5. Happy birthday!

    I’m regards to inclusive grading, I love my areas of study. I have an engineering degree and received a minor in mathematics. There is no inclusive grading. Either the integral of 2x is x2+C or you are wrong. No middle ground. Either the addition of O2 to the hydrocarbon will, in the presence of adequate heat, cause aggressive decomposition to water and carbon dioxide, or you are wrong. No middle ground. It is hard to dumb these type of classes down, though I’m sure someone here could find an example of someone doing that and blow my brain into tiny pieces if they were truly so inclined. However, I stand by my stance that I enjoy the simple problems posed in math, hard sciences, and engineering that have a single correct solution, politics not withstanding.

  6. Re 6: my sympathies.

    Now if you couldn’t self represent, and the venue was at the other end of the country, how much would this have cost you?

    I fear he’s just getting up to speed. I hope I’m wrong. Courts should not be the playthings of the malicious and differently sane.

      • No more fine than when Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger, Jr. did it.

        Of course, I seem to be unable to identify anyone complaining about Putin’s “interference” conplaining about Sulzberger’s intereference. Can you help me?

        • Deflect defelct. Whaddabout her emails. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

          I’m sorry* that you find an American publisher so objectionable but I don’t see how that justifies allowing a foreign power to covertly subvert out elections.

          *Not sorry.

          • The Administration that allowed a foreign power to engage in divisive mischief–you can’t possible believe that anything was subverted—was the Obama Administration, which was charged with preventing such stuff. That is a matter of record. I have not seen one shred of evidence that the Trump campaign “allowed” or “subverted” anything—and neither have you.

            • Deflect! Deflect!

              What did I say? Did I say Trump campaign? No, I did not. I know how you so love to change the meaning of what I said.

              Stop it.

              Michael Ejercito questioned why it’s wrong to object to Russian meddling. Michael Ejercito appears okay with it. Michael Ejercito appears to object to American publishers publishing things. No comment from you on that.

              Of course.

              Now I understand that this is a bad day for you but this habit of replying to what would have suited your, er, let’s call it a counterargument, I guess, instead of what I actually typed is becoming tiresome.

              • If I misunderstood what you meant, I apologize. But you wrote ” I don’t see how that justifies allowing a foreign power to covertly subvert out elections.” WHO are you talking about, if not Trump, that being the Times narrative? My point is that if that was your meaning, it’s crap. If it wasn’t, I need to know what it meant.

                • In this case, I’m talking about Michael Ejercito, the person I was directly addressing, who puts foreign interference on the same level, ethically, morally, and legally, as an American publishing a newspaper.

                    • “Meddling”, “interfering”, “subverting” are all vague terms; they could literally mean anything.

                      so far, the specific acts the Russians were accused of is…sharing ideas. There is no evidence of them doing actual tampering with the vote totals, or the counting process, or the fraudulently casting votes (which of course are properly prohibited.)

                      The two things foreigners are prohibited from doing in the contexts of elections, but which Americans may do, vote, and donate to political campaign. Even the concept of donation has to be circumscribed. A one-to-one communication to a campaign official about information useful to the campaign may qualify as an in-kind donation. The dissemination of that same information to the general public would not., even if a political campaign would find that information useful.

                      Pushing false news narratives is of course unethical, but it would have been no more unethical for Putin to have done so two years ago, than it would have been for Sulzberger to have done so twenty-six years ago.

                      Finally, I share a post on another bulletin board, showing what people find acceptable conduct regarding influencing elections.


                      And as for The Hammer, that’s true. He did get his conviction overturned by the Texas Supreme Court, an elected body that consists almost entirely of conservative Republicans. They didn’t think DeLay actually did all that stuff, and Texas doesn’t really have much in the way of campaign finance laws anyway. It makes no matter, though. He was still a cancerous growth on Congress’ asscheek, begging for a public fall from grace. And when he got convicted the first time around, we as a nation are better off for it. Ronnie Earle did humanity a favor when he realized that DeLay broke campaign finance laws, and he did us an even greater one when he got DeLay convicted. Whether or not “justice” was actually served against him isn’t so important. The fact that he no longer holds office though? That’s very important.

                      We have people like “Maraxus” extolling criminal prosecution as an acceptable political tactic.

                      There is no room to complain about Russian “interference”, not after we have people like “Maraxus” who say that ‘whether or not justice is served against him” is not so important in regards to a criminal prosecution, but the fact that [Tom DeLay] no longer holds office.

      • I don’t read it that way, and you have to stretch to do it yourself. The point is one I have read elsewhere: why it more ethical for the news media to manipulate facts, spread false narratives, and thus interfere with the electorate’s knowledge and manipulate elections Than it is for foreign nations? The answer is: its not. Either act undermines the integrity of elections. Both are equally heinous though one is illegal. Ethically, I’m not sure our news media doing it isn’t worse. They are betraying their nation.

        And there is less than no evidence that Putin “chose our leaders” or culd if he wanted to. ME was speaking hypothetically. You seem to be selling a deliberately false narrative. Don’t.

  7. #6. Regardless of what Jack thinks of the lawsuit petitioner, it’s my personal opinion that the person suing Jack and harassing Jack with the appeal he is abusing the legal system and is an asshole for this continued abuse and this is me “telling” him that very thing to his face; you’re an asshole, but of course that’s just the opinion of a humble human being.

  8. Jack have you been reading up on what’s going on in the North Carolina 9’th?

    It’s looking like Mark Harris might have first stolen the primary with absentee ballot fraud and then the general as well. The board voted unanimously not to certify.

    And have you seen Wisconsin lame-duck republican’s plans for Tuesday? Stripping powers from the incoming Democrats and trying to move the supreme court election away from Super Tuesday to suppress turnout.

  9. Well, now that George H W Bush is gone, it really doesn’t matter whether he attended Trump’s Inauguration or not. As time goes on, I think that he will be ranked as one or our better presidents: Certainly better than his successor!

  10. Everything posted here today has been a distraction for me, for today, the 2nd of December, and I am thankful for it. My addition is for yesterday:

    The first day of the month was given over to sharing the company of the 35th-year reunion of the staff of one of the world’s first dedicated AIDS-care hospital units in remembrance of our personal as well as professional losses. There were no distractions from the either the mourning or the celebration of life, . . . nor the memories of the laughter, comfort and peace that made the ward a help (as front-runners in AIDS treatment), as a training ground for doctors around the world, and as a haven for hundreds of patients, giving a boost to those few who were to survive the epidemic, and a respectful hospice to those who would not.

  11. Hate to defend Slate, well, I won’t defend them, this is a poorly written piece, the million monkeys must be having an off day. And it’s a pointless piece of rage-bait, and therefore unethical on those grounds. Simultaneously, it misunderstands the relationship that dogs make with people and then draws a lot of needless conclusions from that, while simultaneously making intentionally mean obersations about some people’s possibly good faith conduct. Some observations about posed photography is probably accurate.

    On the whole this article is probably unethical in substance, it’s hard to tel because it’s such a compositional mess, making it incompetent and unethical on those grounds.

    But this may be a case of Ick vs Aww and not ethics.

  12. Re: Bush. I was half the age I am now when they showed that scanner and I was surprised, too. It was new technology. Of course, he’d be awed by it. I was, until I realized how many cashiers would be put out of work. I still avoid the self-service scan machines (which seem to be outnumbering manned checkout lanes more and more each year) unless I have only two or three items and no produce!

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