Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/28/20: Happy Birthday, Woodrow Wilson!

2020 end

As 2020 staggers to a conclusion, Ethics Alarms wants to express its gratitude to the core of devoted Alarmist commentators who kept the dialogue going during what is always an annual cratering of blog traffic. I appreciate it. I also appreciated the many kind holiday wishes, in what has been a muted Christmas for the Marshalls for a number of reasons I won’t bore you with.

In case you were among the missing, I draw your attention to…

…among other hopefully edifying and entertaining posts.

1. After signalling otherwise or perhaps just trolling, President Trump signed the truly awful pandemic relief and omnibus spending bill, really sending the national debt into orbit. One theory is that doing so was necessary to avoid a Democratic sweep of the two Senate seats up for grabs in Georgia. I will file the event as one more car on the Wuhan Virus Ethics Train Wreck, and one that will do more damage in the long run than most of them.

2. In Nevada, Gabrielle Clark filed a federal lawsuit against her son’s charter school last week for refusing to let him opt out of a mandatory class that promotes anti-white racism. It claims that Democracy Prep at the Agassi Campus forced William Clark “to make professions about his racial, sexual, gender and religious identities in verbal class exercises and in graded, written homework assignments,” creating a hostile environment, and subjecting he son’s statements ” to the scrutiny, interrogation and derogatory labeling of students, teachers and school administrators,” who are “still are coercing him to accept and affirm politicized and discriminatory principles and statements that he cannot in conscience affirm.” The lawsuit includes nearly 150 pages of exhibits documenting the curriculum in the graduation requirement “Sociology of Change,” which promotes intersectionality and critical race theory, in breach of what was promised when the Clark’s first sent their son to the school.

3. Here is yet another Orwellian university for responsible parents to steer their children away from at all costs: The University of Michigan, which is creating good little totalitarians by attempting to constrain the language so it only allows Goodthink. The Information and Technology Services, which the university calls a “trusted enabler of technology for the U-M community,” had created the Words Matter Task Force. The group claims that by “using inclusive language, ITS is able to design and build better tools and services to meet customers’ needs.” The Words Matter Task Force has “evaluated the terms and language conventions that may hinder effective communication, harm morale, and deliberately or inadvertently exclude people from feeling accepted to foment a healthy and inclusive culture,” and issued this head-exploding 10-page document that advises against using words and phrases like workman, native, disabled, brown bag, picnic, guy, girl, grandfathered and more. Anyone who lets their children’s minds be warped by an institution that allows such though-control efforts is not just an irresponsible and incompetent parent, but an irresponsible and incompetent American citizen.

4. On a more positive note, the Wall Street Journal reported on Christmas Eve that the University of Texas has agreed to eliminate its Campus Climate Response Team, which monitored the speech of students and members of the faculty. The “team” could subject professors and students to disciplinary action if they said something they deemed to be offensive:

“Students could anonymously report their professors and peers for ‘bias incidents’ to the Campus Climate Response Team, which would investigate and threaten disciplinary referrals and ‘restorative justice’ meetings with administrators. The university gave several examples of what constitutes an act of bias, including ‘faculty commentary in the classroom perceived as derogatory and insensitive,’ and other behavior open to highly subjective judgments about what is offensive.”

Speech First, a nonprofit group, sued the university on behalf of students in 2018, alleging that officials “created an elaborate investigatory and disciplinary apparatus to suppress, punish, and deter speech that other students deem ‘offensive,’ ‘biased,’ ‘uncivil,’ or ‘rude.’” A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but Speech First appealed, and the “Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the ruling and remanded the case back to the district court. Judge Edith Jones called the bias-response team a “clenched fist in the velvet glove of student speech regulation.”

The University of Texas agreed to dissolve the team as part of a settlement, and will lift the ban on “uncivil behaviors and language that interfere.” They are also removing a definition of “verbal harassment” that barred “ridicule” or “personal attacks.”

Good.

5. And speaking of days that will live in infamy, President Woodrow Wilson, the Ethics Alarms choice as the most unethical, destructive POTUS in U.S. history by far, was born on this date in 1856. When I was growing up and beginning my life-long study of the American Presidency, all the books I read that ranked the Presidents rated Wilson as a great or “near great” President, because he was a Democrat, and historians were just as politically biased then as they are now, maybe a little bit less. Somehow, those “scholars” managed to miss, or to be more precise, intentionally ignore, Wilson’s racism, his endorsement of Jim Crow policies, his disastrous decision to have the U.S. enter World War I, his role in turning the Spanish flu into a pandemic, his acceptance of a punitive treaty to end the war that led directly to the rise of Adolf Hitler, and his continuing in office after being incapacitated by a stroke, allowing his wife and physician to secretly run the country.

Helluva President!

10 thoughts on “Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/28/20: Happy Birthday, Woodrow Wilson!

  1. Any update on “the Pandemic Creates a Classic and Difficult Ethics Conflict”.

    I have been waiting patiently.

    The lawsuit includes nearly 150 pages of exhibits documenting the curriculum in the graduation requirement “Sociology of Change,” which promotes intersectionality and critical race theory, in breach of what was promised when the Clark’s first sent their son to the school.

    There is far more than probable cause.

    A full review of the school’s policies is ethically required.

  2. 1. Definitely a possibility. The president may posture all he wants, but he knows in the end holding those two seats, or at least one of them, is the most important thing on the GOP’s radar right now.

    2. The court is going to be through the roof when it sees that, I think. On the other hand, I once fended off a 500-count civil rights complaint from a pro se kook.

    3. This is just an inflated version of the inclusive language nonsense that was already in existence when I myself was in college, 30+ years ago. My student handbook said to address all questions concerning language to the Office of Social Concern, which didn’t exist.

    4. Good, but it sometimes feels like the battle against political correctness is like bailing out the ocean with a teaspoon.

    5. You sure he’s the absolute worst? I agree with pretty much everything you said, but FDR (racist, ruled as an elected king, bullied the courts), LBJ (racist, bully, cynic, race-baiter, pushed the US into a pointless war in Vietnam and then didn’t fight to win), Clinton (bully, womanizer, sociopath), and Obama (race-baiter, near-pacifist in an office that can’t be occupied by one) are up there.

    • Don’t forget the racist, statist Lincoln. H.L. Mencken got Lincoln (and the Civil War) right:

      “The Gettysburg speech is at once the shortest and the most famous oration in American history. Put beside it, all the whoopings of the Websters, Sumners and Everetts seem gaudy and silly. It is eloquence brought to a pellucid and almost child-like perfection—the highest emotion reduced to one graceful and irresistible gesture. Nothing else precisely like it is to be found in the whole range of oratory. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous.

      “But let us not forget that it is oratory, not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it! Put it into the cold words of everyday! The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination — ‘that government of the people, by the people, for the people,’ should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle actually fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves.”

      http://www.oldmagazinearticles.com/article-summary/hl_mencken_remarks_about_abe_lincoln#.X-ofc9hKhaQ

    • If he’s not the worst, he’s competing with the likes of Buchanan, Pierce and Johnson, A, all f whom had the cards stacked against them. We’re talking results here, not character, so Clinton isn’t even in the conversation. He wins my prize for most underperforming President, given his ability and orientation, but he’s not within miles of Wilson for pure damage.

      FDR has a lot of strikes against him to be sure, but you have to rate him a great President and leader for getting us through the Depression on sheer personality and guile, and for making it possible for the world to defeat Hitler by risking impeachment to get help to Russia and Great Britain. He probably was the best pure leader the US ever has had or is ever likely to have, which is why he was so dangerous.

      Johnson has to be elevated because of the Civil Rights Act, which only he could have gotten passed. He’s accountable for Vietnam, but he still inherited it, and he didn’t know how to deal with the student uprisings, or the Sixties, and the press was undermining him all the way because he wasn’t JFK ( a much worse human being and President). Obama was just a standard issue bad President. Wilson laps all these guys.

      • If you buy the argument that FDR’s policies made the depression worse and longer, which is at least plausible, then calling him a great president is probably not justified. It’s hard to separate the good and bad parts, especially when it’s impossible to be sure how anyone else would have done with WWII.

        • Saying that FDR’s policies mad the Depression worse and longer is in the same category as blaming Trump for the Wuhan virus deaths. What he did, and did brilliantly, was to keep the country occupied, hopeful and confident that the government was doing its best. FDR’s pre-war support of Britain explicitly violated Congress’s edict, and that was a courageous and essential act that you can’t devalues by saying someone else might have done it. Presidents have to be rated on results: we got through the Depression, there was no leftist revolution, we had a unified nation that supported the war effort, Hitler and Japan were defeated. That’s plenty to make the argument that FDR wasn’t one of the greatest Presidents a tough sell, and I’m not even a big FDR fan. And in terms of leadership style, presence and charisma, there was no one better.

  3. I’m still kinda new around here (and don’t spend as much time here as I’d like to). But when I saw only “Helluva President!” in the email notice for this post, I thought, “Now THAT can’t be right … ‘

    Glad to see that it wasn’t. 🙂

  4. #’s 2 & 3: There are a couple of good writeups with add’l info on both of these incidents on
    thecollegefix.com website you referenced a few days ago on another issue. They also have one on Cornell making flu shots only mandatory for white students.

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