No “echo chamber” we, so it is appropriate to include as a Comment of the Day Curmie’s vigorous dissent on the current conflict between Disney and Florida, particularly its ambition conservative governor Ron De Santis.
So here it is…in response to the post, DeSantis Strikes Back: Ethics Dunce Disney Gets The Legal And Ethical Consequences It Deserved…
Unlike you, Jack, I am neither a lawyer not an ethicist. The closest I’ve ever been to the former was being unofficially “pre-law” for about the first two and a half years of undergrad; the closest I’ve ever been to the latter is that you’ve called me ethical a couple of times. So forgive me if I have trouble discerning the line between that which is legal and that which is ethical.
Perhaps the terms of the agreement between the state and the corporation are akin to trademark laws: that Florida must aggressively defend its prerogatives or be in danger of losing them. But this doesn’t seem like something any corporate CEO would agree to. And I think we can take as given that Governor DeSantis would not be criticizing any corporation that publicly supported his position because they didn’t stay in their lane, even though the level of interference in public policy would be the same. No, it would be the progressives who’d have their collective skivvies in a twist in that case.
More to the point, Disney began their dissent, at least, while the bill was still under consideration. They were, in fact, arguing in favor of the status quo—when there was no law—a position that can hardly be regarded as interfering with the state, only with one party’s agenda. That they didn’t suddenly change their position when the bill became law doesn’t seem very problematic.
Moreover, it strikes me that educational policy is literally everyone’s business. I’m semi-retired now and not currently scheduled to teach at all in the fall, so I have no direct personal interest in what’s being taught in 3rd grade—these will never be my students—but I hope to be around long enough to be affected by their ability to vote or even to run for office… or to become doctors, lawyers, artists, or whatever. Yeah, I care what happens in that 3rd grade classroom.
And Disney, which has numerous gay and transgender employees (at least two of the former and one of the latter of whom are my former students), some of them no doubt with children, certainly ought to be able to take a stand for its own people.
Of course, I would argue that the Parental Rights in Education Law has little if anything to do with “pursu[ing] the interests of [Florida’s] citizens.” From what I can tell, the bill not only doesn’t define what specific actions are forbidden (what is expected, for example, if 1st grader with two dads mentions that fact in class?), it carefully refrains from mentioning who determines such things as age appropriateness. I’ve got 20 bucks that says it’s not going to be elementary school teachers, child psychologists, or indeed anyone with “appropriate” (see what I did there?) skills or experience.
Nope, it’ll be politicians (or their appointees)… only selected ones, of course, those who understand that the mission has little to do with protecting kids and everything to do with inflicting a religio-political norm on a minority… precisely the kind of thought control DeSantis and his ilk accuse the left/teachers/anyone-who-isn’t-a-white-heterosexual-Christian of trying to exercise. Of course, I don’t live in Florida, so my perspective on the politics of the situation borders on the completely irrelevant, and it isn’t much more germane to a comment on your blog.
Still, I think it’s important to say that what all this means, to me, is that DeSantis’s response is motivated not by ethical concerns but by petulance, and because, legally, he can get away with doing what he just did. But the latter is more than a little problematic as a rationale. I have every legal right to insist that there should be no deviations from my department’s attendance policy, which does not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences. But I’d be an idiot if I insisted that, at the risk of failing the course, a contagious student must come to class, and I’d be an asshole if I forbade a student from attending his mother’s funeral. Just because I could doesn’t mean I should.
None of this is to suggest that Disney is without fault in all this, but, really, they’ve long since kept their part of the bargain. I’ve been to Orlando twice: once as a kid (my grandfather lived about a half hour away) and once in 2019, for the penultimate pre-COVID professional conference I attended. They weren’t even close to the same place. In that time, the population of Orlando has grown at 10 times the national average, and the reason boils down to a single word: Disney. Surely they’ve surpassed not merely expectations but fondest hopes. That’s the bad news as well as the good news, of course, but there can be no question but that Mickey and the gang have brought a lot of people (both residents and tourists), jobs, and money to the state.
You say, Jack, that a right action for the wrong reason is still a right action. Perhaps. But if even a right action (assuming this to be one) for the wrong reason is also still the product of a wrong (unethical?) motivation.