Ethics Quiz: The George Washington Hating George Washington Student’s Washington Post Op-Ed

A black college senior named Caleb Francois who is currently attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C. persuaded the Washington Post to publish his op-ed of surpassing ignorance and stupidity. His thesis (or theses)?

The racist visions of James Madison, Winston Churchill and others are glorified through building names, programs, statues and libraries that honor their memory.

The controversial Winston Churchill Library must go. The university’s contentious colonial moniker must go. Even the university’s name, mascot and motto — “Hail Thee George Washington”— must be replaced. The hypocrisy of GW in not addressing these issues is an example of how Black voices and Black grievances go ignored and highlights the importance of strong Black leadership.

The Post is being roasted in various conservative forums for publishing the 800-word essay.  One pundit (at Breitbart) writes,

The arrogance of the Post knows no bounds. Publishing this editorial is just another troll from the Post, a way for the Post to stick its finger in the eye of its critics by relishing the hypocritical double standards the former newspaper now lives by.

I hate to defend the Post, but I don’t think for a second that the paper finds the student’s argument persuasive. It’s just provocative, and like other off-the-wall opinion pieces published by both the Post and The New York Times (remember the op-ed recommending that children and babies get to vote?), publication doesn’t imply endorsement. Yet the author in this case isn’t a historian or a crackpot professor; it’s a maleducated, indoctrinated young black man imbued with the 20-something’s unique certitude that he has everything figured out. If Caleb learns anything after graduation, I think it is very likely that he will want change his name and keep a bag over his head. Should a national newspaper help a young man to make a fool of himself?

Predictably, even the Post’s progressive readership entered an overwhelmingly negative verdict on the piece (which the author will surely dismiss as more racism and white supremacy.) Here is the “most liked” and the most representative of the over 1200 comments:

History professor here. If GW was only known for being a Confederate General or a slave owner, cancel away and rename away. But he was not. He is known for so much more… one of the biggest things is the idea that a president is not a king. And the office is not for life. Without him, our country would not be free. He kept order at a time when fractions would have torn us asunder. For God’s sake, do not rename George Washington University… I’m a liberal, and I believe in equality for all. But this is just stupid.

Stupid indeed. But isn’t the op-ed also illuminating? Doesn’t it reveal how black American youth have been alienated from their own nation’s history by toxic indoctrination? Does it not show how miserably inadequate our public school education is, especially in history?

Isn’t it scary?

And thus your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Was it ethical for the Washington Post to publish “George Washington University needs a new name“?

15 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz: The George Washington Hating George Washington Student’s Washington Post Op-Ed

  1. Maybe I’m commenting naively on what everybody else already takes for granted. Why didn’t the student-author apply the same argument to, and include, the Washington Post?

  2. Ethical, perhaps, if the author was using a pseudonym. Or if the purpose of publishing the opinion piece was to highlight major failings in the American education system. Given WaPo’s track record, I’d say they published it to either plant the idea in people’s heads that erasing George Washington from American history is a good thing (the reader is left to formulate their own reasons as an exercise), or as a way to make other notions seem less ridiculous by comparison. They don’t want to cancel the Father of His Country (yet), but as the most liked comment illustrates, that might not be far off from the reasoning. Erasing George Washington from history is a bridge too far, but erasing, say, Andrew Jackson is alright. If the reasoning behind publishing was to convince people that erasing some people from history is alright, then it would be unethical to publish the opinion piece.

  3. The Washington Post knows damn well which side of the aisle it and its readers mostly fall on. I’m sure that both of those groups include a fair amount of true believers in the statue-toppling, building-renaming phenomenon that got turbocharged in 2020, but which is flagging now as cities grow tired of increased crime, Columbus statues find new homes, and most ordinary people in this nation come to the conclusion that they got hosed by the Democratic party in the last election, as that party consistently fails to deliver anything beyond failure and angry rhetoric. I don’t know whether the post is trying to rekindle that fire or not, but I can’t think of too many other reasons to accept an extremist editorial from a 20 year old college student have feature it prominently.

    I said 5 years ago that if this phenomenon was allowed to continue, that it would ultimately come to this. It would not stop with Confederates. Ultimately it would spread to Columbus, to the founding fathers, and to anyone who the woke mob decided didn’t fit their view of things. Well, now it has, and the woke mob is emboldened enough to believe that they can take this the additional step and ultimately to the step of wiping out pretty much all of history before 2008.

    I don’t know how many of the readers here are familiar with the musical “Ragtime” or the book is based on. However, the racism of the Gilded Age is a prominent theme in it. There is a finer line than some might think between black musician Coalhouse Walker and fiancee Sarah singing about how their son will rise above all this on the “wheels of a dream,” and him later taking up arms against the white establishment that has proven stronger than he thought and deprived him of everything important to him. He becomes what can only be described as a terrorist, finally takes a step too far by threatening to destroy the JP Morgan library and all of the irreplaceable art treasures within, and is ultimately felled by the police.

    However, before that happens, he sings this long song to his followers telling them to continue with his message and how to communicate it. Also, prior to that, the character known only as “Mother”
    (To the boy who serves as the Greek chorus), response to her husband’s wish that things go back to the way they were before they were disrupted by singing this long power ballad about how that’s not possible, because she’s now seen people standing up to fight for things they are passionate about. In effect, the author and the composer are stacking the deck against good order and ordinary life and in favor of people with big feelings doing big things, without caring much what the consequences are for others.

    The author here has his head stuffed with those same kind of ideas of larger than life people with larger than life feelings doing larger than life things and changing this ordinary world for the better. One day he thinks he’ll tell his children and grandchildren about how his generation was the generation that changed everything and made a revolutionary break with this country’s past and made it possible for them to look forward to an anti-racist future.

    Except it doesn’t work that way. This nation got swept up in a fever or a bender in 2020, and right now it’s dealing with the hangover. The people of this nation are ready to return to normal life and hopefully some kind of prosperity. George Floyd has gotten all the justice he’s going to get. The idea that somehow the white population of this country is going to be made to continue paying for the past is losing its bloom. The idea that we are not just going to change the honoring of those who really didn’t fight for that great of a cause, but the honoring of everything prior to the election of Obama just doesn’t sell anymore. I think wokeness has crested, this represents the crest and from here on, it’s going to recede.

  4. I don’t see how NOT publishing a particular opinion can be ethical if the opportunity exists to rebut or challenge the thesis. Censoring crackpot or ill-considered ideas does not promote the ideal of free speech.

    The writer of this piece has done the world a service by exposing himself as a superficial thinker with no ability to see beyond his myopic view of the world. His writings expose the failing of lowering standards to academic institutions and other professions. As such, he has done the world a favor by showing how poorly these institutions have performed and how little value they create. Perhaps GW should lower its tuition rates to better reflect the quality of its offerings.

    • I agree. The opinion is stupid, but it is a real opinion held by a non-insignificant portion of people in the country. The Washington Post is a bias-skewed paper that regularly puts out opinion pieces under the news section, and has any number of problems I object to. Printing an opinion in the opinion section is not one of those problems. The printing of unpopular opinions serves a purpose, and is covered by free speech. It is ethical to expose people to ideas they do not agree with, so that they have a chance to understand what the ideas held by other people are and confront the bad ideas with better ones. Even bad ideas often reveal real societal problems and that revealing is valuable in and of itself.

  5. Just did a quick review of several comments regarding the article.
    This one seems to accurately represent the consensus.

    I consider myself fairly liberal. But this is stupid.

  6. I think everyone in the country needs to read such editorials. They needed to read them 20 years ago when they more easily would have seen how dangerous this is, but they were eased into this current position. Everyone who can wake up to what has happened in the country needs to wake up now.We also need to find out who cannot and will not see what is wrong with this ideology and take note of them.

    • Second. This kid is just spouting standard issue lefty thinking. I’m fairly sure wokesters, the people with yard signs in front of their houses, are simply holding up their fists and saying, “Right on, Brother. For real.”

  7. Yes it’s ethical to post it as long as it’s with a rebuttal.

    Americans need to know the indoctrination they are going to have to expend increasing amounts of energy fighting against before these anti-american quiet insurrectionists undo the whole republic.

  8. He is a graduating senior who apparently is a slow learner. The fact that it took him 4 years at this institution of higher learning to come to his inane conclusion does not speak well for his critical thinking skills or the pedagogical process of the school. Saying that he does have the right to his flawed opinion and the paper has the right to publish his opinion. The question is does the paper have the integrity to publish an opposing piece.

    • Opposing piece? They’d just say they weren’t in the business of giving a platform to racists and white supremacists. It’s like when “Oleanna” came out and they said “there are two sides to this story and they are both Carol’s.” As far as they are concerned there are two sides to every story and they are both the story of racism.

  9. And worse, on the subject of renaming the Churchill Library and George Washington University itself, the video game industry stays mostly silent.


  10. Was it ethical for the Washington Post to publish “George Washington University needs a new name“?

    Well, let’s see — do we believe that the Washington Post was concerned about the possible damage to this young man’s reputation among rational Americans? Does the Post believe that his argument meets the basic test of rationality and sensibleness? Do we believe the Post‘s purpose in publishing this is to inform or educate the public, or to publish opinions which add meaningfully to the debate?

    I would argue “no” to all of them, although for a fact I could be wrong. But based on this reasoning, the only rational conclusion is that the purpose of publishing this screed is to inflame an existing debate even further, produce more division, and more to the point, produce page views for the sake of profit.

    Ultimately, I believe this piece was little more than clickbait to produce effortless rebuttals and stir up passions.

    My conclusion: Unethical. Perfectly within their rights, of course, but that doesn’t change the ethics equation.

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