Category Archives: Education

Comment of the Day: “The Destruction Of Doug Adler : Guerillas, Gorillas, ESPN And The First Niggardly Principle”

 

I am not in the business of jeremiads, being an optimistic sort, but now and then a post here triggers an articulate and persuasive allegation of existential ethics rot. Such is the latest Comment of the Day, courtesy of reader slickwilly, his first. It was prompted by another commenter’s rueful observations on slickwilly’s earlier musings (sparked by the ESPN reporter whose use of the term “guerilla” was mistakenly attacked as a racial slur, losing him his job) on the public school system, in which he wrote in part,

I pity the teachers (and I live with one) who are afraid to offend a parent by reporting the “perfect little angel’s” latest misdeed, upon pain of possible job and pension loss. (I know of a school district that does not allow a student to flunk… writing a name on an assignment guarantees a passing grade. Butts in seats are how districts are paid, here) I agree with the ‘confronted and taught’ idea in principle, but how do you put that into practice, when doing so can destroy your ability to put food on the table for your family?

To which Zoltar Speaks! replied:

“Have we become a society of wimps unwilling to stand up for our convictions? At some point responsible adults must unite and take a stand regardless of the possibility of negative consequences. Even ignorant people know that there is power in numbers; so choose your battle, gain numerical support, focus on right and wrong, be on the side of right, and stand up for your convictions.”

Here is slickwilly’s Comment of the Day in response, on the post, The Destruction Of Doug Adler : Guerillas, Gorillas, ESPN And The First Niggardly Principle:

Have we become a society of wimps unwilling to stand up for our convictions?

Short answer: yes.

In many cases, there are no convictions to stand up for.

We are seeing the Republic die of apathy. There was some awakening when Trump was elected, but the majority of ‘normal’ folks I interact with each day (work and socially) just cannot be bothered to understand the issues, much less get engaged enough to have an opinion at all. If they DO have an opinion, it was usually delivered to them via meme or the MSM, and they cannot defend it.

Americans as a society have had things good for too many generations now for people to believe in an existential threat unless and until it directly impacts their lives. We live atop a thin veneer of civil behavior and mistakenly believe this crust is miles deep and the natural order of things. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Comment of the Day, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, U.S. Society

From The Ethics Alarms Cultural Illiteracy Files: “A Streetcar Naked Desire”

On Wheel of Fortune, an unfortunate contestant named Kevin was confronted with the board above, and had only to name the missing letter to collect his prize.

He guessed “K.”

1.  It is fair to say that he had never heard of the Tennessee Williams drama, easily one of the top ten plays in the classic American theatrical canon.

2. Does this amazing gap in Kevin’s basic education prove that American schools are failing our children and society? No. It shouldn’t fill us with confidence, either.

3. What else does this mean Kevin has never heard of? “Stella!!!”?  Brando? Elia Kazan? The House Un-American Activities Committee? Naming names? Guilt by association? “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”? “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’?

4. What does it say about U.S. society that someone this ignorant of basic culture feels confident going on a nationally televised game show? I think it suggests that not only are too many people ignorant and uneducated, they don’t even know how ignorant and uneducated they are.  Worse yet, it may mean that such people don’t think that there is anything wrong with being ignorant and uneducated.

5. Though Kevin is being widely mocked on social media, I bet there are more adults who wouldn’t be able to solve the puzzle that we would like to think.

6. This is why I started a professional theater company dedicated to producing great American plays that theater companies didn’t produce any more. “A Streetcar Named Desire,” however, was on the list of plays so common, so frequently taught in schools and so well-known that we would never mount them.

Oops.

[I’m still sick, by the way, and have been sleeping most of the day. This story made me sicker.]

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, History, U.S. Society

Chicago Justice, Rights, And Pop Culture Malpractice

Dick Wolf, the “Law and Order” creator, is in the process of taking over NBC prime time. He now has four linked dramas dominating the schedule—“Chicago Med,” “Chicago P.D.,” “Chicago Fire,” and the latest, “Chicago Justice.” (Soon to come, at this rate: “Chicago Sanitation,” “Chicago Pizza,” and “Chicago Cubs.”)

Yesterday was Episode #2 of “Chicago Justice.” The story in involved a “ripped from the headlines” riff on the Brock Turner case, where a woman was raped while unconscious and the rapist received a ridiculously lenient sentence. In Wolf’s alternate universe, however, the judge was murdered, and the rape victim and her ex-husband were suspects. There was another wrinkle too: one of the prosecutors had a close relationship with the dead judge, and was with him right before he was killed. She was going to have to be a witness, and her colleague and supervisor, prosecuting the case, asked her if she had been sleeping with the victim. Such a relationship would have been an ethical violation for the judge, and at least a pre-unethical condition for the prosecutor, requiring her to relocate to a Steven Bochco drama, where lawyers have sex with judges all the time.

The female prosecutor indignantly refused to answer the question. After the case was resolved—I won’t spoil it, but the name “Perry Mason” comes to mind—the two prosecutors made up over a drink. She said that she would have never slept  with “Ray” (the dead judge–when he was alive, that is), but that she remembered reading “in some old document” that we all had “unalienable rights,” she believed one of them was “the right to be respected by your fellow man.”

There is no “right to be respected.” The Declaration of Independence, the “old document” she referenced, lists three rights only, though they are broad ones: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. None of those encompass a right to be respected. The speaker, Anna Valdez (played by Monica Barbaro, a Latina dead ringer for Jill Hennessey, who played the equivalent “Law and Order” role for many years), is a lawyer, and should understand what a right is. It is a legally enforceable guarantee of an entitlement to have something, seek or obtain it,  or to act in a certain ways. As a lawyer, she must understand that this is different from what is right, just or honorable. Her statement, coming from the mouth of a character with presumed expertise and authority, misleads much of the public, which is constantly getting confused over  the difference between Jefferson’s use of “rights” and what is right. So do journalists and, sadly, too many elected officials. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, Rights, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Catching Up On “Instersectionality,” And Finally Paying Attention

There are more than 22,000 tags used here, even if you eliminate the duplicates due to my typo problem, and still  “intersectionality” is not among them. I have seen the term, mostly recently, but only in contexts that led me to dismiss it as leftist, scholarly jargon, the kind of word radicals throw around to confuse their opposition and make people think they are intellectual when they are really arguing nonsense. I wasn’t wrong: it is one of those words. Still, it is a useful one, because it helps explain several phenomena of great importance, which can be collectively described as the increasing totalitarian tilt of the political left, especially since the election of Donald Trump. I should have realized the importance of the word long  ago and investigated: I apologize. Bias makes me  stupid too.

Over at New York magazine, Andrew Sullivan had one of his lucid moments—when he can bypass his anger at anti-gay attitudes (the bias that makes HIM stupid), Sullivan can be brilliant—, and delivered a perceptive essay about “intersectionality,” beginning with the recent disgrace on the Middlebury College campus, where a student protest designed to prevent sociologist Charles Murray from speaking turned into a violent riot, injuring a professor. Do read all of Sullivan’s article, but here are some key passages:

[W]hat grabbed me was the deeply disturbing 40-minute video of the event, posted on YouTube. It brings the incident to life in a way words cannot. At around the 19-minute mark, the students explained why they shut down the talk, and it helped clarify for me what exactly the meaning of “intersectionality” is.

“Intersectionality” is the latest academic craze sweeping the American academy. On the surface, it’s a recent neo-Marxist theory that argues that social oppression does not simply apply to single categories of identity — such as race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. — but to all of them in an interlocking system of hierarchy and power. At least, that’s my best attempt to define it briefly. But watching that video helps show how an otherwise challenging social theory can often operate in practice.

It is operating, in Orwell’s words, as a “smelly little orthodoxy,” and it manifests itself, it seems to me, almost as a religion. It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., “check your privilege,” and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay. The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required….

Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners. It has an idea of virtue — and is obsessed with upholding it. The saints are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist. The sinners are categorized in various ascending categories of demographic damnation, like something out of Dante. The only thing this religion lacks, of course, is salvation. Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. It’s Marx without the final total liberation.

It operates as a religion in one other critical dimension: If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral. If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of “white supremacy,” you are complicit in evil. And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished. You can’t reason with heresy. You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably….Murray’s old work on IQ demonstrates no meaningful difference between men and women, and Murray has long supported marriage equality. He passionately opposes eugenics. He’s a libertarian. But none of that matters. Intersectionality, remember? If you’re deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all. If you think that race may be both a social construction and related to genetics, your claim to science is just another form of oppression. It is indeed hate speech….This matters, it seems to me, because reason and empirical debate are essential to the functioning of a liberal democracy. We need a common discourse to deliberate. We need facts independent of anyone’s ideology or political side, if we are to survive as a free and democratic society. Trump has surely shown us this. And if a university cannot allow these facts and arguments to be freely engaged, then nowhere is safe. Universities are the sanctuary cities of reason. If reason must be subordinate to ideology even there, our experiment in self-government is over.

This outburst was apparently too much for Andrew, his old libertarian/conservative persona emerging full-force after a long hiatus, so his piece suddenly shifts into a standard issue anti-Trump rant. It’s fascinating to see, because Andrew apparently hates the President so much that he can’t perceive that the same antipathy created by “intersectionality” that he rebuts regarding Murray (after all, Sullivan is friends with Murray), applies to the President (whom he detests) as well. The proof is how Trump’s misogyny and opposition to illegal immigration has led the Left to presume that he is racist, classist and homophobic as well. He’s not. But, to quote Sullivan against himself, “But none of that matters. Intersectionality, remember? If you’re deemed a sinner on one count, you are a sinner on them all.”

Thus Sullivan pivots to blaming all of the social and political tilt he correctly deems as dangerous on Donald Trump, and in doing so, he becomes the partisan hack he so often appears to be: Continue reading

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Now THIS Is As Close To Genuinely Frivolous Lawsuit As You Are Likely To See…And Naturally, It Is An Attack On The President

Publicity stunt? Whatever would make you think this lawsuit is a publicity stunt???

As we have discussed here before, though we often complain of frivolous lawsuits,  even the worst law suits seldom meet the technical standard of what is “frivolous.”

The D.C. bar’s ethics rules state that…

A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good-faith argument for an extension, modification, or reversal of existing law.

This provides what I sometimes call “stupid lawyer” protection, on the theory that a stupid lawyer may have a sincere belief that an absurd action has a chance of prevailing, thus avoiding the rule’s rock bottom standard for “frivolous.” The recently filed lawsuit in Washington, D.C. against President Trump and the local Trump hotel, however, may be that rarest of legal birds, the truly frivolous lawsuit.

The married couple that owns  the Cork Wine Bar in Washington claim that the Trump International Hotel and the  restaurants similarly located in the Old Post Office building have an illegal advantage over other nearby establishments, like theirs, because of the association with the President.  Essentially the law suit claims that it’s all so unfair.

In addition to the res ipsa loquitur factor, which is to say that the lawsuit screams abuse of process to harass the President, we also have these suspicious factors: Continue reading

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From The “‘Dear Colleague’ Letter Aftermath” Files: Amherst’s War On Men

Once the Obama Education Department sent out its threatening “Dear Colleague” letter that strongly hinted at dire consequences for universities and colleges that did not tilt their sexual assault disciplinary procedures toward a less stringent standard of guilt, horror stories about male students unjustly presumed guilty of sexual assault or rape have been proliferating. This is the worst one I’ve ever seen.

In February of 2012, a male, Asian-American student (“John Doe”) and “Sandra Jones,” as she is referred to in court documents, went back to Jones’ dorm room after a night of hard drinking.  John blacked out, and couldn’t  recall anything about the evening, a claim Amherst deemed “credible” during his disciplinary hearing. At some point, Sandra performed oral sex on John. Nearly two years later, Sandra  accused John of sexually assaulting her.  In his lawsuit, John Doe alleged that his adviser couldn’t speak for him, that he could only write down questions for his accuser or witnesses ( no cross examination)  and that the hearing panel was made up of administrators trained in “social justice education.” You know: Men bad, women victims.

In the school’s hearing, Jones claimed she texted a friend to come over for help because she had been sexually assaulted. The school never bothered to obtain those text messages—after all, they followed the Hillary Clinton directive that “victims of sexual assault have the right to be believed.”  Here’s what she texted to her girl friend: Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement

Now THESE Are Unethical University Administrators…

Harvard_ShieldHarvard University police say that an investigation revealed that former Harvard Law School administrators Meg DeMarco, 33, and Darris Saylors, 32, stole about $110,000  from a university account that exists to  to assist  students with disabilities. 

 

The investigation commenced in November 2013 when a new budget manager at the law school noticed some accounting discrepancies.  DeMarco and Saylors then resigned from their positions at the Dean of Students office. The ensuing inquiry revealed that the two had taken money out of the  fund to  buy dozens of laptops, iPads, iPods and other electronics, which police traced to  DeMarco’s home and Saylors’ apartment, but also to the homes of Saylors’ friends and family in California, Washington and Tennessee.  DeMarco used a mobile card reader to deposit school money directly into her banking account. In addition to the electronics, Saylors used Amazon to buy purses, clothing, jewelry, and even sex toys.

The Law School announced that “As a result of this matter, the Law School implemented additional layers of controls governing the use of its credit accounts and purchasing protocols.”

What a good idea! Continue reading

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