Category Archives: Education

Chilling Speech And Expression At Smith: The Scariest Thing About This Is Not The Story Itself, But That Alarm Over It Is Not Bi-Partisan


Students at Smith College now have access to an anonymous 24 hour bias hotline and online portal for reporting what the complaining caller regards as bias, discrimination, and harassment. These offenses can be whatever a student thinks it is.

The service will be run by EthicsPoint, a  service used by prestigious institutions like Amherst College, Tufts University, and Brown University. The conduct being reported doesn’t have to be illegal,  Smith says,  only “unfair,” “uninvited,” or “unwelcome” as well as what someone regards as “bigotry, harassment, or intimidation.”  Expressing support for the Republican nominee for President, for example, risks being called “bigotry.” A forceful argument that it isn’t bigotry might be taken as intimidation.

According to the EthicsPoint reporting portal, misconduct can include “but is not limited to, slurs, graffiti, written messages, or images.” A Smith College spokeswoman  told Campus Reform that “Smith has adopted EthicsPoint—a service used by more than 800 higher education institutions around the world—as a supplement to, not a replacement for, existing in-house options.”

This is an “everybody does it” excuse for the inexcusable, indeed, for the totalitarian. Since the reporting portal does not require a login, anyone, regardless of whether they are students or affiliated with the college, can report a student for being “offensive.”  Articles about this Orwellian development express concern that it might lead to self-censorship and chill free speech. Gee, do you think so? Of course this “report your classmates for non-conforming ideas that offend you” system chills speech. It is intended to chill speech. After four years under such a system, a typical Smith student should be completely conditioned never to speak or, better yet, think non-progressive thoughts. Continue reading


Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Rights, This Will Help Elect Donald Trump, U.S. Society

Note To The Over-Forty Crowd: The Obligation To Be Culturally Literate Has No Age Limit, And The Duty To Be Aware Is Forever

ignoranceIn the Washington Post’s weekly crank section “Free For All,” a reader chastised the paper for not quoting more extensively from Bob Dylan’s works in its piece about his Nobel Prize, writing:

“It may come as a shock to the young people who now write and edit the paper, but there are many of us who are not familiar with the lyrics of “popular” music.”

Granted, in respect to Dylan, the complaint makes no sense. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was written in 1963; I’d expect “young people” to be more unfamiliar with Dylan than seniors. How old IS this guy? Still, the letter raised a crucial ethics point related to life competence, an ethical obligation for all of us. Being willfully ignorant of current popular culture is as much of an ethical lapse, and as great a threat to societal cohesion, as young people not bothering to learn about “Moby-Dick,” minstrel shows, Will Rogers, Stephen Foster, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire or Lee Harvey Oswald.

In 1987, University of Virginia English professor  E.D. Hirsch wrote “Cultural Literacy,” making the argument that nations require common cultural reference points for generations to communicate with each other. He argued—correctly— that teaching this cultural vocabulary was a primary duty of the schools, in part because cultural literacy is an inextricable element of individual autonomy and power. Since then, the problem of the fracturing of society and the breakdown in communications between segments of the population has worsened considerably, its deterioration propelled by the loss of common information sources and the rise of the internet. Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Citizenship, Education, History, Literature, Popular Culture, The Internet, U.S. Society

KABOOM! Gary Johnson Argues That His Ignorance Is A Virtue

Bite your tongue, Gary!

Bite your tongue, Gary!

I’m not going to include the traditional KABOOM! graphic of a head exploding, since the explosion that has evidently occurred inside Libertarian Presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s head is the issue here. Normally I wouldn’t care about a third party candidate and few others would either, but many voters who recognize how certifiably disgraceful the choices presented to us by the two major parties. They are desperately looking for an alternative. How nice, and timely, and opportune it would have been if the Libertarian Party had come through in the clutch and  nominated someone who presented themselves as competent, honest, and trustworthy! Unfortunately, it nominated Gary Johnson.

Asked on MSNBC to explain his twin failures to show that he ever reads the World News section (showing complete unfamiliarity with the epicenter of the Syrian disaster in one interview and not being able to name a single world leader  in another—he has yet to offer any explanation for his bizarre tongue episode), Johnson took another leap into weirdness. Instead of offering one of the excuses his supporters defended him with on Ethics Alarms and elsewhere (“It was a simple lapse;” “it wasn’t significant;” Trump and Hillary are so bad that he’d be a better choice if he couldn’t remember his own name…), Johnson came up with the head-exploding argument that it’s good for him to be ignorant. He really did., espousing this original theory to Andrea Mitchell

“The fact that somebody can dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a foreign leader or a geographic location then allows them to put our military in harm’s way,”

Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Kaboom!, War and the Military

Ethics Dunce: Northern Michigan University

"...but just shut the hell up abut it, or we'll have to suspend you.  Love, The Administration"

“…but just shut the hell up about it, or we’ll have to suspend you.
Love, The Administration”

Episodes like this, coming out of the wreckage we call higher education, raise at least three troubling questions:

1. If universities are this ignorant of the principle of free speech, why is anyone surprised that our younger generations are so willing to sacrifice it for political ends?

2. How can institutions run by administrators this immune to basic ethical decision-making reasoning be trusted to competently educate their students?

3. How many equally outrageous policies do schools inflict on their students that we don’t hear about?

Northern Michigan University installed threatens students with discipline if they share suicidal thoughts with other students.

FIRE, as usual, is on the case, and has written to the school to explain to them why this is abusive and a flagrant First Amendment violation. One student who had received a warning about her discussing about her suicidal feelings with her friends on campus, and was told not to have such conversations. She asked for clarification from Associate Dean of Students Mary Brundage, writing,

Just to clarify, the email said that if I spoke to students about it that it would create a distraction—which could create disciplinary action against me. . . . I was also wondering if I respond to concerned people, is that enough to get me in trouble? I do not want to worry others by not responding and I do not want to have the possibility of getting expelled by reaching out to my friends during this emotionally trying time and I see the possibility of misunderstanding or getting more concerned.

Continue reading


Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Rights

This Is How Our Educational System Teaches Students Not To Challenge Authority


Hazel Juco, a 17-year-old student at John Glenn High School in suburban Detroit, went to the school’s bathroom to wash her hands. When she turned on the faucet, ugly brown water came out. She then used her cell-phone to take the picture above of the discolored water and posted it to Facebook and Twitter.

Juco says she was soon called to the principal’s office shortly after she posted the photo.“They told me I was being suspended… It’s inappropriate use of electronics in the restroom. And every girl takes selfies in the bathroom and makes it their profile pictures and no one has gotten in trouble,” she said. Indeed, that policy, it has been noted, didn’t seem to apply to the many students in the school whose cell phone use didn’t involve exposing health hazards that school administrators should not allow to exist.

Thanks to social media, the school’s outrageous conduct didn’t remain an internal matter, as it would have in an earlier era. Hazel’s photos were widely circulated, and eventually the news media became involved. After all, this is Michigan, and there was that little episode involving inept elected officials and agency administrators poisoning the Flint water supply just a few months back. Hazel Juco was hardly being an alarmist.

When reporters called Wayne-Westland Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Michele Harmala, and she said school administrators made a mistake by not reporting the water issue to maintenance, and the rule against students taking pictures in bathrooms was misapplied, since Juco was taking photos of polluted water rather than students using the toilet. It’s an easy mistake to make! Anyone could make it!


The deteriorating  pipe leading to the faucet is being replaced, and the suspension has been expunged from Juco’s record. How nice. Nonetheless, the fascist, incompetent and abusive administrators remain in their jobs, and though Hazel’s unjust punishment has been retracted, the message sent by it remains. The school has taught the lesson that it is dangerous to speak out, perilous to blow the whistle, and risky to point out the deficiencies of those with power.

Unless the counter-message is sent that Hazel did the right thing, and that serious career consequences await administrators and teachers who seek to cover up their own ineptitude by intimidating students, these episodes will continue.



Filed under Childhood and children, Citizenship, Education, Environment, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Facebook, Leadership, Social Media

Horrified Observations On Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnsons’s Latest Disgrace

As you can see in the video above [Trigger warning: if seeing a former governor who presumed to place himself before the nation as a qualified leader making an epic fool of himself on live television upsets you, as it does me—heck, those sitcom episodes when characters try to do stand-up and bomb horribly, like Cliff did on “Cheers” make me leave the room—don’t watch it. I mean it.], Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the designated “none of the above” for voters who believe Donald Trump has nothing to offer but chaos and Hillary Clinton is more untrustworthy than Richard Nixon (both correct assessments), went on “Hardball” with Chris Matthews and made Sara Palin look like Henry Kissinger, and Rick Perry seem like Carl Sagan.

During the interview on MSNBC yesterday, Chris Matthews asked Johnson, who sat beside his running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld,”Who’s your favorite foreign leader?”  “Name one foreign leader that you respect and look up to,” Matthews asked. “Anybody.” Johnson looked like he had been asked for the dewpoint of feldspar.

“Mine was Shimon Peres,” V.P. Weld offered unhelpfully, picking the former Israeli leader who just died from a stroke. “I’m talking about living,” Matthews shot back, focusing on Johnson.

“Anywhere. Any continent. Canada, Mexico, Europe, over there, Asia, South America, Africa: Name a foreign leader that you respect,” Matthews said as Johnson continued to freeze. “I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson said, pathetically.

“But I’m giving you the whole world!” Matthews said. “Anybody in the world you like. Anybody. Pick any leader!”

“The former president of Mexico,”  was the best Johnson could come up with. Whichever one he meant, by the way, he’s massive crook,  like all Mexican presidents.

“Which one?” Matthews pressed.

“I’m having a brain freeze,” Johnson whined,

as Weld began going through the list  of recent Mexican presidents.

“Fox! Thank you!” Johnson said when he finally heard the name of former Mexican president Vicente Fox, who Johnson probably vaguely recalled from the evident mush he calls a brain because Fox had just made the news by mocking Donald Trump’s debate performance.

Strike Three. Strikes one and two were doubles off the Green Monster by comparison.

Good lord.


  • “How does somebody think there going to run for President and be this ignorant? Completely ignorant?” asked Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe,” today. “He could not name a leader — living or dead — past or present! My children can answer those questions!”

Good points all. The answer is that Johnson is uninformed. Johnson is lazy. Johnson clutches under pressure. Johnson is not taking his own candidacy seriously. Johnson is a joke, but the proper response to it is weeping. At a time when the two parties have completely failed their responsibility to the American people by presenting unfit, untrustworthy candidates that the majority of the nation dislike, and the need for a viable third party option has never  been greater, does Johnson study like a monk, prepare like a champion, and devote himself to being able to dazzle even the most skeptical voter with his expertise and mastery of issues? No! He apparently decides to boycott newspaper and TV news, and devote himself to Pokemon Go, or something. Surely he’s been doing something?

Diligence, responsibility, competence, respect for the nation and the public: Johnson has flunked all of these, spectacularly and beyond defending. Continue reading


Filed under Around the World, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Leadership

Sometimes It All Comes Together…But First, A Song!

As those who have read here for a while know, among my fondest passions, virtually life-long, are baseball,  theater and ethics. Today, I have the pleasure of seeing them all come together in a single event. How often does that happen?

At noon, I will be giving my most recent musical Continuing Legal Education ethics seminar, “Ethics Cabaret,” at Nationals Park in D.C. prior to the Mets-Nats game. “Ethics Cabaret,” like its six predecessors, presents legal ethics hypotheticals  as parodies of pop, rock, Broadway or country-western standards, presented by a professional performer. In this case, the performer is American Century Theater veteran Esther Covington, who accompanies herself on the keyboard. I write the songs that make the young lawyers cry, but she sings them, beautifully and often hilariously.

Speaking of Barry Manilow, my favorite segment of the seminar is the parody of one of his signature songs, which you can hear above—it’s an ear-worm, so be careful. The legal ethics version is about “Bridge of Spies” and the many quandaries raised in the film, which I examined in this post earlier this year. The parody is called “Who is the Client?,” lyrics-only copyrighted by ProEthics. Here they are….you can sing them along with Barry’s version! Continue reading


Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions