Category Archives: Education

Afternoon Ethics Warm-Up, 12/12/18: Silent Sam, Nasty Nancy, Tendentious TIME

Happy pre-Christmas panic days!

Once we’re under the two week mark, it’s all anxiety, regrets, list-making, fatigue, nostalgia, and tree needles under the nails. This is what Andy called “the most wonderful time of the year.

1. The theory: political correctness and historical airbrushing is a higher priority than education. The University of North Carolina \Board of Trustees’ approved of a proposal to build erect a $5 million history center that would, among other things, house “Silent Sam,” a statue dedicated to fallen UNC grads who fought for the Confederacy. The statue stood on campus until protesters tore it down in August. Now some faculty members and graduate assistants are threatening to go on a “grade strike,” withholding grades on papers and exams to force the school to abandon “Silent Sam” for all time. They are also trying to encourage students to support their protest.

Wrote the UNC administration in response:

“This afternoon it came to my attention that some instructors have used their roles in the classroom to ask students to take a stand on the strike,” Blouin said in the email, a copy of which Campus Reform obtained. “The University has received student and parent complaints. Such actions have been interpreted as coercion and an exploitation of the teacher-student relationship and in fact are a violation of students’ First Amendment rights as well as federal law….Our students are entitled to receive their grades in a timely manner. It is especially critical for the students preparing to graduate next Sunday, as well as the thousands of students whose scholarships, grants, loans, visa status, school transfers, job opportunities, and military commissions may be imperiled because lack of grades threaten[s] their eligibility,” the provost stated. “The proposed strike exposes the University and individuals who withhold grades to legal claims for the harm they cause to students…“Failure to meet [the faculty and GA’s] responsibilities to their students, including timely submission of final grades, will result in serious consequences.”

Firing, I hope.

2. Boy, that Trump is such an uncivil boor! House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, setting a civility example for us all while describing her meeting with the President on “the wall’: “It’s like a manhood thing for him, as if manhood could ever be associated with him….It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

Nice.

Imagine the howls of indignation if the President described a foreign leader in such terms. Or the mass condemnation from both parties and the news media if any prior President had been insulted that way by a member of Congress.

3. “A person, a group, an idea, or an object that “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year.” I would applaud TIME’s choice of journalists as the fading magazine’s “Person of the year” if it had the integrity to point out that this is an example of “the worse.” Indeed, journalists have deliberately warped and sabotaged public debate and discourse, withheld or buried information the public needs to know, divided the nation, defied their profession’s ethical standards, undermined their own institution and with it the health of American democracy, relentlessly worked to destabilize the Trump administration and undo the election, and have engaged in repeated incompetence, bias, dishonesty and conflicts of interest. The harm journalists have done is incalculable, and probably irreversible.

Quipped “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams: “Fake News is TIME’s “Person of the Year.”

Bingo. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Professions

Ethics Quiz Of The Day: What’s None Of Harvard’s Business?

Now we own you.

Boy, Harvard is getting like the Candyman (no, not Willy Wonka, the horror movie version): mention its name enough times, and it appears behind you, with mayhem on its mind.

A case filed in federal court by a Harvard University student, “John Doe,” argues that the school overstepped  its authority by investigating him for a rape allegation lodged by a non-student in a city where police declined to prosecute. He contends that Harvard did not have the authority to open an investigation into sexual assault allegations levied by a non-Harvard student regarding an incident that did not take place on University property. “Doe” demands that Harvard end the investigation and pay him $75,000 in damages, as well as compensate him for any costs incurred during litigation.

Doe’s suit states that, during summer 2017, Doe and “Jane Roe” ( the unnamed woman he allegedly raped) were both working internships in Washington, D.C. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department investigated the alleged assault but ultimately decided not to prosecute the case. “Roe” has filed a civil suit against the Harvard student.

The University’s Office for Dispute Resolution opened an investigation into Doe in October 2018

Harvard University’s policies related to sexual and gender-based misconduct, readable here, apply only to misconduct perpetrated by students while on campus or in connection with University-recognized activities. The  guidelines followed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences are more expansive, as it states that the school  may hold all students to the expectation that they behave in a “in a mature and responsible manner” no matter where they are.

“It is the expectation of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences that all students, whether or not they are on campus or are currently enrolled in a degree program, will behave in a mature and responsible manner. Consistent with this principle, sexual and gender-based misconduct are not tolerated by the FAS even when, because they do not have the effect of creating a hostile environment for a member of the University community, they fall outside the jurisdiction of the University Policy.”

Whatever that means.

Meanwhile, new Title IX guidelines proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and released by the department last month stipulate that schools are not required to open investigations into alleged acts of sexual misconduct that took place outside the bounds of a school “program or activity.”

Doe’s suit charges Harvard with breach of contract and breach of covenant of faith and fair dealing. In allowing him to attend classes in exchange for “substantial amounts of money,” Harvard created a reasonable expectation that Doe would earn a degree from the school. One possible result of an ODR investigation would be expulsion.

“Harvard has breached, and is breaching, its contractual obligations by subjecting Mr. Doe to a disciplinary process that—in the ways, and for the reasons, set out above—is arbitrary, capricious, malicious, and being conducted in bad faith,” the complaint states. ODR informed Doe that the investigation is based on Roe’s allegations. In an email submitted as an exhibit in the lawsuit,  ODR’s senior investigator wrote that the College Title IX coordinator filed the case, then reached out to Roe to ask her to participate as a complainant in the investigation. Doe asked Harvard to temporarily suspend the investigation pending the results of Roe’s civil suit. Doe stated a simultaneous ODR investigation would have a “serious impact” on his ability to defend himself in the ongoing civil case, according to the complaint.

Harvard, noting that the D.C. police was not going to investigate the allegations, rejected the request.

Let’s put aside the law and Harvard’s policies for now, and stick to ethics.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

“Is it fair for a college to investigate alleged misconduct, including crimes, on the part of student, when the conduct occurs in a different city and local police have declined to take action?”

Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society

Cold Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/10/18: You’ve Got Ethics To Keep You Warm!

Brrrrr!

Maybe this will help...

1. Starting with the important stuff: Baseball’s badly-named Today’s Game Era Committee announced that long-time right-fielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and towering closer Lee Smith had been voted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Smith, who retired as the all-time saves leader and is now third behind two Hall of Famers, was a defensible pick, but not Baines. The Committee’s job is to look back on players who were rejected in the regular Hall of Fame voting process and see if some of them fell through the cracks who were Hall caliber. There are only 16 members of the committee, and an ex-player needs 12 votes to enter Cooperstown. The sixteen members included at least four with strong ties to Baines, and they  presumably argued eight more members into letting him squeak by.  Bias made them stupid. Those four, which included Baines’ former manager and the owner of the Chicago White Sox, which retired his number, should have had to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest.

Baines led the league in an offensive category, once, when he had the best slugging percentage in the American League. He never finished high in the Most Valuable Player voting. Most of the players who compare most closely to him are not in the Hall. The big thing Baines had going for his candidacy as a very good but not great player was that everybody liked him. He’s sort of the opposite of Curt Schilling, who is clearly Hall-worthy but whom most sportswriters hate—too religious, too conservative, too mouthy.

Now the argument for admitting other good but not great players will be, “But he was better than Harold Baines!” This is how conflicts of interest undermine the integrity of institutions.

2. When Naked Teachers have no excuses.  The Naked Teacher Principle holds that when a teacher allows a nude photo of herself or himself to circulate on the web where it can be seen by students, that teacher cannot complain when and if it leads to their dismissal.  A teacher really can’t complain if she sends the photo to a student intentionally, which is what Ramsey Bearse, 28, a former Miss Kentucky now teaching at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, did with a 15-year-old former student , according to the sheriff’s office. She faces four felony counts of distributing or displaying obscene matter to a minor.

3. Pondering whether to include an open Ethics Alarms forum as a regular feature. Many of the blogs I frequent for story ideas do this late at night. Ethics Alarms has done it once when I was forced to be away from a keyboard for most of the day, and I was impressed with the results. Those forums on the other blogs often devolve into silliness, bad jokes, memes and worse, and I would insist that an “open forum” on Ethics Alarms be restricted to raising and discussing ethics and ethical topics. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Sports

Fire Lisa Mars

I usually hesitate to call for anyone to be fired, though there have been exceptions. In this case, however, the call is mandatory on ethical grounds. It is unethical for a school dedicated to the arts to hand oversight to an gross incompetent who doesn’t comprehend the arts she is supposedly responsible for teaching; it is unethical for someone to take on this responsibility who is wildly unqualified for the job; and it is unethical for that individual to act in a way that undermines the mission of the school she heads.

I have just fairly described Lisa Mars, currently the principal at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School, the high school “of music, arts the performing arts” made famous in the movie and TV show, “Fame.”

On opening night of a school production of “The Sound of Music,” she ordered all Nazi-themed props and set pieces struck. They are offensive, you see. Never mind that the show is set during Germany’s take-over of Austria as the Third Reich was expanding. Never mind that Nazi Germany and its officers are major elements in the plot, or that the plot is based on the real-life escape of the singing Von Trapp family from the Nazis. Never mind that theater is a representational art form. Stage deaths are not real killings, stage rape isn’t really rape, stage racism isn’t really racism, and stage representations of Nazi symbols do not promote fascism. Most grade-school actors can grasp this basic principle, but not the head of a school for the performing arts.

“This is a very liberal school, we’re all against Nazis,” one sophomore said. “But to take out the symbol is to try to erase history.” Yes, that too. “Obviously the symbols are offensive,” he added. “But in context, they are supposed to be.”

Make him principal. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/7/18: Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest

Good morning.

…And a good morning to remember a very bad morning in Hawaii 77 years ago today.

1. Oscar’s latest fiasco. The Academy Awards, which like all awards shows has descended into nasty political advocacy, undermining its mission and alienating its audience, decided to pick famously non-partisan black comedian Kevin Hart, who is also a successful movie actor, to host. His gig lasted just a few day. People looking to discredit him went digging into  his social media posts, and some tweets from eight years ago–you know, before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had flipped on gay marriage?—were judged as “homophobic.” In a post on Instagram at about 11 p.m. last night, Hart said he got a call from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was asked to apologize for his prior tweets, or step down as host. He chose to withdraw, and tweeted this:

“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past. ‘m sorry that I hurt people.. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again.”

The conservative media is calling Hart another example of political correctness run amuck. That’s ignorant and wrong. To be successful, an MC has to be liked and trusted by his audience, which is, for the Oscars, the people inside the theater above all. A huge percentage, even a half or more, of the Oscar audience is gay. No one can host the Oscars while it is known that he once said, even eight years ago, that he was terrified that his son might grow up to be gay. It doesn’t matter that he may have “evolved.”  Hollywood is a substantially gay community, and the host of its biggest party of the year should neither be nor be suspected of being homophobic,

Why the Academy’s vetters and Hart himself couldn’t figure this out is a different issue: gross incompetence. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics

Comment Of The Day: Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: “Unethical Perry Mason, Icky Science, Race Card-Playing Democrats, Intrusive Bosses And Slanted History” [Item #5]

I was searching for lost Comments of the Day, and rediscovered this, from Michael West. His commentary of a week ago struck a new chord because of this story, which ruined today for me. Apparently last year a fraternity that had run into trouble for various infractions was told  by a Stanford University administrator  that it could improve its image on campus by taking down the American flag it flew from the house. The Stanford administrator allegedly said “that the American flag, as a symbol, could be intimidating, aggressive or alienating.” 

Why are elite American institutions teaching students to regard the symbol of the United States as an offensive one? Who is responsible for this culturally suicidal trend? Why wasn’t it nipped in the bud long ago?

[Tangential observation: Anyone who talks about the border conflict while using the phrase “tear-gassed women and children” deserves to be rhetorically crushed in the toughest possible terms.  It is signature significance for an ignorant jerk. At this point in history, any progressive who defaults to the 20th Century concept they have relentless mocked and derided, that women are a tender gender that deserves special delicacy in all things, is a fraud and a hypocrite. If the men trying to rush our border and stone our agents are justly tear-gassed, and they were and are, so are the women who support them.  As for the children, they are not being tear-gassed; the adults who disgracefully and cynically use them as human shields are, and the children, due to the cruelty of those who should be keeping them out of danger rather than thrusting them into it,, are the victims of criminal activity.

The alternative is to create a mad precedent that law-breakers can ensure special immunity from law enforcement if they carry children as talismans.]

Last month a survey reported that “Younger Americans are turning on the country and forgetting its ideals, with nearly half believing that it isn’t ‘great’ and many eyeing the U.S. flag as ‘a sign of intolerance and hatred,’ according to a new and disturbing survey.” If this is accurate, then, in order, parents, the education system, irresponsible politicians and the new media are my first candidates for the accusing finger. The fact that someone like Donald Trump is the most visible and prominent advocate for patriotism is certainly not helpful either.

This is an existential development. American values are linked to the nation itself. If people reject the nation, those core values are also at risk. No wonder attacks on our institutions, efforts to unravel the Bill of Rights, minimizing American contributions to world civilization,  and other efforts to erase the essence of our culture are suddenly finding more success than ever before. Once, the Stanford story would be dismissed as an outlier, “News of the Weird.” No more. In fact, we have been dangerously blase about such stories. It’s time to take them seriously.

Oh—that Stanford fraternity responded to the anti-flag tip by buying, and flying, a bigger flag. That’s the America I know and love. Let’s fight for it, shall we?

Here’s Michael West’s Comment of the Day on item #5 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: Unethical Perry Mason, Icky Science, Race Card-Playing Democrats, Intrusive Bosses And Slanted History: Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Wheaton College”

Chris Marschner, as is his wont, immediately gleaned some greater wisdom and broader lessons  from the last post. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Unethical Quote Of The Month: Wheaton College”:

This is a clear example of ” if some is good, more is better” fallacy, or in economics terms the inability to assess when diminishing returns set in and eventually go negative. Inclusion is great if it builds knowledge but ultimately, total inclusion tends to faction formation and idea stagnation if the only premise for inclusion is to obtain political power through numbers. As the total number of groups represented grows, the resources to advance individual factions power wants diminish then decrease. Then infighting grows.

The success of the United States was built on individual achievement but the nucleus that holds divergent interests from devolving into chaos is a common ideal of we are one people free of tyranny, and not subject to the tyranny of the many. Out of many, one.

The college advisors have let these student leaders down if they did not counsel them that the extension of their reasoning would eventually lead not to greater inclusion but to ideological exclusion. It is painfully obvious that the SGA wants to exclude someone. You cannot promote inclusivity if it means to exclude those not like you. Being not like you is not genetically or ethnically based. Not like you really means differences in cultural values and experiences. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Comment of the Day, Education, Government & Politics