Category Archives: Education

Ethical Quote Of The Month, And Ethical Acceptance Letter Of The Decade: The University of Chicago

acceptance_letter

This is all over the web, but as an ethics site, Ethics Alarms can hardly not join the throng.

The tragedy is that we have to regard anything in this letter as the least bit remarkable. I now eagerly await the wave criticism of the message, condemning it  as insensitive and racist.They have already started. Grand View University professor Kevin Gannon argued in a blog post,

Students ought to be challenged, even made uncomfortable, in order to learn in deep and meaningful ways. And, of course, collegiate education is where students must encounter perspectives different from their own… and that’s what this Dean and the anti-trigger-warnings, no-safe-spaces crowd are counting on-that the surface veneer of reasonableness in these admonitions to the Class of 2020 will obscure the rotten pedagogy and logical fallacies that infest this entire screed…Displaying empathy for the different experiences our students bring to the classroom is not a threat to our academic freedom. Allowing for a diversity of perspectives to flourish, even when that diversity might challenge the very structure of our course and its material, is not a threat but an opportunity.

Slate calls the letter “strange” and notes..

[T]he letter’s author, John Ellison, betrays a common misunderstanding of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”—both of which exist for the exact purpose of “building a campus that welcomes people of all backgrounds.” Trigger warnings are not intended to shield students from controversial material; they’re intended to warn students about disturbing content so that they won’t be shocked by it.

You know, like what happens in real life: we get an early warning before anything happens that might upset or “shock” us. Ellison understands perfectly: trigger warnings and safe spaces are part of a strategy to marginzlize individuals, groups and ideas by stigmatizing them as “controversial,” “disturbing,” and “shocking.”

I’ll also be watching to see if the university administrators will stand behind their bold words.

Maybe this will serve as a splash of ice water in the faces of Dean Ellison’s spineless and feckless colleagues around the country, like those in the University of Missouri, whose capitulation to campus race-baiters and grievance bullies has cost the school over 2,000 students. It may also be the final gasp of truly liberal higher education in the U.S.

We shall see….

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The Pitzer College “POC Only” Roommate Wanted Ad [UPDATED]

"Now THAT's not racism. Why do you honkies have so much trouble understanding this?"

“Now THAT’s not racism. Why do you murderous honkies have so much trouble understanding this?”

A roommate-wanted notice posted on Facebook by a Pitzer College student has turned into yet another racial controversy. The student, along with two Pomona College students,  were seeking a fourth to join them in an off-campus house. The notice included “POC only” –person of color only—and this got them immediately called out as racists by some other students.

The ad is not racist. The text reflects a bias, as in “preference,” but that isn’t necessarily racism. Everyone has freedom of association in this country, or should. Human beings are more comfortable with those whom they perceive as being more like them. There is nothing wrong with that, but even if there is, it is human nature. There is nothing to be done about it, and there shouldn’t be anything done about it other than to help each other understand that tribalism is divisive and  a pre-programmed bias that we should fight, because getting past it makes us better neighbors, members of society and human beings.

Still, I don’t want to live with someone who doesn’t want to live with me, but who is going to accept me into a living situation based on a feeling of obligation. A house seeking someone else to share the rent isn’t a public accommodation, and there is no ethical principle demanding that the roommates can’t or shouldn’t specify the kind of individual they think would best complete the group. What if the other three are all white, and are seeking someone different from them to make the house more diverse? Is it equally offensive if the ad sought an athlete, or someone overweight (who wouldn’t make the three hefty roomies feel unattractive), or a good student, or an actor, or someone with a good sense of humor? Why? Such requirements are not a per se indication of anything but personal preferences, and personal preferences aren’t racism.

Is the “POC only” addendum unethical? Technically, it fails Kant’s “what if everybody does it?” test,  for if everybody did it, white students would have nowhere to live. There you have an example of where Kant’s Rule of Universality is worth musing about but often isn’t applicable. Some conduct is ethical despite Kant because the idea that it would become universal is too ridiculous. I want to live with a baseball fan. I don’t want to live with someone who is going to be listening to punk rock. If three roommates can look for a female fourth, or a gay fourth, or a Spanish-speaking fourth—and they can without nicking any ethics principles at all—then they can insist on racial or ethnic qualifications too.

Is it better ethics to be accepting of all equally? Sure it is. But not exhibiting exemplary ethics isn’t unethical. Again, it’s just human.

There is more to the story however. When some students commented on Facebook that the notice was racist, the replies from the students posting it and others expanded the controversy.

The Claremont Independent, a student paper that covers all five of the Claremont colleges (as well as two graduate schools), of which Pitzer is a member, published some of the comments, and they show the anti-white animus and double standards now roiling race relations in the U.S. Continue reading

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Observations On The University Of Houston’s Anti-Free Speech Oppression

zipper on mouth

Prelude

I gave an ethics training session for a local non-profit yesterday. At the end of the two hours, a staffer who was pursuing U.S. citizenship was obviously stimulated by the various issues and principles we had discussed and had many provocative questions, which he struggled to articulate in his second language, for he was Sorth Korean. “Why is it right for me to pay taxes to assist illegal immigrants?” he asked. “In Sorth Korea, they say we are decades behind the US is democracy, but Korean laws are enforced no matter who the law-breaker is. I see that law-breakers in the US who are rich and powerful or famous get special dispensations from the law. Doesn’t that mean that Korea is ahead of the U.S., at least in that respect?” (Gee, I wonder who he was referring to…)

He had insightful observations, as recent immigrants to the U.S. so often do. Finally he said, “Do you agree that political correctness is a great threat to liberty and democracy?”

Yes. Yes I do. I thought so the first time I heard the term “politically correct” in the Seventies, and was so certain that the concept’s loathsomeness (and the parallel loathsomeness of its advocates, frankly), ensured that it would be a short-lived phenomenon.

Which shows how smart I am…

***

Shortly after the July 7 massacre of  five police officers in Dallas, Rohini Sethi, the vice-president of the University of Houston’s Student Government Association, posted this on Facebook:

BLM tweet

The student governing body suspended her from her office and the group.

From the Houston Chronicle…

Student body vice president Rohini Sethi has been suspended by the SGA and is temporarily barred from participating in group activities. She is also due to attend a “diversity” workshop per the ruling….The University of Houston issued a statement this week that said the move is not a university action and doesn’t impact Sethi’s academic standing. “The University of Houston continues to stand firm in support of free speech and does not discipline students for exercising their constitutional rights,” the statement said.

The action came after minority student groups on campus condemned her statement as racist or “insensitive,”and demanded her removal. The accommodating president of the SGA complied. For her part, Sethi apologized and agreed to take a three-day cultural sensitivity workshop, though she wrote several Facebook posts defending her actions. Ultimately she was brought to heel, made a public statement along with the SGA head, and like a brain-washed prisoner of war, grovelled..

“I have chosen to take these steps on my own because of the division I’ve created among our student body. I may have the right to post what I did, but I still should not have. My words at the time didn’t accurately convey my feeling and cause many students to lose their faith in me to advocate for them. I will always continue to learn and be ready to discuss these issues.”

Observations: Continue reading

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Wait, I’m Confused: I Thought Racial Segregation Was BAD….

segregation

Two of these stories in one week—something’s  happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear, however.

I’m sorry, I start channeling old Sixties songs at times like this.

Not one but two colleges have advocated segregation in their policies this week:

  • Hampshire College explains on its website that it allows students to reside in “identity-based” housing communities, provided they have a “unique social identity” that has “historically experienced oppression,” arguing that such residences “give support to members of our community with social identities that have been historically marginalized in this country, and strive to counter systemic oppression.” The Massachusetts school’s confident  promotion of such living arrangements “arises from our commitment to fostering diverse, socially just, and inclusive communities.” An  informational booklet explains that “identity-based housing is an institutional structure designed to assist members of historically oppressed groups in supporting each other,” and “helps to create an added level of psychological comfort and safety for those who choose to live in those spaces, often providing the foundation for those students to be able to engage fully in the greater community.”

Translation: Black students don’t want to live with whites, but prefer “their own kind,” because whites are viewed as potentially dangerous. And that’s okay! Continue reading

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Spectacularly Incompetent Candidate Of The Month: Paul Ryan Challenger Paul Nehlen

"This is Paul. Won't you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist  policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To "Educate Paul." a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause."

“This is Paul. Won’t you help him? Paul, like millions of other victims across the land, suffers from Constitution Ignorance Syndrome. This dread malady causes its victims to advocate fascist policies and to sound like idiots in their public statements. But there is hope for Paul, and those like him. Please give, and give generously, To Educate Paul a non-profit charity. Your gift is tax-deductible, and you will have made the United States a little less stupid with every penny you contribute to this vital cause.”

This was the guy that Donald Trump was supposedly going to endorse as retribution for Speaker Ryan’s negative comments? It’s comforting, isn’t it, that Trump isn’t that irrational? Ann Coulter is, but Trump isn’t. (At least in this case.)

Paul Nehlen is the arch conservative and certifiable ignoramus who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District’s Republican primary. Interviewed last week on “Chicago’s Morning Answer,” Nehlen said that he wonders why we have any Muslims in the country, and suggested that there should be a public debate about tossing Muslims out of the U.S.

Here’s a partial transcript of the relevant comments Nehlen made to hosts Amy Jacobson and Dan Croft: Continue reading

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Ethics Dunces : Michigan State University Student Feminists

MSU womens_study_lounge

Higher education progressives, students, professors and administrators alike, are seriously confused about ethics, and some basic principles like fairness, respect, equity, and competence, not to mention common sense. How did they come to such a state?

For various reasons, none of them reasonable, Michigan State University had maintained that gender segregation was appropriate in the student Union, and  a study lounge there was designated for women only. Perhaps we can forgive the school’s initial judgment in this case, since the Union’s Women’s Lounge, located on the main floor of the MSU Union, debuted in 1925, just five years after women gained the right to vote.Men vastly outnumbered women then, and were looked upon as oddities, or perhaps temptation.

It is 2016, however, and women are demanding equality where it may already exist, and declaring gender discrimination where it may not, so the continued existence of the male excluding lounge was more than a bit anachronistic. After all, Harvard College just declared war on any male student who dared to belong to off-campus all-male clubs, since even freedom of association away from school is deeply offensive to the progressive values of Ivy League educators.

Then a University of Michigan-Flint professor named Mark Perry, filed a complaint to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights towards MSU alleging that the lounge violated federal anti-discrimination law, which it obviously does. Continue reading

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Observations On The Gadsden Flag Controversy

Gadsden Flag

On the Volokh Conspiracy, now featured on the Washington Post website, Prof. Volokh applies his First Amendment expertise to a recent EEOC decision which ruled that a complaint from an African-American that a fellow worker who repeatedly wore a cap with the famous “Don’t Tread On Me” insignia from the Gadsden flag may have created a hostile work environment at the federal agency both worked for. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission called for further investigation, including an interview of the cap-owner’s intention in wearing the symbol, concluding,

“In light of the ambiguity in the current meaning of this symbol, we find that Complainant’s claim must be investigated to determine the specific context in which C1 displayed the symbol in the workplace. In so finding, we are not prejudging the merits of Complainant’s complaint. Instead, we are precluding a procedural dismissal that would deprive us of evidence that would illuminate the meaning conveyed by C1’s display of the symbol.”

Observations:

1. Now this is the slippery slope. Because murderous racist Dylan Roof posed with the Confederate flag, a tipping point was reached that resulted in the symbol and the flag being effectively and in some respects officially banned. The EEOC had already ruled the wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt constituted racial harassment,. Now the banning of historically significant symbols is threatening to spread to a flag that had no relationship to race whatsoever, in large part because of who has chosen to display it.

2. There is a whole website devoted to the Gadsden flag, from which we learn that…

  • It first appeared in October of 1775, as the British were occupying Boston and the desperate Continental Army was dug in in nearby Cambridge, lacking sufficient arms and ammunition.  In October, a merchant ship returning to Philadelphia from a voyage to England brought private letters to the Second Continental Congress informing it that  England was sending two cargo ships to America loaded with arms and gunpowder for the British troops.
  • Congress decided Washington’s troops’ plight required that those ships and their cargo be captured. It authorized the creation of a Continental Navy, then only four vessels, to take the ships. Congress also authorized the mustering of five companies of Marines. Some of the Marines enlisting that month in Philadelphia carried drums painted yellow, emblazoned with a  rattlesnake with thirteen rattles, coiled and ready to strike, accompanied by the motto “Don’t Tread on Me.”
  • That same December, a citizen calling himself  “An American Guesser,” anonymously wrote to the Pennsylvania Journal, saying in part:

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America…the Rattle-Snake is found in no other quarter of the world besides America….She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. … she never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her..

I confess I was wholly at a loss what to make of the rattles, ’till I went back and counted them and found them just thirteen, exactly the number of the Colonies united in America; and I recollected too that this was the only part of the Snake which increased in numbers. …Tis curious and amazing to observe how distinct and independent of each other the rattles of this animal are, and yet how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”

It is generally agreed that the writer was really Benjamin Franklin. Ben had a hand in the design of the flag, since the first use of a rattlesnake to represent the colonies was his own “Join or die” cartoon,

800px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_Die

…published years earlier. Continue reading

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