Category Archives: Education

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/12/17

1.Senator Diane Feinstein redeemed some of the Democratic Party’s integrity by stating that James Comey’s revelations regarding Obama AG Loretta Lynch’s directive that he lie to the news media and the American people so they wouldn’t think Hillary Clinton was being investigated warranted hearings and its own investigation. This was easily the biggest story to come out of Comey’s testimony, as the U.S. government using its power to influence a Presidential election by spreading misinformation is far more serious than a foreign power influencing an election by allowing the public to see what a candidate and her party have been covering up. (I have stated the issue this way before, and will continue to do so, since it is accurate and true.) That this damning account was mostly buried by the New York Times, the Washington Post and the broadcast media is yet one more smoking gun (as if more were needed) proving just how partisan and untrustworthy the news media has become. It also should focus more attention on the still-percolating IRS scandal, speaking of subordinates interpreting a leader’s expressed desires as directives, as well as  Barack Obama’s repeatedly demonstrated belief that the ends justifies the means in the 2012 campaign, the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the Iran deal, and more.

2. NY Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow, a smoking-gun himself since the Times’ refusal to discipline or can him when he repeatedly used anti-Mormon slurs to attack Mitt Romney, has become the loudest shill for “the resistance” at the paper–quite an achievement, since the whole paper is a shill for “the resistance”—reveals that 43% of the public (according to polls, remember, and we now know how reliable and unbiased they are) believe that Congress should commence impeachment hearings. Blow finds this tragic, but the only two interpretations of the data is that 43% of the public is civicly, legally and historically ignorant, that 43% of the public has been completely misled by the biased reporting of the news media, or that 43% have embraced the anti-democratic view of impeachment being pushed by progressives and “the resistance,” which is that it is a legitimate device to undo elections and ensure that the Left achieves permanent rule over us all. Writes Blow, sniffling,

“I know well that the very real obstacles to removal injures the psyche of those worn thin by the relentless onslaught of awfulness erupting from this White House. I know well that impeachment is one of the only rays of hope cutting through these dark times. I’m with you; I too crave some form of political comeuppance. But, I believe that it’s important to face the very real possibility that removal may not come, and if it does, it won’t come swiftly. And even a Trump impeachment would leave America with a President Pence, a nightmare of a different stripe but no less a nightmare.”

It should bother everyone that a man like this has a regular, high-visibility platform for his corrosive views. Impeachment is national convulsion that good citizens only hope for when a President has engaged in impeachable acts. Blow and other like him, who hope for those impeachable acts to justify removing a President they object to on ideological, personal or other grounds are just  people with busted ethical alarms,  bad citizens, bad neighbors, and dangerous to our democracy.

3. Here is an ethics train wreck from academia. A white professor at the University of Tennessee asserted via a multiple choice quiz ( Colleges use multiple choice quizzes?) that the statement “Black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners” was wrong. A black student vehemently disagreed and challenged the teacher, who then threatened to “get” the student on Facebook. After the professor was pressured into resigning by the university, she emailed the class with a further attack on the student, without using her name. Naturally, the student has decided that this single incident shows the lurking perfidy of white social justice warriors, or to put it bluntly, “Can’t trust whitey!” How do people like the professor get hired? Since when is a professors position “unacceptable’ because it disputes conventional wisdom? Is race immune from non-conforming academic views? And why are college courses using multiple choice quizzes? [Pointer: Fred]

4.  Also from Ethics Alarms Super Scout Fred: this study, showing that Oakland police officers “tend to speak less respectfully to black people than to white people during traffic stops, using language in these everyday interactions that can erode community faith in the police, according to a first-of-its-kind study of body-camera footage released Monday by Stanford researchers.” Ugh. Now that’s “ microagression,” and maybe not so micro.

Ethics diagnosis: incompetent training, negligent oversight, and dead ethics alarms.

5. CNN has a lot of work to do before it can claim to be a professional and trustworthy news source, and one obvious step is to fire Brian Stelter, the network’s alleged journalism ethics watchdog. His predecessor Howard Kurtz was pretty bad, but Stelter is pure flack, seeing his main function as defending CNN and his secondary function as denying media bias, since he is so shockingly biased himself.

Yesterday on his ironically-named show “Reliable Sources,” Stelter and guest Jeff Greenfield blamed President Trump for polls that show a steep decline in public trust of the news media. Greenfield said,  “I think that has served that relentless campaign on Twitter and in his comments, fake news, fake news, fake news has been to convince that group of people that there is no such thing as a set of facts independent of your politics. And that has certainly served to continue and accelerate what you’ve talked about as a long process of declining trust in news.”

The downward trend will continue until prominent members of the news media admit that the reasons trust in journalism have  declined precipitously are

  • That the mainstream media’s partisan bias is obvious and palpable,
  • That has proven itself untrustworthy, and
  • Arrogant hacks like Stelter and Greenfield make it clear to all willing to see reality that the news media thinks that there’s nothing wrong with its reporting.

As for President Trump, he has an ethical and professional obligation to focus attention on the news media’s shift into a partisan political force, both to prioect his administration and  to ensure that the public isn’t deceived. The previous President was happy to ignore this dangerous development, because Obama  foolishly thought he benefited from it. In truth, he and the nation would have benefited more by journalism that held him to higher standards and criticized him when he deserved it, which was often.

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/11/17

1.  Mainstream media bias has been such a frequent topic on Ethics Alarms that I hesitate to focus on it even when, against all odds, what passes for American journalism has another rotting chunk fall off.  The reaction of most of the media to the Comey testimony was a huge chunk, once again shocking me when I didn’t think my regard for this unprofessional profession could sink lower. Some commentators yesterday (they were conservative, but there is no reason a fair and objective liberal wouldn’t and shouldn’t come to the same conclusion) said that we are witnessing the birth of a mainstream media-progressive fusion political party. This is not a hysterical analysis. The New York Times coverage of the Comey hearing, for example, was so misleading and dishonest as to eliminate that paper from ever being regarded as a reliable political analyst again, at least until it cleans house and issues an abject apology to the nation. Ethics Alarms reader Greg did an excellent job detailing the Times’ disgraceful anti-Trump/pro-resistance spin in the thread on the Comey testimony post, as did journalist commenter Tippy Scales.

The Times knows its first take was untenable; you can tell by its editorial today, in which it already is changing the subject. If Comey had laid a glove on Trump (and he didn’t) regarding  impeachable conduct and a route to removing him—which was the Left’s fervent hope and the resistance’s confirmation bias-driven fantasy—the Times would have been  shaking its fist and demanding action in it Sunday pronouncement. Instead, it offered an extended whine about how Paul Ryan excused Trump’s clumsy handling of his communications with Comey by citing Trump’s inexperience, but that he had condemned President Obama for his inexperience, as if the two positions are inconsistent. First, they are not: Ryan did not support Trump’s nomination, though political inexperience was the least of his disqualifications. Second, the President’s cluelessness is directly relevant to the weaker than weak argument that he was obstructing justice by having the kinds of conversations with a subordinate that is commonplace in a business setting. The Times, as it has been doing a lot lately, simply assumes away an insuperable obstruction to its “resistance” position, , saying that “The president obviously knows that it’s wrong to interfere in an investigation.”

Like Hillary Clinton, apparent cyber-dolt,  “obviously” knew that using a private server for State Department business violated classified communications law?

The same logic that Comey himself used to give Clinton a Stay Out Of Jail pass applies to Trump’s statements to Comey, but far more reasonably. Not only was he not, as Ryan said, “steeped in the long-running protocols that establish the relationships between D.O.J., F.B.I. and White Houses,” the President  wasn’t interfering in the Flynn  investigation by telling Comey he hoped it would end, and he couldn’t interfere in the Russian investigation by firing the FBI director. The Times editorial reveals the real impetus behind the paper’s determination to bring down the President who dared to be elected by “deplorables” who don’t march to the Times’ ideological lock-step: Trump “[struts] about at the head of the party, insulting everyone and everything in sight: staff members, allies, laws, diplomatic decorum and common sense.”

Yes, for once the Times is reporting accurately, but that’s not grounds for removing an elected President, and it does not justify misrepresenting facts to create a public groundswell based on bias, hate, fear and ignorance.

2. And when it is clear that the news media and the Democrats are coordinating in an “Anti-Trump” party, what is a responsible stance for the Trump Administration regarding news organizations who wave the anti-Trump banner at the expense of fair reporting? Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/9/17

1. News Item: “More than 130 imams and Muslim religious leaders in the United Kingdom have said they will refuse to perform funeral prayers for the Manchester and London terrorists as a rebuke to the “dastardly cowardice” of the “vile murderers.” Notes Ethics Alarms issue scout Fred, “This time it’s religious institutions refusing [to provide a service based on religious/political beliefs and conduct], and it’s based on the actions of the people they’re refusing to pray for or bury. On the other hand, anyone born in Scotland is entitled to the government’s services even if he’s No True Scotsman. By analogy, is it right for them to deny funerals to Muslims, even the most egregiously sinful?

I’d have to do more research on Islam than I have time for right now to address that question, but it’s an interesting one.

2.  As a follow-up to New Orleans’ lamentable decision to remove statues honoring Confederate figures (discussed on Ethics Alarms here), The Atlantic published an exhaustive brief against the “myth” that Robert E. Lee was worthy of his reputation as a noble human being who fought for Virginia out of loyalty to his “country,” but who deplored slavery. I have criticized the hero-worship of Lee as well, but much of what is in Adam Serwer’s article was completely unknown to me. If accurate, it is horrifying. Just one example:

“Lee’s cruelty as a slavemaster was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading the Man, the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families,” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.”

3. I’ll discuss the Comey testimony in detail later, but I came close to writing about the unseemly and self-indicting display of gleeful anticipation by much of the news media (and “the resistance,” of course) over what they were just certain would be the smoking gun to get President Trump impeached. CNN had a countdown, second by second, on-screen the whole previous day, like Christmas was coming. Ann Althouse nicely summed up how foolish and ugly this was: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/8/17

[I have been pondering doing this for some time now. Literally every day there are issues and stories that arise that are either too minor for a full post, or crowded out by other issues. Often I never get to them. Also my various issue scouts (especially Fred) have been burying me with excellent candidates for discussion and analysis, and I never get to most of them, frustrating all of us. So I am going to see if I can begin every day with a set of short notes about these topics, reserving the right to expand some of them into full posts later.]

1. Stacy Lockett, a teacher at Anthony Aguirre Junior High, has been fired after she gave out facetious awards to students such as “Most likely to become a terrorist” and “Most likely to blend in with white people.” Good, I think. These are too sensitive issues to expect middle-schoolers to laugh at, and the ‘awards”  show terrible judgment. Still, I am thinking back to comments made in class by some of my favorite 7th and 8th grade teachers, some targeting me. I thought they were funny, and the teachers knew I would think so. All of them would have been fired today, according to the Lockett Standard (Pointer from Fred)

2. By not disciplining Reza Aslan, the host of its “Believer” program who called President Trump a “piece of shit,” “an embarrassment to humankind” and a “man-baby” CNN has made it clear that it has abandoned any vestiges of professionalism or regard for journalism ethics. Well, perhaps “even more clear” is more accurate. CNN allowed Carol Costello to gleefully mock Bristol Palin for getting emotional over being battered; it has allowed Don Lemon to get smashed on the air two New Year’s Eves in a row, and shrugged off Anderson Cooper speculating about the President taking “a dump on his desk,” to give just three examples. Its excuse for Aslan was especially weird, claiming in a statement that he was a host but not an employee. Aslan apologized, but it was a dishonest apology, claiming that the tweets were impulsive and “not like me,” but in another tweet on May 9, he wrote,

“Oh the joy when this lying conniving scumbag narcissistic sociopath piece of shit fake president finally gets what’s coming to him.”

It’s sad to see what CNN has become since Trump’s election. I am embarrassed for the network. but more than that, I am in sorrow for the public. It is not being served by this kind of amateurish, biased and unprofessional journalism.

3. I finally decided that this law suit was too stupid to write about: a ridiculous woman named Holly O’Reilly has found some lawyers—not just any lawyers, either, but the First Amendment Institute at Columbia University—-willing to file a lawsuit claiming that President Trump cannot block her on his Twitter account because doing so is a First Amendment violation of her rights of free speech. The institute’s executive director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement that Mr. Trump did not have a right to exclude his critics from engaging with his posts. Does anyone think this is anything but nonsense? Anyone but the New York Times, that is, which wrote, ” The request raises novel legal issues stemming from Mr. Trump’s use of his Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, to make statements about public policy,” and the Washington Post, which published the woman’s silly  op-ed .

When did “novel” come to mean “absurd”? The President blocking a Twitter user on the social media platform isn’t “government action” any more than not taking her phone calls or not reading her letters. She can still say anything she wants on Twitter. Next she’ll sue because she isn’t allowed to ask question at White House press briefings. Columbia University should be embarrassed, but when the anti-Trump  hate virus melts your brain, embarrassment is often the first casualty. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “The Ethics Of Responding To Inconvenient Truths: Colleges Aren’t Working…Now What?”

More thoughts on the U.S.’s college problem, from Ryan Harkins, in his latest Comment of the Day on the post, “The Ethics Of Responding To Inconvenient Truths: Colleges Aren’t Working…Now What?“:

Growing up in Casper, WY, the expectation among my peers was that after graduating high school, you either went to college our you stayed in your home community to work low-wage, service industry jobs. On very rare occasions, there was mention of going to WyoTech, if you really liked working on cars and could pay the tuition, which was quite a bit more than tuition at the University of Wyoming. I can’t say I ever heard anything promoted at my high school about apprenticeships in a craft, or any other kind of traditional skilled labor.

At the University of Wyoming, a great many people I met, a portion of which never made it past their freshman year, only went to college because it was expected, not because it was what they wanted to do or were interested in. I can understand going to college when you are searching for what you want to do with your life, and I think most people going to college either know what they want to do or want to find what they want to do at college. But for so many people that I saw, a trade school or an apprenticeship would have been worlds of improvement over drifting through campus, failing classes, drinking, partying, and essentially wasting thousands of dollars to go nowhere. Continue reading

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The Ethics Of Responding To Inconvenient Truths: Colleges Aren’t Working…Now What?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. …At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years. . . .

Some academic experts, education researchers and employers say the Journal’s findings are a sign of the failure of America’s higher-education system to arm graduates with analytical reasoning and problem-solving skills needed to thrive in a fast-changing, increasingly global job market. In addition, rising tuition, student debt and loan defaults are putting colleges and universities under pressure to prove their value.

Some?

What’s the other side saying, that the results are cooked? That critical thinking is over-rated or a sexist, racist, xenophobic construct? How can any objective individual who has followed the news, listened to activists babble incoherently on  campuses like Dartmouth, Yale, Columbia, University of Missouri and hundreds of others, been aware of higher ed apocalypse stories like this one , or notice that the overwhelming majority of college students enthusiastically supported the fact-, math-, economics-, foreign policy-, history-and Constitution- challenged candidacy of Bernie Sanders  be surprised at these findings? They aren’t even new.

The scam that is U.S. higher education poisons the American dream in too many ways to count.  50% of employers say that college graduates they hire aren’t ready for the workplace because of inadequate critical-reasoning skills.  Yet virtually every institution cites this as the prime benefit of paying it a king’s ransom for four years, with brochure proclamations like…

“The university seeks to foster in all its students lifelong habits of careful observation, critical thinking, creativity, moral reflection and articulate expression.”

and

“… University fosters intellectual inquiry and critical thinking, preparing graduates who will serve as effective, ethical leaders and engaged citizens.”

and

“The college provides students with the knowledge, critical-thinking skills and creative experience they need to navigate in a complex global environment.”

“At most schools in this country, students basically spend four years in college, and they don’t necessarily become better thinkers and problem solvers,” said Josipa Roksa, a University of Virginia sociology professor who co-wrote a book in 2011 about the CLA+ test, that littel-known test the Wall street Journal referred to. . “Employers are going to hire the best they can get, and if we don’t have that, then what is at stake in the long run is our ability to compete.”

Even the arguments used to defend college lack evidence of critical thinking. Today’s New York Times special Higher Ed section highlights this quote: Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Judge John Boccabella

“[These defendants are] good people who made a terrible mistake…Why no one made a phone call to police is beyond me.”

—-Dauphin County (Pennsylvania) Court of Common Pleas Judge John Boccabella,  as he sentenced three former Pennsylvania State University officials, including  former university president  Graham B. Spanier, to jail terms last week for doing nothing after they were informed that told in 2001 that a former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, had been seen molesting a boy in a locker room shower. Sandusky was found guilty of subsequently molesting many other children.

Of course he’s good person—just look at the guy!

This is, of course, the last act of the Joe Paterno/Penn State/Jerry Sandusky tragedy, which burgeoned into an Ethics Train Wreck and occupied as much attention on Ethics Alarms as any other event in the blog’s history. You can review all of that here, if you have the interest or the time.

Right now I want to ponder the judge’s statement with a few questions and observations….

1. By what standard can the judge call this “a mistake’? This is like George Costanza in “Seinfeld” asking his boss if having sex on his desl with the office cleaning woman was wrong, as if the option posed a legitimate puzzle at the time he did it. Was it a mistake because Sandusky turned out to be a serial child predator rather than just trying it out that one time? Was it a mistake because for once the justice system held a university president and other administrators criminally responsible when they looked the other way to protect their precious institution while endangering innocent children? Did Spanier et al. make a “mistake” in calculating the odds? Was the  alleged “mistake” not understanding that “I saw Jerry a huge 50-year old man naked in a shower with a little boy” meant that something was amiss? Do you really believe that was how these men were thinking? Did the judge?

2. Why does the judge say these were good people? Because they had responsible, prestigious jobs? Because people trusted them? Because they are white, or wealthy, or have no criminal records? There are millions of prison inmats who have done less damage than Spanier, Peterno and the rest. Are the good too? Better than the Penn State enablers?

3. It your ethics alarm fails when it is most essential that it ring like crazy, what good is it?

_______________________

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times

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