Category Archives: Education

Follow-Up! Defending Prof. Kevin Allred’s Right To Make An Ass Of Himself On Social Media

When we last visited Montclair State University Women’s Studies Professor Kevin Allred, he was about to be sacked at Rutgers for  tweeting

“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when i buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no…?”

In that case, I agreed that the university had little choice but to remove Allred from the campus, noting that Allred,  as an employee, an adult (theoretically) and an instructor, should have known better than to broadcast his provocative musings in 140 characters or less to the world at large, rather than confining them to class. He should also have  known that campus shootings aren’t a joking matter after the Virginia Tech attack. If he had the sense to write “someone” rather than “I,”  avoided “when” to make it clear this was a hypothetical, the situation would probably have not arisen. Then, I wrote,

  “…Rutgers would only be risking outraged parents demanding to know why a prestigious school thinks it’s responsible to have their students going into debt to pay for courses like the one Allred teaches.”

After he had to leave Rutgers, Montclair State hired him to teach the same course on “the music and career of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter.”

I know, I know.

Now Allred is in hot water again, this time for tweeting,

Trump is a fucking joke. This is all a sham. I wish someone would just shoot him outright.” 

He then retweeted the image of Kathy Griffin holding a model of the  President’s severed head. Continue reading

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File This In The Niggardly Principles Files: The Family That Helped Build Portland’s Public School System Is Condemned To Oblivion Because The Schools Are Afraid To Teach

I really hate this story, and all stories like it. I hope you do too.

In a perfect and perfectly disgraceful breach of the First Niggardly Principle, the Centennial School District in southeast Portland will be excising “Lynch” from three schools before the beginning of this school year: Lynch Meadows, Lynch Wood, and Lynch View elementary schools. The schools were named to honor the family that originally  donated land for the the  schools to be built upon over a century ago. What, however, is the obligation to appreciate and honor those who selflessly seek to assist public education, compared to the need to cater to those whose education was inadequate? Nothing, apparently.   Superintendent Paul Coakley explains that “many newer families coming into the district associate the name with America’s violent racial history.”

Well, that should settle it, then! Why burden these narrow-minded and easily-triggered products of the victim culture with facts, knowledge and perspective?

More from Coakley: “There were an increasing amount of questions and some complaints from families of color around the name…there is no connection between the Lynch family and the practice associated with the term” but the name has still “been a disruption for some students.”

Here’s a creative alternative solution: educate them. How about that? Is that too challenging for the students? For Portland’s schools? From Wordorigins.com: Continue reading

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Bad Ethics Chess: The Insufficiently Diverse High School “Sound of Music”

The real mystery here is how the school administrators and teachers could not have seen this coming. Thus the ethical value at issue is, as it often seems to be with public education, competence, or rather the lack of it.

In April of 2016, Marshfield High (in Wisconsin) presented its annual musical.  The production involved a cast of 40 students with 30 more in the crew and orchestra. Students from two elementary schools were in the cast. The show? Rogers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” based on the story of the Von Trapp singers and their escape from Austria when the Nazis took over.

In March 2016, a complaint was received from a parent alleging that  the musical’s casting violated the district’s non-discrimination policy.  The parent asked why the cast did not “represent the demographics of the school district” and why a deliberate effort was not made “to ensure diversity in the cast.” The parent further said that even if the organizers of the play did not intend to discriminate, they did so “in the most overt and egregious manner.” For more than a year, district officials tried to keep the complaint and the resulting investigation out of the news. Now the investigation is out, and it found that indeed the casting did violate the policy.

I didn’t have to read the whole article, or much of it at all, to guess what happened. All I needed to know was that a high school with a diverse student body had chosen “The Sound of Music” as its annual musical. Everyone has seen the movie, and knows that it is about the cutest Austrian family on Earth stocked with a group of brothers and sisters whose ascending ages and heights constitute the most vivid visual image of the play.  High schools seldom produce this musical, for exactly these reasons. A theater department barging ahead with this Rodger and Hammerstein classic will be instantly risk appearing to exclude anyone who isn’t so white that their brilliant gleam will blind the audience (and African-American Nazis are even more jarring than  Hispanic-American and Asian Austrians), or it must commit to the most show-undermining non-traditional casting imaginable. There isn’t even a true choice: if you produce this show in a public school, you have to be ready to cast a black Maria, brown Nazis, Asian Austrian nuns and a brood of Von Trapps that suggests that the Captain was rather naughty in his travels, if admirably open to amorous affections regardless of race, color or creed. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/30/17

Good Morning!

(I’m starting this post just a few minutes before noon, thank to a WiFi outage. I’m sorry.)

1. I finally saw “Passengers,” which most people and critics seemed to hate. I see no obvious inferiority to the over-praised and honored “The Martian” or “Gravity,” especially the latter, which bored me to tears, but never mind: it’s an ethics movie. It is also a moral luck movie, and that drove me crazy. I’ll bet so many viewers (SPOILER ALERT!) saw the film and came out saying, “She had to forgive him, because if he hadn’t awakened her prematurely to keep him company, everyone would have died!”

No, no, no! His (Chris Pratt’s) conduct toward her (that’s Jennifer Lawrence, and anyone who wrongs Jennifer Lawrence deserves the torments of Hell) was just as bad–and it was horriblewhether it turned out well by chance or not. Subsequent discoveries or unpredictable events cannot make an unethical act retroactively ethical.

2. San Francisco’s Medicaid program sends illegal immigrants this letter:

When the anti-Trump deranged argue that the President is “crazy,” my stock answer is going to be that nothing he has said or done is as “crazy” as the position that it is right and just to officially encourage foreign citizens to breach our borders, defy our sovereignty and break our laws….and the people trying to use the 25th Amendment to execute a coup are exactly the people who think the letter above is compassionate and right. (Believing that a coup is in anyone’s interest is also demonstrably nutsy-cuckoo, but that’s another issue.)

3. I am really going to be disappointed if NPR and PBS don’t get zero-ed out of the budget. I may be stuck with biased and incompetent journalism, but I shouldn’t have to pay for it.

In a segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered” this week (Yes, I generally think the show is excellent, but that’s not the point) about the “restorative justice” approach to campus sexual assault, reporter Tovia Smith quoted Columbia University graduate Emma Sulkowiczs, aka “Mattress Girl,” as a “survivor” of rape.

She’s not a survivor; she was a harasser, and Columbia just paid a financial settlement to her victim for permitting her to proclaim him as a rapist when the evidence didn’t back the claim. Columbia doesn’t believe Sulkowiczs was raped, and her accusation has been thoroughly discredited. Why in the world would NPR choose this cruel and discredited woman to profile while discussing actual campus sexual assault, and how could it be ethical journalism to still refer to her as a rape survivor?

Smith’s tweeted response to criticism was as damning as the choice of “Mattress Girl” itself:

“Sulkowicz considers herself a survivor & we ID her as such. We’ve clarified that their school found the student she accused ‘not responsible.” Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/28/17

Good Morning!

Thanks for dropping by.

1. Does anyone else wonder how John McCain would have voted last night if President Trump hadn’t gratuitously insulted his military service and suffering as a prisoner of war? I do. I know how much veterans care about their service and sacrifice on behalf of their country, and how deeply a public insult like Trump’s must have hurt. McCain has been seething all of this time. Maybe last night was a vote based on principle; probably McCain thinks it is. There is no doubt, however, that he hates Trump’s guts intensely, and that kind of bias is almost impossible to banish entirely. He is also probably more than a little angry that his colleagues and his party allowed someone who would treat him that way to be the nominee.

The astounding foolishness of Trump’s initial insult to McCain was framed as an insult to veterans, but the fee for his gratuitous nastiness was always going to come due in a setting like last night. Human nature can’t be taken out of politics; in fact, politics relies on human nature. These people aren’t automatons. It would be ethical to put grudges aside, but nobody should count on it.

The President reportedly called McCain to argue for a “yes” vote. I wonder if the Senator said, Scaramucci style, “Mr. President, this unheroic prisoner of war says, with all due respect, ‘Go fuck yourself.'”

I also wonder if Trump learned anything.

Nah. Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart

I find myself annoyed at the groundswell of good wishes for John McCain after his diagnosis of glioblastoma…McCain is a war criminal and, more to the point. someone who as a politician has championed horrifying actions and been lousy on state commitment to public health…But ultimately what troubles me is the urge to send such well wishes to an utter stranger as it reinforces the notion that some lives are more important than others. There are lots of people with glioblastoma and who have died from it (including my mother twenty years ago)….

San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart on Facebook, prompting some calls for him to be fired, and others on campus to second his opinion.

Is this an Ethics Quote or an Unethical Quote? I could call it  an Ethics Quote because it raises many ethical issues, and mere statements of opinions, even stupid and vicious ones, are not usually unethical in themselves. This quote strongly suggests that the speaker is unethical in  than one respect; it is also, at very least, irresponsible in its context, which is that he is a teacher, and represents the institution.

Jonathan Turley flagged this episode, as he reliably does any time a professor comes under fire for controversial speech. As always, he supports his fellow academic:

“Graubart’s comments are hurtful and hateful. It is a reflection of the incivility that has taken hold of our social and political dialogue. It is always sad to see a fellow academic rush to the bottom of our national discourse. However, we have free speech and academic freedom to protect unpopular, not popular, speech. Popular speech does not need protection. Graubart is expressing his deep political and social viewpoint on social media. He should be able to do that just as his critics have a right to denounce his views.”

San Diego State University is a government institution, and thus subject to the First Amendment, in addition to the principles of academic freedom. However, even a state institution  has a right to protect itself from harm. This isn’t just political speech; it is bona fide asshole speech, signaling that the speaker is not a trustworthy teacher, and that any school that would have someone this intolerant, doctrinaire, vile and contemptuous of kindness and compassion educating, aka indoctrinating students isn’t trustworthy either. Universities, public or not, should be able to insist on a minimal level of professionalism from faculty in their public behavior and pronouncements so the institution isn’t permanently discredited, embarrassed, and harmed.

Here is Graubart’s whole Facebook rant: Continue reading

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Bravo! Professor Turley And Sir Thomas More On The Disgraceful, Dangerous, And Deranged Professionals Of “The Resistance”

Law professor/blogger Jonathan Turley’s latest essay, “Roper’s Resolve: Critics Seek Dangerous Extensions Of Treason and Other Crimes To Prosecute The Trumps” had me at “Roper,” Turley’s direct reference to the most often posted movie clip on Ethics Alarms,* the scene above from “A Man For All Seasons.”  Turley applies the scene correctly, too, to the depressingly large mob of previously respectable and responsible lawyers, elected officials, scholars, academics, journalists and pundits who have betrayed their professions’ values and ethics to falsely tell a gullible public that the President and members of his family, campaign and administration have committed treason, espionage, conspiracy, election fraud and obstruction of justice when such accusations are not supported by law or precedent, evidence, facts or common sense. These accusations are, rather, the product of unreasoning fury and bias sparked by Donald Trump’s election as President.

Some of the individuals Turley names, like Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary’s running mate, may be just spewing political bile out of a lack of integrity. Kaine is a former prosecutor and should know better. Some, like Cornell Law School Vice Dean Jens David Ohlin, may be examples of bias making smart people stupid. MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler, who claimed Trump was “conspiring with the U.S.’ sworn enemy to take over and subvert our democracy,” and who declared it is now “clear” that “what Donald Trump Jr. is alleged to have done is a federal crime” are, sadly, typical of how the unethical and dishonest the news media now behaves much of the time. As for my fellow legal ethicist Richard Painter, also fingered by Turley, I’m convinced from his increasingly extreme and hysterical anti-Trump analyses  that he has been driven to the edge of madness by Trump’s election. He’s not the only one.

Turley also points to former Watergate assistant special prosecutor Nick Akerman, who is just plain wrong. One cannot claim, as Ackerman does, that there is “a clear case that Donald Trump Jr. has met all the elements” of a violation of the election laws when, as Turley points out, no court has ever reached such a conclusion. That is prima facie evidence that there is no clear case.

Echoing More, Turley writes, Continue reading

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