Category Archives: Quizzes

Ethics Quiz: The Improper Jury Instruction

At least a dozen Pennsylvania murder convictions may be reversed because Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes included this description of reasonable doubt to instruct her juries:

“Each one of you has someone in your life who’s absolutely precious to you. If you were told by your precious one’s physician that they had a life-threatening condition and that the only known protocol or the best protocol for that condition was an experimental surgery, you’re very likely going to ask for a second opinion. You may even ask for a third opinion. You’re probably going to research the condition, research the protocol. What’s the surgery about? How does it work? You’re going to do everything you can to get as much information as you can. You’re going to call everybody you know in medicine: What do you know? What have you heard? Tell me where to go. But at some point the question will be called. If you go forward, it’s not because you have moved beyond all doubt. There are no guarantees. If you go forward, it is because you have moved beyond all reasonable doubt.”

U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh ordered a new trial for a man convicted following this instruction, and Hughes may have used it in 50 cases.

This is why I am making this an ethics quiz: I have no idea why the instruction is wrong, or confusing. I’ve read McHugh’s opinion, and I still don’t understand what the alleged problem is, unless this judge just doesn’t want to anyone convicted. (He’s an Obama appointment, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with anything, for Chief Justice Roberts tells us so). The decision is here, and this the judge’s reasoning: Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: Pronouns

 

(Why am I up writing at this hour? All I will say is that its is unwise to frustrate a Jack Russell Terrier. That’s all.)

Peter Vlaming, a high school teacher in West Point Virginia, refused to use the pronouns demanded by 9th grade student who had announced that she was a female transitioning to male, was fired this week.  The West Point School Board fired him after a four-hour hearing, and its position was that Vlaming was fired for insubordination.

Some news reports on the matter fail to note that there was no allegation that the  West Point High School French teacher insisted on referring to the student using female pronouns in class. Apparently he used her name only. No, he apparently slipped when when the student was about to run into a wall, and Vlaming told others to stop “her.” When discussing the incident with administrators, Vlaming said he would not use male pronouns, because  his Christian faith prevented him from doing so.

Principal Jonathan Hochman testified that he ordered  Vlaming to use male pronouns in accordance with the student’s wishes. Vlaming’s attorney, Shawn Voyles, says his client offered to use the student’s name and to avoid feminine pronouns, but Voyles says the school was unwilling to accept the compromise.

“That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment. And the student had expressed that. The parent had expressed that,” said West Point schools Superintendent Laura Abel. “They felt disrespected.” Although the school’s  policies were updated a year ago to include guidance regarding gender identity,  gender pronoun use was not included. Vlaming’s attorney argues that the school cannot require his clients to speak words that violate his conscience. This is undeniably true. Vlaming says he is being fired for for having views held by “most of the world for most of human history. That is not tolerance,” Vlaming said. “That is coercion.”

He has not decided on his next steps.

Yikes. I do not see how speaking words that are not blasphemy can qualify as a breach of faith. I do not see how calling a student by name rather than pronoun can be called discrimination or create a “hostile environment.” I do see how a teacher calling an apparently female student by male pronouns could confuse other students, suggest that gender is more flexible than it is healthy to believe, and be something parents could legitimately object to. I think that the First Amendment pretty clearly prevents a government institution like a school from demanding that a teacher use specific pronouns simply because a student wants him to do so, when using the opposite pronouns are still arguably accurate and the teacher is willing to use the student’s name only.

I think that’s sufficient background to ask this perplexing Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question of the day:

Was it ethical for the teacher to refuse to use the student’s preferred pronouns in referring to that student?

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Afternoon Ethics Distractions, December 1, 2018 [UPDATED]

Happy birthday to me.

Birthday ethics quiz: When I was 13, my mother decided to throw me a real surprise birthday by having my friends and relatives hiding in our basement, but to stage the ambush four full days before the actual anniversary of my birth. She sent me down into our (creepy, musty) basement on a pretext, and the 25 or so people leaping out of the dark screaming scared the hell out of me. I nearly fell down the stairs. On your real birthday, there’s something in the back of your mind that prepares you for the possibility of a surprise party, however remote. When the surprise comes on another day, it feels more like an attack. As a consequence of that trauma, I detest surprise parties, and am afraid of dark basements. My mother, who loved scaring people, was always proud of her “surprise party that was really a surprise.” I thought it was sadistic and irresponsible, and still do.

What do you think?

1. The Drag Queen Principal Principle? Readers here Know Ethics Alarms frequently explores the various ethical dilemmas raised when a primary or secondary school teacher allows herself to appear naked of nearly so on the web. The tag is “The Naked Teacher Principle.”

This is a variation I haven’t seen before, out of Great Britain, from the BBC:

Andrew Livingstone, 39, is the head of Horatio House in Lound, Suffolk, and he also has a second job outside of work, as an entertainer called Miss Tish Ewe. According to the Eastern Daily Press, his act contains explicit material.

Great Yarmouth Community Trust, which owns the school, said it had agreed guidelines with him to ensure “a separation between his two jobs”. Mr Livingstone’s act is labelled on Twitter as “Queen of Quay Pride and Great Yarmouth!”, and boasts he has performed in places including Cardiff, Bristol and Dundee.

Mr Livingstone was appointed in July as the head of the independent school, near Lowestoft, and its proprietors said he brought “considerable expertise in education and school improvement to the trust”.

The school said his drag queen act came up during checks, but that it did “not believe that the two jobs are incompatible, and agreed with Mr Livingstone clear guidelines to ensure that there is a separation between his two jobs, including the use of social media in promoting his act”.

Both Norfolk and Suffolk county councils said they had not received any complaints.

Note that the key factor in most NTP scenarios isn’t present here. The teacher’s employers knew about the individual’s unusual avocation and approved of it in advance: there was no unexpected revelations or publicity. Note also that this is England, where drag has a somewhat different tradition and reputation than it does in the U.S.

2. George H.W. Bush death ethics. a) Incompetence. Here is the Washington Post’s first obit after the former President’s demise yesterday:

b) Nah, there’s no mainstream media bias! The New York Times dredged out the infamous photo it employed to help sink Bush’s reelection in 1992, purporting to show him being “amazed” at a supermarket scanner. Bush was “out of touch” with how real Americans lived, you see, unlike Bill Clinton, who “felt their pain.”  That was the false narrative the news media was pushing against THAT Republican President. It was a lie, of course. Times reporter, later editor, Andrew Rosenthal wasn’t even present at the grocers’ convention where the photographed scene took place. He based his article on a two-paragraph report filed by the lone pool newspaperman allowed to cover the event, who only noted that Bush had a “look of wonder” on his face, But President Bush was wondering at new  a new technology “regular” Americans would have wondered at too—a prototype  scanner that could weigh groceries and read corrupted bar codes.

c) Paranoia! Confirmation bias! Newsbusters and Instapundit found the Associated Press’s obituary nasty and biased. Read it. The piece is fair and accurate. Mine would have been much tougher. Bush joined James Buchanan as men who became President because they had held every other conceivable elected and appointed government post and it was the only step left. That’s a lousy reason to run for President, and both Buchanan and Bush learned that lesson the hard way.

d) This is how it is done, John. The Bush family made it known that President Trump would be attending Bush’s funeral. President Trump was much harder on the Bushes than he was on John McCain. [CORRECTION: I mistakenly and carelessly posted that the Bushes “boycotted” Trump’s swearing in. W. and wife were there; Jeb wasn’t, but he was not obligated to, and H.W. was old and frail enough that he had an automatic excuse, though I doubt that he was inclined to show up. I apologize for the error.] But living ex-Presidents and the one in office traditionally attend the funeral of one of the exclusive club. The Bush’s understand that respect for the Presidency takes precedence over dislike of the man in it. Continue reading

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Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: CNN And Marc Lamont Hill”

More self-flagellation is in order: the problem when one gets behind in posting important Comments of the Day, new entries tend to push themselves into line, making it harder to catch up. The quiz about whether CNN was ethical to fire Marc Lamont Hill spawned this too- interesting- to- put- off discourse on the use of violence in activism in the U.S.  To recap, Hill had told the U.N, in the course of advocating pushing the Jews into the sea,

“Contrary to western mythology, black resistance to American apartheid did not come purely through Gandhi and nonviolence. Rather, slave revolts and self-defense and tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. King or Mahatma Gandhi were equally important to preserving safety and attaining freedom.”

To this,seasoned Ethics Alarms commenter Isaac wrote,

He’s also wrong about uprisings and violent tactics being “equally important” to African freedom and equal rights in America. Not even close to true. If anything such tactics, while understandable, hindered the hard uphill battle being fought by the likes of Douglass and King. You can trace virtually every single concrete step forward in both the abolition and civil rights movements to peaceful activists, non-violent advocacy, and people working within the American systems to change them. Not sexy, but true.

This sparked Michael R’s Comment of the Day on the post Ethics Quiz: CNN And Marc Lamont Hill:

I would disagree with you on your points about violent tactics. Violent self-defense was an integral part in the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Deacons for Defense and other armed groups of black men provided armed guards for civil rights leaders. Without groups of armed black men like the Deacons for Defense, CORE would have been wiped out. The KKK would have won and the civil rights movement would have collapsed. Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: CNN And Marc Lamont Hill

I nearly mentioned Marc Lamont Hill’s anti-Israel speech at the U.N. yesterday into this afternoon’s pot pouri, but ran out of space. It’s a good thing, because the story wasn’t over. CNN reacted to the speech late today by firing him as a regular contributor.

While condemning Israel and calling for strong international support of Palestinians and a new Palestine, he said in part,

“Contrary to western mythology, black resistance to American apartheid did not come purely through Ghandi and nonviolence. Rather, slave revolts and self-defense and tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. King or Mahatma Gandhi were equally important to preserving safety and attaining freedom. If we are to operate in true solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must allow the Palestinian people the same range of opportunity and political possibility. If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself. We must prioritize peace, but we must not romanticize or fetishize it. We must advocate and promote nonviolence at every opportunity, but we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing….We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grass-roots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.

The last part was the tipping point, it seems: the phrase “from the river to the sea” has long been used by those who advocate wiping  Israel off the map. The Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center responded to Hill’s comments by calling them open support for the elimination of Israel. From Jewish Journal:

Sharon Nazarian, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) senior vice president for international affairs, told the Journal in an email, “Those calling for ‘from the river to the sea’ are calling for an end to the State of Israel.”

“It is a shame that once again, this annual event at the United Nations does not promote constructive pathways to ‘Palestinian solidarity’ and a future of peace, but instead divisive and destructive action against Israel,” Nazarian said.

Similarly, Simon Wiesenthal Center Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in an email, “Justice requires a ‘Free Palestine from the River to the Sea’? Marc Lamont Hill is a confirmed anti-Zionist ideologue. His extremist, anti-peace views merit coverage on CNN, not as a paid pundit but as a supreme propagandist unfettered by facts.”

Hill furiously argued on Twitter that he was being misinterpreted, but to no avail.  He is a Professor of Media Studies and Urban Education at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Hill would have had a stronger defense if he was not an open admirer of anti-Semite and routine Jew-hater Louis Farrakhan. I would have fired him years ago for being an outrageous race-baiter who sells anti-white bigotry and racial division on CNN using his  academic credentials as false authority. A typical moment: when a Baltimore Court correctly threw out the politically and racially motivated indictment against one of the officers involved in the Freddie Gray death, Hill tweeted, in defiance of the evidence and law, “The acquittal of the Baltimore Officer is yet another reminder that Black life isn’t worth much in this nation.”

Let’s ignore all of the many other good and long-standing reasons to fire Hill however, and pretend he had previously been responsible, fair, and professional. Or we could pretend he was a mongoose. No, let’s just stick with responsible, fair, and professional to keep it simple…

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Should Marc Lamont Hill have been fired for his speech at the United Nations?

Continue reading

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Ethics Quiz: The Good Hoax?

A scholarly journal called “Sex Roles” published what t thought were the results of  a two-year study involving “thematic analysis of table dialogue” to uncover the mystery of why heterosexual men like to eat at Hooters. A journal of feminist geography, whatever that is, featured research om “human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity” at dog parks in Portland, Oregon. Another paper was deemed worthy of publication in a journal of feminist social work:  titled “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” it merged current feminist cant into passages lifted from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

Last week, the three authors of these and many other hoax papers  revealed in an article for the online journal Areo explaining that their fakery was part of a project to expose the lack of integrity in academia. “Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields,” they wrote. James A. Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian  (above) said that they wrote 20 fake scholarly papers and had several accepted and published in journals. The embarrassed publications rushed to retract the fake scholarship…

…while many scholars praised the hoaxers. for casting a harsh and revealing light on the “peer-reviewed research” scam.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz Of The Day:

Was the hoax project ethical?

Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, October 11, 2018: Ethics Flotsam and Jetsam

Hello, I must be going…

Ugh! Big seminar to teach at a downtown D.C. law firm and no time to linger! Some quick ethics notes…

1. The Nike pander. Can a TV commercial be pandering to one side of the political spectrum and dubious ethical conduct more? In the new Adidas ad, Colin Kaepernick, grandstanding boob, is treated like a cultural hero. So is one of the most abrasive of the Parkland shooting anti-gun kids, and Serena Williams. It made me wonder what was the matter with the other pseudo-celebrities who quickly crossed my vision: I assume that they are ethics corrupters too. Like Nike…

2. So much for Plan E. Plan E is the 25th Amendment impeachment plot (the whole list of Democratic and “resistance” plans to undo the election is here.) President Trump gave Fox and Friends another of his hyper-energized monologues today, over 45 minutes-worth. He still sounds like Trump, but anyone listening to that who wants to claim the man is disabled will have a lot of explaining to do. I dare Nancy Pelosi to free-style for 45 minutes without crashing and burning.

3. Maybe this will be Plan O: After the President’s rant, Fox and Friends’  co-host Ainsley Earhardt asked the President to wish her father a happy birthday over the air, which he graciously did. I’m not sure what was horrible about that, but I’m sure someone will claim that it is a dangerous breach of some “norm” or other.

4. Now, impeaching Fox talking heads is another story. The K-pop group NCT 127 appeared on Fox’s Good Day L.A. yesterday.  Following their performance, band member Mark Lee told  co-host Megan Colarossi—guess what color her hair is? Come on, guess!— that he is from Vancouver. She responded with, “Very cool, your English is awesome. I love it.”

Asked one Twitter wag…“I mean he’s from Canada, what is he supposed to speak, moose?”

Why should the public trust the news media when so many of them regularly expose themselves as idiots? Continue reading

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