The Free Range Mom, Bias, and the Perils Of Blind Loyalty

About  the blind leading the blind---not only is it dangerous, it looks ridiculous to those who can see.

About the blind leading the blind—not only is it dangerous, it looks ridiculous to those who can see.

One of my favorite bloggers just fell into the blind loyalty trap. I’m sympathetic, but this is something that those who accept the responsibility of  teaching us important lessons and clarifying difficult issues must avoid at all costs. Bias makes us stupid, and blind loyalty breeds bias like carrion breeds maggots. It pains me to see Lenore Skenazy, author of the Free Range Kids blog, undermine her credibility like this.

She titled her post Horrible Editorial Chides Mom for Not Predicting Unpredictable Crime. In it, she takes the side of a mother who left her four-year-old son in an unlocked, running van while she picked up her daughter at a northeast school. Someone was drove her van off with her son in it, and subsequently crashed. The boy was unhurt. Under the circumstances, there is nothing horrible about the editorial, which uses the incident—even Skenazy agrees that the mother’s conduct was “dumb”—to caution parents about leaving children in cars. This is the editorial that aroused Skenazy to defend the indefensible:

“A Calgary mom has no doubt learned her lesson. The woman recently left her four-year-old son in her unlocked, running van while she picked up her daughter at a northeast school. The mother said she was gone about six minutes, and when she came out, someone was stealing her van with her son in it.

Fortunately, the incident ended well, with the child unhurt after the thief crashed the van, and the suspect was taken into custody.…charges of child endangerment need to be pressed to set an example, because no matter how often these types of things occur, other parents continue to leave their kids in similar situations. It takes just a few minutes to get your child out of a vehicle and bring him or her along with you on whatever errand needs running. Sure, it’s more convenient just to leave a child in the car and do the errand, unencumbered. However, child safety should trump inconvenience every time. Better a few extra minutes lost bundling a little one in and out of a vehicle than a lifetime of regret and what-ifs.”

The rationalizations in Skenazy’s defense begin with the title of her post, which is dishonest and in her own words, “dumb.” She is using moral luck as a defense, arguing that the sequence of events as they unfolded were merely unfortunate, and the mother just as easily could have returned to her van and car with nothing amiss. The odds favor nothing bad happening in six minutes; on the other hand, the odds of nothing bad happening are much better if a child isn’t in an unlocked vehicle with the engine running at all. Continue reading

Ethics Quote Of The Week: Glenn Greenwald

“Every journalist has an agenda. We’re on MSNBC now where close to 24 hours a day the agenda of President Obama and the Democratic Party are promoted, defended, glorified. The agenda of the Republican Party is undermined. That doesn’t mean that the people who appear on MSNBC aren’t journalists. They are.”

—-Libertarian blogger, pundit and activist Glenn Greenwald, defending himself in an MSNBC interview against allegations that he has become a “spokesman” for fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Journalism!

Journalism!

Remember, this is an ethics quote, not necessarily one that expresses an ethical point of view. With that caveat, I find it fascinating in many respects:
  • Greenwald is technically correct: journalists who use  their position to distort the news, express their biases and serve as advocates rather than objective critics, as most of the journalists do on MSNBC (and the way many too many journalists do elsewhere) are still journalists. They are unethical and unprofessional journalists. Continue reading