Five Ethics Questions and Answers: Bristol Palin’s Undeserved Survival On “Dancing With the Stars”

This week, once again, the clunky Bristol Palin, Sarah’s daughter, survived elimination from “Dancing With the Stars,” and now is in the Final Three. A far better amateur dancer, pop singer Brandy, who had one of the week’s best scores, was sent home instead. The entertainment media is howling with indignation. What does it all mean?

Question 1. Is Bristol Palin Sanjaya? Continue reading

When Experts Aren’t: The Ethics of Competence and “The Elements of Style”

Ethics Alarms, and apparently few others who don’t have their TV stuck permanently on Fox News, expressed its outrage of at the revealed ignorance of Al Gore, whose opinion on climate change policy carries weight and influence far beyond his demonstrated ability to comprehend the natural forces underlying his own opinion. (This week Al came up with another howler, stating that the polar ice caps would be gone in a couple of years. The scientist he erroneously quoted regarding this quickly announced that Al must have been talking about some other ice caps.) Experts who are really incompetent cause great harm, which is why competence is a critical, though often ignored, ethical duty for all professionals, from Albero Gonzalez to Bernie Madoff to Ashley Simpson to White House social secretaries.

This excellent article, a long time coming, finally exposes the incompetence of William Strunk and E.B.White, whose 1918 mini-book  “The Elements of Style” was uncritically adopted as gospel by generations of English teachers, many of whom were incompetent themselves. This over-reaching duo was to blame for all the perfectly appropriate split infinitives and passive voice sentences that you were marked down for using in the 9th Grade, and I have a book editor I’m sending this link to as soon as I finish this post who has been quoting  Strunk and White to get me to stop beginning sentences with “And” or “But.”  How many promising, lively young writers were throttled into mediocrity by this book we will never know, but it stands as vivid and tragic lesson on why experts have an obligation to be at least nearly as smart as they claim to be.