Incompetent Elected Officials Of The Month: The Charlotte City Council



 9-year-old Zianna Oliphant spoke at a Charlotte City Council meeting about race, police violence, and reform. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and, of course, the video “went viral.” She has kept talking, expert on urban governance and law enforcement that she is, since she earned her fifteen minutes of fame. “I was just feeling like what the police are doing to us, just because of our skin, is not right,” the fourth-grader told NBC.

Of course, she knows absolutely nothing about the issues involved. She has no idea whether what happened to Keith Lamont Scott was ” done to us, just because of our skin” or done to him, because he threatened a police officer. (It was done to him, by a black cop, who, if he was doing it because of the color of Zianna’s skin needs to be put on a suicide watch.)

All Zianna knows is what she has been taught, and based on what she said, she has been indoctrinated by her family and community into be a police-fearing, anti-white racist. Now that this is happening to the black children of Charlotte and elsewhere is important information that should be part of the discussion, but that’s not how her statements are being used. She is being exploited by adults who know that their opinions become more persuasive coming out of the mouths of babes, and she is being accorded undeserved  moral authority because she is young and innocent. Zianna also has a fourth grade education and maybe six years of life experience. Wow.

What can such an individual contribute to a public policy debate so complex that elected officials, scholars and public policy experts don’t know how to proceed? Nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. A nine year-old girl, even the most brilliant nine-year-old girl who has ever lived, is useless. A City Council that would waste deliberation and consideration of  critical issues on the testimony of children, however moving,  should just hand in their resignations en masse. They are incompetent and a disgrace.

In the alternative, Charlotte should give voting privileges to anyone over the age of five. Maybe they will. Continue reading

Ethics Observations On The Washington Post’s “Ted Cruz’s Kids Are Monkeys” Cartoon Uproar


Here’s what you need to know: Ted Cruz launched a political ad  that features the Texas Republican reading parody Christmas fare to his two young daughters, Caroline and Catherine, stuff like “The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails.”  Washington Post political cartoonist Ann Telnaes reacted with the drawing above, titled “Ted Cruz uses his kids as political props.” The children are portrayed as monkeys. Telnaes clearly knew she was on thin ice, and accompanied the cartoon with a justification (now pulled: if anyone has the whole text, I’d like to see it) saying in part,

“But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game.”

Note: the daughters are 7 and 4.

Cruz cried foul in a tweet, and the news media and internet was beginning to tilt hard against the Post, when editor Fred Hiatt pulled the cartoon, writing,

“It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it. I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree.”

And here we are.

Observations: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Bindi the Jungle Girl

Bindi Irwin,posing with an American politician

Bindi Irwin,posing with an American politician

It shouldn’t surprise us that 14-year-old Bindi Irwin, a.k.a. “Bindi the Jungle Girl”, has the stuff of ethics heroism. After all, she is the daughter of Steve Irwin, the late lamented “Crocodile Hunter,” and his intrepid wife, Terri Irwin. She has also been hosting her own Australian TV show since she was 7, in which Bindi regularly faces-off with the same nasty critters that amused her father so.

But Bindi’s heroism doesn’t involve crocodiles on this occasion, but rather the treachery and deceit of American politics. She was asked to write an article about protecting the environment for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s e-journal. (I’m not sure why this is a topic for discussion by the Secretary of State, but never mind.) After spending many hours of school time writing the piece for the “Go Wild – Coming Together for Conservation” edition of the newsletter last month, Bindi received the edited version of her 1000 word essay from State and found that it was drastically changed to the point of being rewritten completely.  ( You can read the original essay—which isn’t bad at all—here, and the re-written one, on a substantially different topic, here. She refused to let it be published with her name as author, withdrew it, and called foul to the Australian press.

This is called integrity. It is a rare and exotic breed in today’s Washington, D.C. Continue reading

Comment of the Day on “Ethics Triple Dunces…”

[In his Comment of the Day, Jeffrey Field endorses the actions of both the teacher and the superintendent that I labeled “ethics triple dunces” for making students write letters lobbying for more money in school budgets, raises some other provocative ethics issues related to teacher and student conduct, and questions my indictment of the ethics of the teaching profession. I think he’s wrong on every count (you can read my response with my original post), but it’s a terrific comment.]

“When I was a 5th grade teacher teacher at Clements school in North Alabama, the all-white Limestone County School Board voted to allow students the Martin Luther King holiday, but teachers would be required to work that day. So, partially in self interest and partially in empathy of the small percentage of black teachers, I got my 5th grade class to write letters to the board asking them to reconsider. Long story short, the board reversed position and everybody got a day off.

“Yes, I used this as a writing exercise, and I offer no excuses. You see, too many times teachers have students write a paper with no real purpose in mind. In this case, my students had a real purpose in penning a persuasive letter to the people who ran the schools (btw – no one was required to write the letter, but they all did). And boy, you should have seen the smiles and heard the whoops of joy the morning the Athens News Courier ran a story saying the board had reconsidered its position. Continue reading

Ethics TRIPLE Dunces: Tramway Elementary Teacher Melanie Hawes and Lee County Board of Education Superintendant Jeff Moss


North Carolina state legislator Mike Stone is a budget hawk, and is supporting a budget-cutting proposal that could eliminate 9,300 positions in the public schools. It’s a contentious issue, and the representative has received many letters—including a plaintive one from his own third grader daughter, a student at Tramway Elementary, who was one of several students in her class directed by teacher Melanie Hawes to write to the  Republican and plead with him to save the jobs of their two teacher assistants.

“Our school doesn’t want to lose them,” she wrote. “Please put the budget higher, dad.”

Ugh. Ethics foul; in fact, three of them:

1. It is unethical for teachers to indoctrinate their students in political positions in which the teachers have a personal interest.

2. It is unethical to exploit children as lobbying tools, under the pretense of educating them.

3. It is extremely unethical to recruit a legislator’s 8-year-old daughter to carry a lobbying message. Continue reading