The Principal Who Helped Gaby Rodriguez Fake Her Pregnancy Just Won “Principal of the Year.” The Frightening Thing Is, He Might Have Deserved It.

Note that it says "Principal." It doesn't say anything about "principles."

I received this news from Ethics Hero Harris Meyer, the journalist who has been trying to preserve some semblance of integrity in his profession by reminding it what ethical investigative journalism is not, through his efforts to rebut the praise for Gaby Rodriguez, the high school student who deceived her family and classmates by pretending to be pregnant as her senior project. The news: Trevor Greene, the principal who helped devise Gaby’s unethical stunt and assisted her in lying to the rest of the school, has been named the state’s top high school principal by the Association of Washington School Principals.

He received this  honor, the release says, by virtue of his organizing a system of student-teacher mentorships, and guiding the school’s effort to expand and improve its science, technology, engineering and math curriculum. The fact that he also mentored a student in a blatantly unethical exercise that was, as I wrote in my original post about Gaby’s scam, Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Journalist Harris Meyer

Harris Meyer is an Ethics Hero because he won’t let a bad lesson go unchallenged.

Meyer is an award-winning  freelance journalist and a former editor at the Yakima (Wash.) Herald Republic. That was the paper that first broke the story of Gaby Rodriguez last year, which I wrote about here. With the encouragement of her high school principal, Rodriguez, a senior, embarked on some amateur social science research that involved deceiving everyone in her life except her mother, one (of seven) siblings, her boyfriend, and the principal. She pretended that she was pregnant, suing padding. She faked the pregnancy for months, finally announcing the sham in a student assembly. This extended hoax was supposedly designed to expose how pregnant teenagers are treated by their peers and others. It was, by any rational standard, a despicable thing to do—a betrayal and exploitation of her friends,  her boyfriend’s family, her siblings and teachers. Deception on such a scale must be justified, if at all, by both need and necessity. Were there other, less destructive ways to investigate the treatment of pregnant teens? Sure there were; interviews come to mind. Collecting published journals and other accounts. But Gaby’s unethical stunt was in spiritual synchronicity with a reality show-obsessed culture, where fake is entertaining and collateral damage is of no concern.  I wrote: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Fake Pregnancy, Real Deception, Real Harm

Commenter Karl Penny expands on the original post with reflections on trust:

“…Ms. Rodriguez’s actions were just plain wrong. Society, a civilized one anyway, depends on trust if it is to function. I buy foods that I trust were processed in such a manner that they are still wholesome, for example. Not so long ago, my wife and I went to see a movie and, while still some distance from the ticket booths, noticed that a number of people had turned and started walking away from the line they’d been in. We asked a couple who’d headed off in our direction what the matter was. They said a particular movie (forgot which one, now), the one we had planned to see, was sold out. We thanked them and left. We believed them. We didn’t wonder if it was a stunt or practical joke of some kind. We didn’t think a competing theater chain was trying to undermine a competitor’s business in that way. We certainly didn’t wonder if some local students were conducting a study on the behavior of disappointed theater patrons. I don’t want to have to live in a society where it would have been necessary to check whether the theater was really out of tickets for that show. We have enough people already who have worked at undermining public trust, to the detriment of us all. Any more of them, we don’t need.”

Fake Pregnancy, Real Deception, Real Harm

"How exciting! It's fake, isn't it?"

Gaby Rodriguez, a Yakima (Washington) High School senior, faked a pregnancy for six months as a school-approved senior project. She told no one about the charade, which the school has called a “social experiment,” except her mother, boyfriend and principal. Others, like her siblings, her boyfriend’s family, fellow students, friends and teachers, were led to believe the pregnancy was real.

Thanks to hidden camera shows like ABC’s “What Would You Do?” and various reality shows, too many people have the impression that everyone they meet is a potential guinea pig. On the contrary: using decent, disguise, deception and lies to “see how people react” is no better than lying for any other reason, and often more harmful. Continue reading