Comment Of The Day: “Ten Questions About The Lakewood High School Football Game Incident”

Indoctrination2

Once again, as I can’t resist doing periodically, I’m publishing a dinged comment as a Comment of the Day to illustrate the kind of thinking and debating technique that goes on among the addled, biased, and ethics-free.

This one is from someone with the ironic email handle “rightwing moron” (he is, it seems, a “woke” moron) objecting to the position expressed here that schools must not take political positions and inflict them on their students, parents and football game spectators, because doing so is an abuse of position, function and power, and because those who operate schools are (theoretically) trained as educators, not public policy experts and political scientists, and have no right to engage in indoctrination.  I don’t consider that assessment to be seriously debatable, but I am eager to read intelligent, well-argued, articulate and civil attempts.

This is the first of two comments by whoever this jerk is; both violated Ethics Alarms comment standards. The second was more of the same fallacies and typical emotion-based, ignorant reasoning, so it was sent to Spam Hell. Whoever this was didn’t comprehend the essay in question at all. As is usually the case in such screeds (I get a lot of them), the writer presumes that as long as he, she or it agrees with a political view, it is proper and ethical to unilaterally hijack any activity or function to advance it.

I’ll be back briefly at the end to poke some holes, not because any readers of average intelligence won’t see what’s wrong with this mess on their own, but because I enjoy the excercise, like the way I enjoy walking on bubble wrap. I didn’t clean the rant up the way I edit respectable COTDs, because the lack of care the comment exhibits is of a piece with its quality generally.

Here is the Comment of the Day on the post, Ten Questions About The Lakewood High School Football Game Incident”:

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Ten Questions About The Lakewood High School Football Game Incident

lakewood

A football game at Lakewood High School in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, was intercepted and run into racial politics and partisan grandstanding territory when a voice over the public address system before the game declares that the school would has designated itself an “agent of change” in the battle against “systemic” racism in “society as a whole.”

After the band played the Lakewood alma mater, it then played “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the so-called “black national anthem,” in imitation of the NFL, which is featuring the song this season as part of its official grovel to Black Lives Matter. The announcer added his commentary about how racist the U.S. is, intoning,

 “Let us pause and reflect on the inequality that our nation has faced since its beginning. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tamir Rice among others remind us of the systemic racism that persists across so many of our nation’s institutions and society as a whole. By acknowledging, discussing, and taking action to address these inequalities, Lakewood City Schools aims to be an agent of change, not only in our community but in the world. We must all take a stand against racism. Let this be the moment when our children someday look back and say, ‘This is when we stood together for change.’”

Sources confirmed that both the school principal and the band director approved the political kick-off.

Despite receiving many complaints from parents and law enforcement over the stunt, the school reportedly will repeat its BLM-themed ritual in  future football games but will remove the names of those killed in encounters with police. Absurdly, the school will read a tribute to first responders at halftime as part of a “compromise” with law enforcement.

The new revised speech will provide context  for “ the black national anthem” explaining  how “Lift Every Voice and Sing” sets “an atmosphere of reverence for the journey of people of color, gratitude for the selfless sacrifices of their ancestors and for the inheritance of indomitability and resilience. The song recognizes these moments as important to moving forward toward hope and faith for a better future and a better America. The song is universally uplifting and speaks to every group that struggles.”

Here are some questions, rhetorical and otherwise:

1. What would you do if your child was involved in a high school sports contest and the school perverted it into a political demonstration? One father who attended the game said afterwards that he would have walked out…if it were not his son’s senior year. Yeah, those are typical priorities all right. It’s an outrage, but not important enough to teach a child that preserving standards and values is more important than a high school football game.

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The High School Football Slaughter

The winning team’s players weren’t really that much bigger; they just seemed that way.

The last time I wrote about the topic of high school football routs (I think) was here. In that post from 2013, I discussed a  “vengeful father who watched his son’s hapless football team get the just desserts of all hapless teams—losing badly” who filed a formal complaint accusing the winning team of “bullying.” The Aledo High School  (Fort Worth, Texas) should have “laid up, he claimed, and not doing so was poor sportsmanship.”

This guy apparently moved to Long Island, and bullied legislators there into adopting his concept of sportsmanship. Nassau County has a policy designed to prevent lopsided results in high school football games, decreeing that if a team wins a game by more than 42 points, the winning coach must explain to a special committee why such an outsize margin could not be avoided. If the coach is not sufficiently convincing, woe be unto him.

So when the  Plainedge Red Devils made a fourth-quarter touchdown against the previously unbeaten South Side Cyclones, making the final score 61-13, a 48 point margin, Plainedge coach Robert Shaver was called on the metaphorical carpet. His explanation wasn’t good enough, apparently, so he was given a one-game suspension.

From the Times account: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 8/25/2018: Train Wrecks, Gotchas, Fake News, Idiots, And Progress, Sort Of…

Thus endeth one of the worst weeks in Ethics Alarms traffic in years. It depressed me so much I stopped checking the figures. The comments remained vigorous and high quality, and for that I am grateful. Obviously my being on the road, pseudo-vacationing and without a charged computer were factors, as is August. I do feel, however, that a lot of people just don’t want to be objective, rational or ethical where political news is concerned, just angry and emotional.

Well, at least the libel lawsuit by the banned commenter was dismissed this week.. He told the judge that this was an extreme right-wing website, you know.

1. Not the Michael Cohen Ethics Train Wreck, just the Trump Administration Ethics Train Wreck. On one hand, Cohen is as sleazy, unethical and untrustworthy a lawyer ever to blight the profession (now don’t sue me, Mike, this is just my opinion, not an assertion of fact!), as I noted years ago when I first wrote about the creep.  On the other, Trump was literally asking for a disaster by continuing to employ such an obvious low-life. On the one hand, Trump obviously lying about his relationships with various strippers, models and other sex toys for hire was unconscionable; on the other, “everybody lies about sex” was the official Democratic talking point when Bill was doing it. On the one hand, paying hush money to cover up adultery is slimy, on the other, it’s not illegal, and despite what the news media is selling, it probably isn’t an election law violation either. On the one hand, the news media having yet another impeachment wet dream is disgusting, biased, unethical journalism; on the other, Trump keeps handing the “resistance” ammunition on a silver platter.

Nonetheless, the news media and the Democrats still somehow manage to out-misbehave the President. The latest is the ridiculous argument that the Kavanaugh nomination is now somehow “illegitimate” because the President is under suspicion of illegal conduct. Any pundit or authority who makes this totured and desperate case deserves to be permanently ignored and designated a partisan hack; the current list includes Democratic Senators Mazie Hirono and Ed Markey,  and The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, David Harsanyi explains succinctly for those who can’t figure this out for themselves.

2. Great. Now we have legacy racism to worry about. When the kind of “gotcha!” mentality that prompts people to search for insensitive tweets athletes made as teenagers mates with the corporate cowardice that  prompts a company like Nabisco to cave to complaints by deranged extremist group like PETA, in an environment where “Racist” has become the full equivalent of crying “Commie!” or “Witch!,” I guess this is inevitable. Inevitable, but scary, and really, really stupid.

Lilly Diabetes pulled its sponsorship of Indy racer Conor Daly’s  car in the NASCAR Xfinity race at Road America, because the driver’s father allegedly made a racist remark in the 1980s. I could go into more detail, but it would nauseate me. You can read more here. The sponsorship was designed to raise awareness for treatment options and resources for people living with diabetes.

“Unfortunately, the comments that surfaced this week by Derek Daly distract from this focus, so we have made the decision that Lilly Diabetes will no longer run the No. 6 at Road America this weekend,” the company said in a statement. Craven, principle-free, cowards. I have diabetes, and I want to make certain that the focus is on Lilly’s utter disregard for fairness, proportion and common sense. If corporations are this easy to intimidate—and I think they are—the Left’s escalating efforts to constrain free speech, thought, advocacy and conduct are going to be successful. When will conservatives work to make all those Kennedys pay for old Joe’s pro-Hitler sentiments?  That would be about as logical and fair as punishing Conor Daley for a 30-year-old comment by his father.

3. Remember that story about ICE detaining a man while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital when they stopped for gas? It was more pro-illegal immigration spin. The coverage of the news that made it not the “children in cages” anti-Trump propaganda it was spun to be was given a fraction of the exposure that the original, misleading story was. The LA Times eventually told what Paul Harvey called “the rest of the story”:

An immigrant in the U.S. illegally who was detained by federal officers in San Bernardino last week while heading to the hospital with his pregnant wife is one of three men listed in an arrest warrant for a 2006 murder in Mexico. Joel Arrona-Lara is wanted in connection with the killing of Miguel Ángel Morales Rodríguez, alias “El Garcia,” according to the arrest warrant…

Gee, can ICE arrest illegal immigrants who are murderers now, or should we just “think of the children’ and leave them alone too? A recent poll concluded that a majority of the public doesn’t approve of how the Trump administration is handling immigration. Well of course not! Children in cages, innocent expectant fathers stopped on teh way to the hospital, all of those good illegal immigrants minding their own business…

This is disinformation designed to influence U.S. elections.

4. Life Incompetence Department: In Bijie, China, a concerned 26-year-old husband and 24-year-old wife consulted a doctor to learn why they had been unsuccessful in their efforts to have a child for four years. Intercourse was painful for the wife, she said. The doctor explained the problem after some further questioning:  they had been having anal sex the entire time. After he gave them a little instruction book, the wife was with child in short order.

5. Good! The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that  participation in 11-player high school football declined nationwide for the second consecutive year. “We are encouraged that the decline in high school football was slowed, due in part, to our efforts in reducing the risk of injury in the sport,” said Karissa Niehoff, the NFHS executive director, in a statement. “While there may be other reasons that students elect not to play football, we have attempted to assure student-athletes and their parents that thanks to the concussion protocols and rules in place in every state in the country, the sport of football is as safe as it ever has been.”

As safe as it has ever been…..

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/20/18: Life, Death, Fairness, Dissonance And Sanity

1 Let’s see more of such Ethics Heroes, please… In Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania,  John Orsini, has gone to court to stop his ex-wife from allowing their son, 17-year-old Antonio, from playing high school football in his senior year. Antonio has already suffered at least three concussions. Antonio’s mother and John’s ex-wife, Janice, says that her son understands the risks, and that doctors have OK’d his continued play.

But he doesn’t understand the risks—apparently neither do those doctors—and he is considered a minor under the law because teenagers are prone to poor reasoning and impulsive decisions…especially when they have incipient brain damage.

CNN is eager to hear his position on gun control though. But I digress..

Says the CBS news story: “John contends that after these concussions and sub-concussive hits, medical research shows that Antonio would be in grave danger if he continues to play football.” He contends? There is no contention: that is fact.

“I’m trying to save his future. I’m trying to save his life,” he said of his son.

Janice and her attorney issued a statement, saying in part,

“The mother and her 17-year-old son have reasonably relied upon the input and opinions of his treating physicians and medical providers, and have considered the state mandated safety and concussion protocols followed by the school district, in deciding whether it was appropriate for him to continue to participate in football.”

John believes the court will side with him.  “If you have a significant indication that the child is being placed in harm’s way, and it’s brought to court to protect the child, it’s the court obligation to do so,” he says. I wouldn’t be so sure. This is football country, and football fanatics are in denial. They’ll get thousands of children’s brains injured before they are through.

“I’m hopeful that my son will just go on, get a good education and lead a healthy life. That’s all I want,” said John, whose other two sons no longer speak to him over this conflict.

Good luck.

Let’s hope Anthony is given then chance to grow smarter than his mother.

2. Let’s see, which Trump Derangement news media story should I post today? Every day, every single day, I have literally dozens of biased, vicious, stupid, unprofessional and blatantly partisan mainstream media news reports and pundit excesses to flag as unethical. Here, for example, is a New York Times columnists advocating for Rex Tillerson to betray all professional ethics, confidentiality, trust and responsibility by revealing everything he heard or saw as Secretary of State that could undermine Trump’s administration. It’s called, “Burn it down, Rex.”

Let me repeat: for journalists to set out to intentionally poison public opinion against the elected President of the United States by manipulation and hostile reporting is unethical and dangerous. This conduct has been the single largest ethics breach in the culture for more than a year, and one of the worst in U.S. history. In strenuously condemning journalism’s abdication of its duty to support democratic institutions and to remain objective and responsible, I am not defending Donald Trump. I am attempting to defend the Presidency itself.

Today I pick…this: Continue reading

Curmie’s Back With Arrows Flying! But What Do His Targets Teach Us?

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Rick Jones, known to his web fans as Curmie (short for Curmudgeon), has had a busy year in his day job as a tender of young college-age minds, and his excellent blog was not as active as years past. Just in time for his annual awards for the worst transgressions in the field of education, however, he has returned with a vengeance, exploring at length and with his usual superb ethical instincts several incidents I have not had time to tackle here. Among them…

…and more, including his take, nicely complimenting mine, on Robert Reich’s complaints about how rich people and others choose their charities.

Rick, in one of his posts, makes the oft-heard point that the many awful incidents of miserable judgement and outright misconduct, if not criminal conduct, on the part of teachers and administrators should not be projected on the education profession as a whole, since these are relatively rare. I hear him, but I am not convinced. Continue reading

“BULLY!” Is The New “WITCH!”

"Bully!"

“Bully!”

The Texas father of a high school football player would have been right at home in Salem, in the British New World colony of Massachusetts, around 1692. Then, thanks to hysteria about witchcraft, a vengeful citizen could permanently set the populace against a neighbor who had offended him, say, by winning a lawsuit, stealing a recipe or looking lustfully at his or her significant other, by accusing that neighbor of being a witch. This would inevitably spark an investigation, suspicion, infamy, maybe even a trial…and if the accusation stuck, a sadistic execution, perhaps by piling rocks on the neighbor’s witchy chest until everyone heard the sounds of squishing and cracking.

The cry of “Witch!” doesn’t work so well any more, but accusing someone of being a bully works almost as well. It can cause schools to impose punishment for words and activities that have nothing to do with school, and give law enforcement officials the power to pile rocks on the First Amendment. Now a vengeful father who watched his son’s hapless football team get the just desserts of all hapless teams—losing badly—has successfully punished the victors for being stronger, faster, and better coached, by accusing the superior team—it beat his son’s squad by a score of 91-0—of “bullying.” This mandates an investigation, so the winning team’s coach is now under a cloud, and in peril of seeing his career and reputation squished and cracked.

Mission accomplished! Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Matt Labrum, Union High (Roosevelt, Utah) Football Coach

Six Pillars

Matt Labrum, head coach of Union High School in Roosevelt, Utah, suspended all 80 of his players, citing  a lack of character. He instructed them all to turn in their jerseys and their equipment, and announced that there would be no football until they earned the privilege to play. Labrum gave his shocked players a letter titled “Union Football Character” which declared in part,

“The lack of character we are showing off the field is outshining what we are achieving on the field. It is a privilege to play this wonderful game! We must earn the opportunity to have the honor to put on our high school jerseys each Thursday and Friday night!”

Instead of practicing during the days leading up to this weekend’s game, the students were ordered to perform community service, to attend study hall and go to a class on character development. They were also required to perform service for their own families, and write a report about their actions. Academically, the players were told to be on time for classes, and to improve their grades.

It is unclear what prompted the coach’s action, though some of the players, he felt, had engaged in cyber bullying, and he was aware of other instances in which various players had not, in his view, lived up to exemplary standards of behavior. Several of them had been rude and obnoxious, he had learned to other students and teachers—in other words, they were behaving like high school football players. Rather than punish individual students, Coach Labrum decided to impose team wide measures designed to foster good character. His theory, clearly, was to encourage a team culture of ethical conduct, strengthened  by group encouragement and enforcement of shared values. Labrum is also a gifted salesman, since it appears that opposition from students, their parents and the school administration has been minimal.

In many schools, including colleges, football players are the biggest jerks on campus: the culture of school sports too often nurtures entitlement and arrogance. Imagine a school athletic culture in which the athletes were expected to embody the best of ethical values both on and off the field.

The implications are staggering.

_________________________

Pointer: Lianne Best

Sources: Yard Barker Deseret News

Yuri’s Tweets, Flawed Analogies and the School’s Defenders

[Why is it that when I’m traveling and stuck in airports where the supposedly free WiFi doesn’t work and on airplanes that can’t keep on schedule, some post that I assumed was fairly straightforward turns into the Battle of Antietam? I apologize to the various commenter’s whose work product languished waiting for moderation—I just didn’t have the chance. This odyssey ends tonight; I apologize for slowing things down. On the other hand, it’s good to know that my presence is not required for there to be lively and interesting discussions here…thanks, everyone. Good work.]

Don Bosco Prep High School, Class of 1917-1918

That is not to say that sending gross, obscene, or abusive tweets is exemplary conduct; obviously it is not. I have concluded, however, that the proper and ethical use of social media is something that people, including minors, have to learn for themselves by trial, error, research, observing the mistakes and experiences of others, making dumb mistakes and suffering because of them.  Parents and schools, as well as the popular media, have roles to play by giving advice and calling attention to cautionary tales, but heavy-handed attempts to manage social media conduct attempted by authority figures who, as a general rule, neither use nor understand what they are attempting to regulate are both irresponsible and doomed to failure. Like it or not, social media is a primary, and growing, means of communication and interaction in American society, and students are wise….that’s right, wise...to learn how to use it. I was just speaking to a room full of lawyers, and asked them how many used Twitter. The answer: none. But their clients use Twitter, and their client’s adversaries use it, and certainly their children. Their bar associations are making rules about what these lawyers and judges should and shouldn’t be able to do on social media, and most of those bar committee members don’t use Twitter either.As a result, the various jurisdictions have inconsistent rules, based on a lack of knowledge, that are already archaic.

It is fine and responsible for any adult to try to warn a young person that comments on social media need to be considered carefully, that they have a reach far beyond any intended audience and are essentially broadcasts, and that messages or photos can reach people who they hurt or upset, or cause to have a poor opinion of the sender. Ultimately, however, the pioneers in this new frontier of personal expression and mass communication are going to have to learn their own lessons, and better that they learn them now than when they are members of Congress. All punishing students for their tweets teaches them is that people with authority abuse it, and that adults just don’t understand. Because, for the most part, they don’t.

Now the analogies and comparisons:

Public schools vs. Private schools: I gather that the theory here is that if a student voluntarily attends a private school, the student has voluntarily submitted to whatever the school regards as proper discipline, whereas public schools, since they are mandatory and creatures of the government, are constrained by the Constitution. I think I may have encouraged this by a careless reference to the ACLU, which was, of course, a mistake (and I have removed it.) This is ethics, not Constitutional law, and the values are autonomy, fairness, respect, privacy and abuse of power and authority, not Freedom of Speech. I have dealt with several private schools and one Catholic school, and none of them suggested in their printed materials or regulations that they reserved the right to punish my child for what he said, wrote, or communicated during non-school hours, or when he wasn’t physically on school grounds. Neither does Don Bosco, which states as its “philosophy”:

“Don Bosco Prep educates young men so that, through a process of self discovery, each student will come to recognize and acknowledge his talents and limitations, while pursuing academic, athletic, artistic and personal excellence.

“Mindful of both our role and responsibility as a Salesian college prep school, we respect each student as a unique individual. Through active presence in his life, we promote a joyful spirit, intellectual curiosity, self-esteem and emotional maturity. We encourage the development of character and personal responsibility, love for one’s fellow human beings, a concern for the environment and an active commitment to social justice, all of which serve as the cornerstone of each student’s spiritual growth.”

I take none of that, including references to being “an active presence” in a student’s life, “promoting” emotional maturity, and “encouraging” development of character to mean “we can punish your child for absolutely anything he does or says that we disapprove of, no matter where or when it occurs.” It, the school, does all of the things relating to its philosophy in the school, based on the student’s activities and interactions in the school. Any other reading is giving a group of strangers whose biases, background and motivations I can only guess at a blank check to manipulate a child’s life, thoughts and personal activities.

When one teacher from a private school called me to tell me that she felt it was cruel of my son to exclude a classmate whom he did not like from his birthday party, I told her that it was none of her business, and filed a complaint with the school.. Private school does not mean “we can meddle in your child’s private–as opposed to school—activities.

Catholic vs. Secular: All schools should teach character; it happens that Catholic schools do it with more fervor, but that gives them neither a greater obligation nor additional authority. Schools teach good conduct and civility by insisting on appropriate conduct and deportment in school. Are people really prepared to argue that a Catholic school can justify punishing its students for not doing household chores, not washing their hands after using the bathroom in their homes, being cruel to a younger sibling or being disrespectful to a parent? Not only is personal social networking use as unrelated to the school  as any of these, it is also far less significant. How much of a blank check do we want school administrators to have? The right answer to that is that they shouldn’t have a blank check at all, and being a Catholic school changes nothing.

High schools vs. Military Academies: This is just a bad analogy. The student at a military academy has no personal life, and has no privacy. The academy is in loco parentis; the student lives there; authority is total. There is an honor code and a code of conduct, and it applies to everything a student does, including communications. That’s the military. That’s not high school.

High Schools vs. College: Several commenters have referenced the incident from last March when Brigham Young University suspended a star basketball player for having pre-marital sex. Brigham Young is famous for its strict and far-reaching conduct code, which bans drinking, pre-marital sex and many other activities that are virtually courses at other schools. If a student agrees to attend B.Y.U., the student has also agreed to certain conditions unique to the university. Should a more typical college be applauded for suspending a student who has sex with his high school girl friend over Christmas break, in his parents’ home? No; this is none of a college’s business, and attempting to extend its authority beyond the campus and even over state lines in such a fashion is intolerable. If Yuri Wright and his parents signed a document promising that Yuri would never send an offensive tweet during his years at the school, I withdraw my condemnation of Don Bosco’s punishment.

High schools vs. the Workplace: It is true that if an employee engages in conduct outside of work that embarrasses or reflects badly on an employer, ot that interferes with the employee’s ability to do his or her job, the employer is behaving ethically if it chooses to terminate the employee. It is not ethical for an employer to terminate an employee for any private conduct it happens to disapprove of, however. It can’t tell me that I can’t drink or smoke or have sex with men in my own home. It  better not tell me that I can’t vote for Ron Paul or root for the Red Sox, either. The Naked Teacher Principle applies, of course: if I’m a Coca-Cola VP and a Facebook picture shows me chugging Pepsi, that image could undermine my effectiveness at work, and Coke can can me; it’s ethical. If I write an ethics columns for a newspaper and I am caught in an adulterous affair with Marianne Gingrich, the newspaper is only being responsible to fire its unethical, untrustworthy ethicist. None of this applies to Yuri’s tweets. They don’t reflect on the school, or shouldn’t, because the school shouldn’t have any control over his personal communications. They  don’t interfere with his studies, or make him a worse football player.

Expression vs. Conduct: Tweets aren’t conduct. Even if I accept the proposition that a school may, in extreme situations, have some legitimate role in attempting to control student conduct outside of school (and I’m not sure I do), allowing a school to punish a student for the content of his words, uttered or written away from school, is a slippery slope with no braking. If sexually and racially objectionable tweets can get a student expelled, why not tweets critical of President Obama, or cheering on Newt Gingrich? Does Don Bosco’s commitment to “social justice” mean that Yuri can’t tweet that Occupy Wall Street is a crock?

Attention Schools: You Do Not Own Your Students

This must stop.

Yuri? Your school just called; they want slightly more understated smile from you in the future. Or else.

Yuri Wright, a top ranked high school football player who is being sought by schools in the Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC, SEC and Big East, was expelled from Don Bosco Prep High School in Ramsey, N.J.for sending sexually graphic and racial Twitter posts to his more than 1,600 followers. The action jeopardizes his chances of getting a big-time football scholarship. Continue reading