Introducing “The Hollinger Awards”…and the First Recipient, Susan Cole

The Original Hollinger

Every year, the Darwin Awards amuse us, in a blackly humorous way, with tales of people who improve the gene pool by getting themselves killed through acts of stunning stupidity, often seasoned by exquisite irony. To take a random example from 2011, Phil Contos was participating in a helmet-less high-speed motorcycle ride when he crashed and suffered fatal brain injuries. His brother was quoted as saying that Phil would do it again, too—and I’m sure he would.

A story out of Denver made me realize that faulty or entirely absent ethics alarms work in a similar way to ensure that the most shamelessly unethical among us get their just desserts. Such individuals are so lacking in comprehension of what is wrong with their conduct that they can’t resist publicizing it, thereby revealing themselves as blights on their communities and workplaces, and attracting appropriate treatment in response. Searching for an appropriate name for the ethics version of the Darwin Awards, I was irresistably drawn to Jeremy Hollinger, the Mobile, Alabama special ed teacher who last year mocked his challenged fourth graders on Facebook, and, for good measure, posted a photo of himself wearing one of his student’s protective helmets and making a moronic face. (Or, come to think of it, maybe that’s Jeremy’s normal face.) Thus I am dubbing the new distinction The Hollinger, and give the very first one to Susan Cole. Continue reading

The Third Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Worst of Ethics 2011 (Part 1)

Yes, it was Joe Paterno's year, all right.

Welcome to the Third  Annual Ethics Alarms Awards, recognizing the Best and Worst of ethics in 2011!

This is the first installment of the Worst; Part 2 is here. And the Best is here. 

2011 prompted more than 1000 posts, and even then I barely scratched the surface of all the ethical dilemmas and unethical conduct swirling around us. If you have other choices for the various distinctions here and in the subsequent Awards posts, please make them known.

Here are my selections:

Unethical Community of the Year:  Huachuca City, Arizona. Leading the way among American communities that believe, in their hysteria, that former sex offenders who have served their sentences are nonetheless fair game for persecution and the denial of basic rights as citizens and human beings, Huachuca County passed an ordinance that bans registered sex offenders from the use of all public facilities, including parks, school and libraries.  Runner-up: Obion County, Tennessee. Last year, Ethics Alarms gave the county runner-up status as “Unethical Community of the Year” for sending its volunteer fire department to watch a man’s house burn down because he had failed to pay a $75.00 fee. In 2011, it did it again. I swear: if Obion County hasn’t come up with a better system and this happens again in 2012, Obion County will get the title no matter what some other unethical community does.

Most Warped Ethical Values: The Penn State students who protested the firing of football coach Joe Paterno, because, you know, he was such a great football coach that a little thing like allowing a predatory child molester to run amuck on campus shouldn’t be blown all out of proportion. Runner-up: Ron Paul supporters.

Unethical Website of the Year: Lovely-Faces, the anti-Facebook stunt pulled by Paolo Cirio, a media artist, and Alessandro Ludovico, media critic and editor-in- chief of Neural magazine, to show how inadequate Facebook’s privacy controls were. To do it, they stole 250,000 Facebook member profiles and organized them into a new dating site—without the members’ permission. The site embodied “the worst of ethical thinking: taking the identities of others for their own purposes (a Golden Rule breach), using other human beings to advance their own agenda (a Kantian no-no) and asserting that their ends justify abusing 250,000 Facebook users, which is irresponsible utilitarianism.” Continue reading

Introducing the Munroe Rule: “If You Teach, Don’t Denegrate Students Online; If you Denigrate People OnLine, Don’t Teach”

Viki Knox fans

I want to thank Viki Knox, the  Union Township (N.J.) high school teacher who decided to proclaim her condemnation of gays on Facebook, for making it possible for me to re-use much of an earlier post. This saves me a lot of thought and time.

That one involved Jerry Buell, a veteran high school teacher who was suspended indefinitely earlier this year by Lake County, Florida’s Mount Dora High School for posting an anti-same-sex marriage rant on his Facebook page.  In his post, prompted by New York’s decision to legalize gay marriage, Buell said that the news made him want to throw up, that gay marriage was “a cesspool,” and that homosexuality was a sin. Knox went Buell one better, going to the heart of the matter by declaring that homosexuality is a sin that “breeds like cancer” and describing it as “perverted.” She also wrote:

“Why parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us? I/we do not have to accept anything, anyone, any behavior or any choices! I do not have to tolerate anything others wish to do.” Continue reading

And You Thought Natalie Munroe Was An Unethical Teacher…Well, Meet Jeremy Hollinger

Jeremy Hollinger, showing his compassion for his students' struggles

Remember Natalie Munroe, the teacher who blogged about how much she detested her high school students, calling them names like “rat-boy” and “jerkoff”? What, you may ask, could be more destructive to the necessary trust between teacher and student, or parents and the teacher to whom they entrust their student’s education, short of actual abuse?

How about a teacher ridiculing his grade school special ed students?

Believe it or not, that’s what Jeremy Hollinger, a Mobile (Ala.)County Public School teacher who handles a second grade special education class at the Eichold-Mertz Elementary School did on his Facebook page. (In news reports, that’s what he “allegedly” did, or “is accused of” doing. In fact, all the evidence is public, it is clear and unambiguous, and the bottom line is, he did it.) Most spectacularly, Hollinger posted a mocking picture of himself wearing a seizure helmet and making a goofy face. Among his charming jibes at the young and challenged children in his class were such satirical comments on their behavior as “I guess crayons are on the menu” and “Why is there shit on the floor?” Continue reading