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