Comment Of The Day: “Update: This Is The Student’s Controversial Essay Emulating The Satire Of Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal'”


The indefatigable Charles Green delivered a tough critique of Connor Poole’s essay fulfilling the requirement of an assignment asking  high school students to emulate the satire in Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” and similarly propose an outrageous solution to a contemporary social problem. There are really two issues here, and Charles only deals with one: I believe Connor’s paper was an excellent attempt at Swiftian satire, especially for a high school student, and this is Charles counterpoint to that position. He does not, as far as I can perceive, try to justify the school, North County High School, turning the essay into a controversy and Connor into a pariah.

Good. That, which is the primary ethics issue, is beyond rational dispute. What the school and community are doing to Connor is the equivalent of ordering a kid to juggle flaming torches, and then attacking him when something gets scorched.

Here is Charles’ Comment of the Day on the post, Update: This Is The Student’s Controversial Essay Emulating The Satire Of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.

I’ll be back at the end.

Here is what I think Poole’s teacher should have written to him in response to his essay:

Connor, I’m giving you a grade of C+ on this paper. Here’s why.

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Update: This Is The Student’s Controversial Essay Emulating The Satire Of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”

Now THIS, arguably, is taking satire too far...

Now THIS, arguably, is taking satire too far…

Here, thanks to some links provided to Ethics Alarms by students at North County High School, is the essay that was written in response to a teacher’s directive to write a satirical solution to a current societal problem in the style and spirit of  Jonathan Swift’s famous essay advocating the conversion of excess Irish children to foodstuffs.

Student’s name: Connor Poole

Verdict: Pure satire, bold and for a writer so young, brilliantly executed.

Grade: A+

Here is the paper that  prompted administrators to try to turn Connor into a pariah, so precisely delivering what was assigned that it has exposed mass incompetence and cowardice at North County High School:

Modest proposal

Wow. Continue reading

Why Public Schools Are Too Incompetent To Be Trusted To Teach: The Swift Assignment

Now, if those children were black, this would really be offensive...

Now, if those children were black, this would really be offensive. Luckily, they are Irish…

My head hasn’t exploded over this one yet, but I am in extreme pain.

A teacher at North County High School in Maryland assigned her students to write essays that would embody a contemporary  satirical solution to a societal problem, emulating satirist Jonathan Swift’s famous 18th century essay, “A Modest Proposal,” in which the author  proposed, tongue firmly in cheek, that poor Irish folk sell their children as food, thus solving both a population glut and a food shortage.

One student fully embraced the spirit of Swift by suggesting that America should consider deporting African-Americans to the Sahara Desert to address U.S. racism.

A perfect execution of the assignment, wouldn’t you say? The “proposal” is outrageous and offensive; it would indeed address the problem, and, as with some in Swift’s time, literal-minded reflex hysterics won’t understand that the suggestion is satire! Give that student an A!

Or, in the alternative, make him a pariah who wishes he was dead, and may be at risk to be so soon. For other students were offended and complained, and instead of using the incident as a lesson in political satire, the school system turned on the student who had done exactly what was assigned, and sided with the Political Correctness Mob, with Bob Mosier, speaking for Anne Arundel County Schools saying,

“The student chose a subject matter that was clearly insensitive and struck a nerve with students here and staff members here. And so, they have been meetings today where the staff has tried to allow students to express their opinions and say why they’re hurt, why they’re angered.

Oh, he chose a subject matter that was insensitive, unlike, say, selling and eating children, it that the school’s official position? Continue reading

Is Spouting Nonsense On Talk Radio Unethical?

I know Swift; Swift was a friend of mine. Jan Mickelson is no Jonathan Swift.

I know Swift; Swift was a friend of mine. Jan Mickelson is no Jonathan Swift.

I can’t resist using Media Matters as a source on an ethics blog: the irony is too delicious.

Linked to the e-mailed question, “How outrageous can a radio talk show host be, ethically?” comes a link to this nonsensical gibberish spit out by local Iowa right-winger Jan Mickelson, who suggested on his radio show that illegal immigrants who refuse to leave should be warned, and then used as slaves. Now, Media Matters looks for this junk because its unethical goal is to make the false case that all progressives are angels sent from a Godless heaven with the Only Right and Good Way, that an unethical or mistaken progressive is a contradiction in terms, and that all opponents of these paragons of virtue are cretins, crooks and demons.  Thus an act like Mickelson’s  is highlighted—I had never heard of him, for which I am quite grateful—to show what a typical Republican and conservative thinks. You know: a crazy person.

To be fair to MM, which, of course, believes that Hillary Clinton’s handling of her e-mails was perfect, and that every word she has uttered about it is gospel truth, this guy is pretty outrageous:

 MICKELSON: Now here is what would work. And I was asked by an immigration open border’s activist a couple of weeks ago, how I would get all the illegals here in the state of Iowa to leave. “Are you going to call the police every time you find an illegal, are you going to round them up and put them in detention centers?”

I said, “No you don’t have to do any of that stuff.”

“Well you going to invite them to leave the country and leave Iowa?”

And I said, “Well, sort of.”

“Well how you going to do it, Mickelson? You think you’re so smart. How would you get thousands of illegals to leave Iowa?”

Well, I said, “Well if I wanted to do that I would just put up some signs.”

“Well what would the signs say?”

I said, “Well I’d would put them on the end of the highway, on western part of the interstate system, and I’d put them on the eastern side of the state, right there on the interstate system, and in the north on the Minnesota border, and on the south Kansas and Missouri border and I would just say this: ‘As of this date’ — whenever we decide to do this — ‘as of this date, 30–‘ this is a totally arbitrary number, ’30 to 60 days from now anyone who is in the state of Iowa that who is not here legally and who cannot demonstrate their legal status to the satisfaction of the local and state authorities here in the State of Iowa, become property of the State of Iowa.’ So if you are here without our permission, and we have given you two months to leave, and you’re still here, and we find that you’re still here after we we’ve given you the deadline to leave, then you become property of the State of Iowa. And we have a job for you. And we start using compelled labor, the people who are here illegally would therefore be owned by the state and become an asset of the state rather than a liability and we start inventing jobs for them to do.

“Well how would you apply that logic to what Donald Trump is trying to do? Trying to get Mexico to pay for the border and for the wall?”

“Same way. We say, ‘Hey, we are not going to make Mexico pay for the wall, we’re going to invite the illegal Mexicans and illegal aliens to build it. If you have come across the border illegally, again give them another 60-day guideline, you need to go home and leave this jurisdiction, and if you don’t you become property of the United States, and guess what? You will be building a wall. We will compel your labor. You would belong to these United States. You show up without an invitation, you get to be an asset. You get to be a construction worker. Cool!’

Later, when a caller challenges him, saying that this sounds like slavery, this exchange transpires… Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Two Lame Excuses

Donald Kaul. In his dreams,

Donald Kaul. In his dreams.


A newspaper columnist and an ESPN commentator both reaped the wild wind last month after statements in a column and on a televised panel that many, including me, took as irresponsible, unprofessional and worse. I wrote here about the column, a diatribe in Iowa’s Des Moines register by veteran Donald Kaul against guns, gun owners, the NRA and any politician who supported them. The panelist was ESPN’s Rob Parker, whom I didn’t write about simply because his racist rant against Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin was so obviously wrong that there was nothing much to say about it. If you missed it, African American Parker questioned Griffin’s bona fides as a black man because, among other offenses, he appeared to be a Republican and has a white girlfriend. I would have had a lot to write about ethical double standards if ESPN hadn’t finally fired Parker after suspending him, but he was let go yesterday.

Both Kaul and Parker now claim they were misunderstood, and thus treated unfairly. Kaul, who has been backed by his paper in an editorial, claimed in a recent column that his universally derided piece was obviously satire, and implying that anyone who didn’t catch the twinkle in his eye is illiterate:

“Gun owners seemed particularly upset at the suggestion that Boehner and McConnell be dragged [ by “a Chevy pickup truck… around a parking lot until they saw the light on gun control” ].The tactic, which dates back to the days of lynch mobs, became a more modern nightmare in the wake of the 1998 dragging murder of James Byrd by white supremacists in Texas. Many of the people I heard from said I should be arrested for threatening federal officials, and one said he had personally reported me to the FBI. Let me say this about that: That wasn’t a suggestion to be taken literally. I don’t believe Boehner and McConnell should be dragged. I was using it as a metaphor for making politicians pay a price for their inability to confront the gun lobby. It’s a literary device.

“Think of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” written 200 years ago, in which he suggested that the Irish famine could be relieved if babies of poor families were confiscated at 12 months and sold to rich people, who could eat them. Swift, an Irishman, didn’t mean that literally. It was a satiric device to underline the misery that had been visited on the Irish by their English landlords. So too with my dragging of the Republican leaders.”

Yes, this hateful hack just compared himself to Jonathan Swift.

Parker, meanwhile, takes a different route: he tries that old stand-by, “it was taken out of context.”  He told an interviewer he was shocked at the uproar his comments caused, saying,

“I mean, looking back at some of the comments, I can see how some people can take it out of context and run with it, but the response, and what happened over the past 30 days and everything was just shocking.”

Really. Well, here is the video of Parker’s attack on RG III. Tell me in what context such remarks would be considered appropriate, and not racist and mind-blowingly stupid:

Your Ethics Quiz Question:

Which of the two defenses, Kaul’s “It was satire!” or Parker’s “It was taken out of context!” is more unethical, unethical in this case meaning, “a pathetic lie and an insult to the intelligence of everyone who hears or reads it”? Continue reading

“The Truth About Human Nature”: Gulliver, Horse People, Absolutism and Lies

Gulliver among the Houyhnhnms

As I recuperate from air travel hell and try to gather my wits, here is a provocative essay examining how Jonathan Swift explored the complex function of lying in human nature. The essay is by Prof. Lee Perlman, in the New Atlantis, and you can read it here.


Source: The New Atlantis


When Satire Is No Excuse: The Jeff Cox Affair

Now if Cox came to work like this, I take it all back...

Indiana deputy attorney general Jeff Cox tweeted “use live ammunition” in response to a tweet by progressive magazine Mother Jones that riot police had been ordered to remove union supporters from the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison. Mother Jones published the tweet as evidence of what it believes is the predominant conservative mindset, and the progressive blogosphere was soon using his tweet as a rallying cry.

Cox was fired Wednesday. Quite correctly, too. Continue reading

Comedy Central’s Unethical Self-Censorship

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

—–Evelyn Beatrice Hall (describing Voltaire’s attitude toward freedom of speech.)

“We will defend to the death your right to say anything to get a laugh, unless you are threatened by religious zealots and terrorists, in which case we will fold like Bart Stupak in an origami competition.”

—–Ethics Alarms (describing Comedy Central’s attitude toward freedom of speech.)

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