Today’s Impressive Achievement In Unethical Corporate Virtue-Signaling And Grandstanding Goes To…LEGO!

This guy allegedly cracked the plastic head of the LeBron James figure (inset)

Can en entire company be a giant asshole?

LEGO shows us that one can, and is.

The Toybook trade magazine sent an email on behalf of the Danish toy construction block company stating that,

“In light of recent events, LEGO has requested the below products to be removed from sites and any marketing ASAP.”

Toybook added later,”We requested that our affiliate partners refrain from posting promotional LEGO content as part of our decision to respect #BlackOutTuesday and pause posting content on our social media channels in response to the tragic events in the US. We regret any misunderstanding and will ensure that we are clearer about our intentions in the future.” Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Neglectful Mom

An upstate New York mother allowed her 10-year-old child to shop alone at the LEGO store as she shopped at a different store in the same mall. It appears that the LEGO store’s personnel called the mall’s security, and the child’s mother was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child. The store does have a sign that states that children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Arresting the mother is obviously absurd over-kill. Obviously also, the LEGO store has a right to have whatever policy it chooses regarding unaccompanied children. However the question remains, and is the Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day

Is it irresponsible for a mother to allow her 10-year-old to shop alone if the mother is shopping in the same mall?

Related questions as you ponder: Continue reading

Message To An Unethical Teacher: Children Are Not Your Guinea Pigs



Fire this teacher now.

Karen Keller, a kindergarten teacher at Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary on Bainbridge Island, Washington, think it is her role to use 5 year olds for her own social science experiment. She’s wrong. But then, she’s wrong about so much, and so arrogant about it. If she is allowed to continue her abusive manipulation of her young charges without being stopped, reprimanded, or given a pink slip, the negligent parents of her victims must carry the blame. Every now and then a teacher will go power mad and run amuck—I had one of those. There is no excuse for not acting quickly before someone gets hurt.

Keller has decided that it is her mission in life to combat what some studies show to be lower spatial and math skills development among girls as a group, as compared to boys. Thus she has decided to forbid boys from playing with LEGOS during the “unstructured play period” of 40 minutes that the kindergarten day includes. Keller told a local paper that it drove her crazy  that the girls wanted to play with dolls while boys flocked to the plastic building system, so she decided to take action to erase those gender-based proclivities. “Until girls get it into their system that building is cool, building is ‘what I want to do’ — I want to protect that.”

Want to fire her yet?

How about this statement…

“I always tell the boys, ‘You’re going to have a turn’ — and I’m like, ‘Yeah, when hell freezes over’ in my head,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’ll have a turn’ because I don’t want them to feel bad.”

Now do you want to fire her? Continue reading

UPDATE: A Cynical Ethics Tale That Wasn’t So Cynical After All

In the recent Ethics Alarms post The Asperger’s Child, the Company With A Heart, and the Cheapskate Parents: A Cynical Ethics Tale, I expressed both ethical and credibility doubts about the heart-warming story of a little boy who was sent the out-of stock LEGO set he had saved to buy for two years, only to discover that it was no longer manufactured and could only be purchased at premium rates via collectors or online auction. The child’s joyful reaction when he opened the box containing the set sent to him as a gift by the toymaker was captured in a family video that subsequently went viral on YouTube.

I won’t rehash my analysis here; read the post. I questioned why the family wouldn’t just contribute the necessary funds to ensure that the child’s long effort to obtain the toy didn’t come to naught, and I expressed skepticism that LEGO’s generosity wasn’t part of a pre-arranged quid pro quo in exchange for the video, especially since the father is professional videographer, and the YouTube product functioned as a promotion for LEGO.

By purest coincidence, a personal friend here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Jeff Westlake, is also a close personal friend of the Groccia family. He was privy to the events of the story as they unfolded, and relayed information to me about both the family and the events surrounding the YouTube video that were not evident in the media reports. Thanks to Jeff’s insight, I am now satisfied that the family’s decision to explore every avenue of obtaining the LEGO set was reasonable rather than penurious, and that there was no quid pro quo with LEGO.

I apologize for mistakenly impugning the Groccia’s motives and account in the episode. I don’t apologize for raising the ethical issues that I saw implicit in the media accounts. That’s my job, and provoking discussion and debate over the ethical or unethical conduct of public figures is why this blog exists. If a family is going to participate in making an occurrence in their lives the subject of news stories, features and blog posts, they cannot insist that all commentary be unequivocally positive. I thought the doubts I expressed were legitimate and fair; it happens that they were not borne out by the facts.

Mr. Groccia was offended, understandably, and not so understandably, decided to respond here with, first, an anonymous comment noting that my “foil hat must be too tight as it appears to be impeding your cognitive abilities.” I didn’t know who the author was, and informed him via the email; address accompanying the comment that I would post his remarks if 1) I had a real name, as the Comment Policies require,  and 2) if the screen name he used was not a commercial website, since this would lead to the comment being spammed. He responded that he “knew” I wouldn’t have the “spine” to print his comment, which is manifestly not the case. I told him that I would be happy to publish a more thorough account by him, and would retract my suspicions if I was persuaded by it. Instead. Mr. Groccia chose to send a series of alternately insulting and threatening e-mails, none of which were substantive, and all of which served to reinforce my doubts. There the matter would have laid, except for the intervention of Jeff Westlake. I’m grateful to him for setting the record straight.


Comment of the Day: “The Asperger’s Child, the Company With A Heart, and the Cheapskate Parents: A Cynical Ethics Tale”

Death StarFrom new commenter Ron Bishop, a Comment of the Day on the post, The Asperger’s Child, the Company With A Heart, and the Cheapskate Parents: A Cynical Ethics Tale, It is self-explanatory. I would like to know, however, and have asked, what these parents would have done if, after all their son’s toil and planning, the Death Star had cost a hundred dollars or so more than he could raise. Would they have had him ask LEGO for help, or helped him out themselves?

“I believe it’s a real story, because my family has lived a very similar story. My 11 year old with Aspergers Disorder, also a Lego fan and in a social skills group, wanted the $400 Death Star set. Sensing a “learning moment”, I told him, if he saved up the money, he could purchase it. Continue reading

The Asperger’s Child, the Company With A Heart, and the Cheapskate Parents: A Cynical Ethics Tale

This is a sweet and gooey ethics tale with, I fear, a fishy center.

James, luckily captured in spontaneous celebration over the completely unexpected gift from the LEGO company

James, luckily captured in spontaneous celebration over the completely unexpected gift from the LEGO company

James Groccia of West Boylston, Massachusetts was nine years old when he told his parents that his dream gift was an Emerald Night Train LEGO Set. His parents, seeking to build his character before he could build his dream train. told the boy that he had to save up for the expensive set, which cost $100. James has Asperger’s Syndrome, which means that he obsesses about things that interest him to an extreme degree, and he made the Lego set the object of his tunnel vision. After two years of meticulous saving, he finally had enough money saved to purchase his prize—-and discovered that it had been discontinued. Now the  Emerald Night Train could only be obtained from collectors or in expensive online auctions, costing far more money than James had saved. The boy was devastated.

At the suggestion of James’ Asperger’s counsellor, his mother helped him write a letter to LEGO, explaining his devotion to the toy and asking if the company could track one down for him. It responded, with regret,  that indeed the Emerald Night Train LEGO Set was out of stock and was no longer made. Then, a few days before James’s birthday this October, a box addressed to James arrived at the family home. Yes, Virginia, it was a brand-new model of the Emerald Night Train! The accompanying letter from Lego said, Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: School Principal Evelyn Matroianni

Reading news stories about cruel, power-abusing, or judgement-deficient teachers and school administrators is like eating potato chips, I’ve discovered. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. Luckily for my waistline and cholesterol levels, eventually potato chip bags become empty. Unfortunately, the supply of terrible tales of student abuse appears to be bottomless.

In Staten Island,  9-year-old Patrick Timoney, a fourth-grader at PS 52, South Beach, was observed by his school principal playing with LEGOs during his lunch period.  One of the LEGO action figures was carrying what appeared to be a toy automatic weapon. The principal,  Evelyn Matroianni took Patrick, crying and frightened, into her office, and called the boy’s mother. She told her that she considered the toy a violation of the no-tolerance rule prohibiting guns and gun replicas, and that she was going to confirm this with a security administrator from the city Department of Education. Continue reading