What Is The Ethical Response To The Racially Unbalanced Admissions To New York City’s Elite High Schools?

The question has been giving me a headache since I first read about the stunning results of the process that gives New York City students access to its elite public schools.  Of the nearly 4,800 students admitted into the specialized schools for 2019, 190 are black, down from  207 black students admitted last year out of just over 5,000 offers. Stuyvesant high school, which is representative, gave 7 offers to black students (out of 895 slots),   33 offers to Hispanic students, 194 offers to white students, and Asian-American students received a whopping  587 offers. Overall, Asian-American students constitute 60% of the student bodies of the eight elite schools.

Students take  a single exam that tests their mastery of math and English in order to gains entrance to the academically challenging school. Stuyvesant, which has the highest cutoff score for admission and is thus the most selective of the schools, now has the lowest percentage of black and Hispanic students of any of New York City’s roughly 600 public high schools.

What should the city do about this? Should it do anything?  Continue reading

This Is How Officials Like Mayor De Blasio Think: Unethically, But They Mean Well

Never mind that the always dubious logic behind educational quotas and affirmative action is finally being exposed and discredited: New York’s socialist-in-all-but-name Mayor de Blasio is determined to have the city’s elite public schools “look like New York City,” which is code for “quotas.”

“The status quo is broken. We have to make a major change. We have to make sure that the very best high schools are open to every New Yorker, every kind of New Yorker. They need to look like New York City,” he has said. So he has announced a proposal that would change how students are admitted to eight of the city’s specialized high schools, the crown jewels of NYC’s school system, the equivalents of private schools in quality of teachers and challenging curriculum where students gain entry based on their performance on a single test, taken by all applicants. That seems fair…but since it doesn’t yield a perfect demographic match to the city as a whole, de Blasio’s social justice sensibilities are offended.

Black and Hispanic students make up 67 % of the public school population, but the specialized high schools, which include Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, have just 10 % of students from these groups occupying the 500  available slots, with no improvement in that percentage for years.

Ah! The test must be the problem! This has been the accepted, conventional wisdom and cant that has been repeated by Democrats and affirmative action activists for decades, despite little but blind faith to bolster it. The Mayor, of course, is a believer. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/5/2018: “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” Edition

Good Morning!

(I’m happy to report that my Clarence Darrow ethics program for a lawyer group yesterday in Annapolis was received wonderfully, in no small part due to actor Paul Morella’s moving and powerful recreations of Darrow’s courtroom oratory. As is often the case, attendees said that they didn’t realize a legal ethics presentation could be so interesting. If fact, there is no excuse for any kind of ethics NOT being interesting…)

1. I call this “cultural defacing.” At 10:30 last night, I watched the end of “The Princess Bride,” and was thrilled to arrive just as the final showdown between Ingo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and Count Rugen (Christopher Guest). Here is the scene, a classic one, which begins with the Count apparently fatally wounding Inigo with a dagger:

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Inigo advances on Rugen, but stumbles into the table with sudden pain. Rugen attacks, but Inigo parries and rises to his feet again]

Inigo Montoya: Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

[Rugen attacks again, Inigo parries more fiercely, gaining strength]

Inigo Montoya: Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!

Count Rugen: Stop saying that!

[Rugen attacks, twice. Inigo avoids and wounds Rugen in both shoulders. Inigo attacks, bellowing:]

Inigo Montoya: HELLO! MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA! YOU KILLED MY FATHER! PREPARE TO DIE!

[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo’s]

Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.

Count Rugen: Yes!

Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.

[He slashes his other cheek]

Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please…

Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.

Count Rugen: Anything you want…

[Rugen knocks Inigo’s sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen’s stomach]

Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!

[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Except “you son of a bitch” was cut!

We settled this when the TV showing of “Gone With The Wind” let Clark Gable’s iconic exit line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” remain uncensored, and later,when John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn uttered the words, “Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” before charging Ned Pepper and his gang. It is unfair and disrespectful to wreck the best work of writers and actors for the few remaining people on earth who take to their fainting couches when rude language meets their ears. You don’t edit Rhett, or Rooster, or Inigo, or even John McLane when he says, “Yippee ki yay, mother fucker!” Show the movie, or don’t show the movie, but don’t ruin the movie for the most easily offended in the audience. Continue reading

Halsey’s Lament And The Great Hotel Shampoo Ethics Challenge

When pop star Halsey took to Twitter to complain that the shampoo and conditioner typically made available to guests in hotel bathrooms are useful, if at all, only to women with “white people hair,” the immediate reaction in many quarters was that the race-victimization industry must be running out of outrages. “I’ve been traveling for years now and it’s been so frustrating that the hotel toiletry industry entirely alienates people of color,” she tweeted. (No, I never heard of her before either.) “I can’t use this perfumed watered down white people shampoo. Neither can 50% of ur customers. Annoying.” First she was accused of being white—she isn’t, believe it or not—

—then she was mocked for being ridiculous: surely the rich celebrity can afford to travel with her own hair products! But when one ponders a bit, Halsey has raised an interesting ethics dilemma.

After the commentary got rolling on social media, black women and women who were of mixed race genetic make-up spoke up to say that the singer was right: unless a woman had generic Caucasian hair, those little bottles make a mess of her coiffure.  “We’re not all millionaires, yet we all do stay at hotels and would appreciate if the shampoo didn’t turn our hair into Brillo pads,” wrote a Twitter user.

“Who knew me acknowledging that white hair care products are the national standard (while POC are confined to a tiny aisle) would piss so many people off. Not sorry,”Halsey persisted.  “If white ppl can enjoy the luxury/convenience, there should be an option for everyone to. It’s an ‘insignificant’ example of a bigger problem. That’s all!”

 Another fan wrote: “You need to remember this is one of the many small things that POC go through that makes them feel like we don’t matter enough to be catered to. It’s a microaggression.”

Is it really a microaggression? Or is it it just one of those realities of not being the majority that minorities have decided they should protest to bend society to their will? Is the fact that so many tools, appliances and other daily necessities are made for right-handed people a sign of hostility, or just a rational business decision? Hotel shampoo isn’t great (being bald, I find it makes good bubble bath, however), but it’s provided for those who want to use it. The “we’re not all millionaires” argument for the average person staying in a luxury hotel like the ones Halsey stays in is a stretch, but nonetheless, is it fair that hotels cater to the needs of the majority of women while ignoring the special needs of a minority? On the other hand, is it reasonable to expect hotels to spend the extra money to make multiple varieties of conditioners and shampoos available so no one feels discriminated against? Should I have to pay extra so Halsey isn’t offended?

Coincidentally, this week also brought the news that many hotels, as a cost saving initiative, were eliminating the small bottled entirely in favor of wall dispensers. I could easily see enough social justice warrior indignation being raised over racist shampoo that hotels decide, “Oh the hell with it. Let’s just stop stocking the stuff.” Would minority activists consider this a victory? Jack can’t enjoy his bubble bath any more because hotels had to choose between providing a tiny amenity to the vast majority of its guests and getting accused of “microaggression,” or spending a fortune to stock their bathrooms with sufficient varieties of hair products that nobody could complain of discrimination?

The controversy is really a smaller and more trivial version of the wheelchair-accessible transportation problem that I last wrote about here. I concluded then,

There are now 655 wheelchair accessible taxis in the New York city area.  I’d love to see statistics on how often they are used by the passengers they are designed to serve.  My guess: not that often. As much as anything else, this is an interest group power-play. It is discrimination, they insist,  if handicapped passengers have to wait longer than non-handicapped. New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission has proposed broad new requirements for wheelchair-accessible service for the entire for-hire industry including Uber and the other ride-hail companies. Naturally: they want to put ride-sharing companies out of business, and this could do it.

Government has a legitimate interest in making basic public accommodations reasonably and sufficiently accessible to citizens with handicaps, to the extent this is possible and financially feasible without reducing reasonable access for the non-handicapped majority, or putting companies out of business that can’t reasonably be expected to make expensive mandated adjustments. The government does not have an obligation to spend taxpayer dollars and to bully businesses so the handicapped can avoid all of  the inconveniences attendant to their misfortune. Nor is it the government’s function to ensure that handicapped citizens don’t have to plan their days.

Or that people with frizzy hair don’t have to carry their own shampoo and conditioner when they travel.

I can’t see without my glasses, and can’t wear contacts. If I go to a 3-D movie, I am very uncomfortable wearing the 3-D specs over my own glasses.  Isn’t that unfair? Isn’t that a microaggression against my handicap? Shouldn’t the theaters be forced to provide 3-D glasses that I can use as comfortably as anyone else? How is that argument any different from the protests of the Frizzy Hair Activists?

Halsey put her Twitter-finger on an ancient questions that divides nations, religions and ideologies. Is fairness possible, when everyone’s needs and expectations are different?

TO THE POLL!!!

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/18: Nanoo Nanoo, And The Oxford Comma”[Item #3]

Observations:

1. I love it when I am out of the office all day and return to find that my desperately rushed post in the morning spawned multiple donnybrooks.

2.  If this were baseball, Mrs. Q would be leading the Ethics Alarms League in batting average. Her Comment of the Day/Comments average leads the pack.

3. This quote…

“If someone were to ask me “what do you want most from our society today?” I’d answer, to have people mind their own business, not assume I’m needing a leg up, and honor those who honor family, faith, and free thought.”

…is as smart, powerful and profound a statement as any that have appeared on Ethics Alarms in nine years.

Here is Mrs. Q’s Comment of the Day on #3 in the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/22/18: Nanoo Nanoo, And The Oxford Comma: 

How do we as a society make things more fair for a variety of minorities, based on a history of unnecessary biases?

I don’t think it’s possible to make everything equal for everyone forever and always. It’s a nice idea but I’m called to remember the book “The Lathe of Heaven” where the therapist manipulates his patient into “making the world a better place” with disastrous results. For example in trying to solve overpopulation, millions die. In another, an attempt at solving racism turns everyone grey.

The song by Tears for Fears, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” highlights another dilemma in attempting to make things as we wish:

“All for freedom and for pleasure
Nothing ever lasts forever”

There is simply no way to obliterate prejudice. There will always be poor folks, enslaved folks, downtrodden folks, and people who get treated like crap for one reason or another. Obviously this doesn’t mean we stop caring or making effort to be kinder people, which includes examining institutional racism, homophobia, etc. However any “peace” we make won’t last in the next generation or the one after that because some other disparity will always present itself. This is the way of life and the evidence of history from the Egyptians to the Jews to women today being trafficked. So how do we balance the scales for minorities here in the US? Continue reading

Speech And Thought Control At CUNY

The minds of your children aren't safe at CUNY, but your penguins might enjoy it there...

The minds of your children aren’t safe at CUNY, but your penguins might enjoy it there…

A responsible parent has an ethical duty to pull their child out of any university that does  something like this.

From The College Fix:

“Effective Spring 2015, the (graduate center’s) policy is to eliminate the use of gendered salutations and references in correspondence to students, prospective students, and third parties,” Louise Lennihan, interim provost, states to employees in a recent memo. “Accordingly, Mr. and Ms. should be omitted from salutations.” Lennihan instructs staffers to interpret the new policy “as broadly as possible,” that it applies to “all types of correspondence, such as: all parts of any letter including address and salutation, mailing labels, bills or invoices, and any other forms or reports,” states the memo, a copy of which was provided to The College Fix by school spokeswoman Tanya Domi. Rather than using “Mr.” or “Ms.,” staff are instructed to refer to students by his or her full name. The policy will “ensure a respectful, welcoming, and gender-inclusive learning environment … [and] accommodate properly the diverse population of current and prospective students,” Lennihan states in the memo.

Now, I almost never use these salutations any more. “Mr.” has always seemed pompous to me, and now it reminds me of the New York Times with its tradition of calling the President “Mr. Obama.” (Over the weekend, the Times garnered guffaws for calling Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker “Mr. Scott” throughout an op-ed. Nice editing there). “Miss” seems condescending, “Mrs.” is a minefield, and “Ms.” sounds ugly while being both dated and unwelcome from some women. (Once I called a women “Ms.” and she barked at me, “Do I look like a dyke to you???”) And I hate being called Mister myself. All of the is irrelevant, It is not any university’s business to enact speech codes, banned words, or other undemocratic and ideologically driven attempts at censorship and speech control. Speech control is thought control, and thought control is indoctrination. Continue reading

The Unethical Opposition To Tennessee’s Fetal Drug Abuse Protection Law

200439961-001Tennessee is one of the most activist states that it comes to protecting children; for example, it has the among most stringent laws in the nation regarding the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse. It also has a new law that just went into effect this month that allows officials to arrest mothers for assault who illegally use narcotics while they are pregnant if the child is born with symptoms indicating that the drug use impaired the child’s condition.

Predictable and tiresomely, the media and “war on women” scolds are attacking this is yet another incursion on the rights of women to have dominion over their own bodies. Think Progress, dishonestly, calls it a “pregnancy criminalization law.”  This is intentional misrepresentation, a TP specialty. The law doesn’t criminalize pregnancy in any way, by even the most distorted interpretation.  The knee-jerk opposition to the law highlights the problems of consistency and integrity that the women’s rights and pro-abortion forces have in all the areas relating to childbirth. Essentially, their position is that if conduct is related to child birth—or preventing it—in any way, anything they say, want or do must be accepted, and asserting otherwise, no matter what the justification, makes the government an oppressor of women. Continue reading