What A Fine, Fine Role Model This High School Principal Is…If The Idea Is To Graduate Short-Cut And Rationalization Addicted Students Who Try To Tap-Dance Their Way Out Of Trouble!

 

Abby Smith, a graduating student at Parkersburg High School in West Virginia, noticed something vaguely familiar about  the speech given by the school’s principal, Ken DeMoss, at her graduation last week. Later, she went home and looked for a video of a speech actor Ashton  Kutcher (formerly the goof on “The 70s Show,” the goof who succeeded Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men,” and the guy who took over froim Bruce Willis when Demi Moore decided she wanted a husband with hair) gave at the 2013 Kid’s Choice Awards. Then she edited DeMoss’s speech and Kutcher’s together, and posted them on YouTube.

There’s no doubt about it, as you can see above. The principal ripped off the speech.

Some might say that what Smith did was mean and unnecessary. No, it was responsible, essential, and gutsy. Students are taught in school, or are supposed to be,  to do their own work, a lesson especially hard to convey when the internet makes plagiarism  easy to do and hard to detect. The distinction between being inspired by another person’s creative output, using it as a foundation for an original work, borrowing phrases and ideas (with attribution), and, in contrast, stealing intellectual property and presenting it as your own, is a crucial one for students to understand. When a role model, a school administer, flagrantly does what the school must teach students not to do, and worse, does this  in front of students, and even worse than that, does it in the course of a speech about the virtues of hard work, such cynicism, laziness, and cheating must not be allowed to pass unnoticed, and I hope, unpunished.

After he was caught, “Kenny” issued this epicly horrible statement, incorporating rationalizations, unethical apologies, multiple logical fallacies, a Jumbo and, of course, lies: Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 6/1/2019: Ethics Is Busting Out All Over! Mostly BAD Ethics…

Happy June!

1. Boycott/extortion update! Let’s see if Georgia has as much guts and principle as Alabama, and tells Disney to go fly a kite.

Hugh Culverhouse, Jr., the University of Alabama’s largest donor,  called for a boycott of Alabama , both the University and the state , because of Alabama’s defiant, anti-Roe  abortion ban, recently signed into law. The university’s law school was renamed Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law last September 2018 after the Florida businessman pledged  $26.5 million to the university. In response to Culverhouse’s boycott call, University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John recommended to the Board of Trustees that it return the $21.5 million  the law school it has actually received from Culverhouse, and restore the name to “The University of Alabama School of Law.”

Good. That’s exactly how states should respond to attempted extortion by individuals and corporations to control their lawmaking and bend the state to their wills rather than the decisions of voters. The whole story is at TaxProf Blog.

2. Nah! A reverend like, say, Martin Luther King would never engage in the kinds of sordid acts his biographer claims! They are men of God!

Bobby J. Blackburn, the pastor of Elevate Church in Prestonsburg, Kentucky,  was arrested this week and  charged with the prohibited use of an electronic communication system to procure a minor to commit a sex act. Blackburn is also the owner of Giovanni’s, a pizza restaurant in Prestonsburg. A girl who worked there showed a police sergeant images of an iMessage conversation she had with Blackburn in which he asked the minor to engage in a “threesome” with him and another girl, also a minor. He also made other sexually explicit requests.

Rev. Bobby tried to weasel out of his mess by bringing a third young woman to the police station and having her claim that she sent the incriminating messages from his phone. It didn’t work: under questioning, she admitted that she was lying and that Blackburn ordered  her to make the false claim under threat of losing her job.

I hear he’s one heck of a pastor, though! Continue reading

Fire Lisa Mars

I usually hesitate to call for anyone to be fired, though there have been exceptions. In this case, however, the call is mandatory on ethical grounds. It is unethical for a school dedicated to the arts to hand oversight to an gross incompetent who doesn’t comprehend the arts she is supposedly responsible for teaching; it is unethical for someone to take on this responsibility who is wildly unqualified for the job; and it is unethical for that individual to act in a way that undermines the mission of the school she heads.

I have just fairly described Lisa Mars, currently the principal at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School, the high school “of music, arts the performing arts” made famous in the movie and TV show, “Fame.”

On opening night of a school production of “The Sound of Music,” she ordered all Nazi-themed props and set pieces struck. They are offensive, you see. Never mind that the show is set during Germany’s take-over of Austria as the Third Reich was expanding. Never mind that Nazi Germany and its officers are major elements in the plot, or that the plot is based on the real-life escape of the singing Von Trapp family from the Nazis. Never mind that theater is a representational art form. Stage deaths are not real killings, stage rape isn’t really rape, stage racism isn’t really racism, and stage representations of Nazi symbols do not promote fascism. Most grade-school actors can grasp this basic principle, but not the head of a school for the performing arts.

“This is a very liberal school, we’re all against Nazis,” one sophomore said. “But to take out the symbol is to try to erase history.” Yes, that too. “Obviously the symbols are offensive,” he added. “But in context, they are supposed to be.”

Make him principal. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/7/18: Dumb, Dumber, Dumbest

Good morning.

…And a good morning to remember a very bad morning in Hawaii 77 years ago today.

1. Oscar’s latest fiasco. The Academy Awards, which like all awards shows has descended into nasty political advocacy, undermining its mission and alienating its audience, decided to pick famously non-partisan black comedian Kevin Hart, who is also a successful movie actor, to host. His gig lasted just a few day. People looking to discredit him went digging into  his social media posts, and some tweets from eight years ago–you know, before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had flipped on gay marriage?—were judged as “homophobic.” In a post on Instagram at about 11 p.m. last night, Hart said he got a call from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and was asked to apologize for his prior tweets, or step down as host. He chose to withdraw, and tweeted this:

“I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year’s Oscar’s….this is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past. ‘m sorry that I hurt people.. I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again.”

The conservative media is calling Hart another example of political correctness run amuck. That’s ignorant and wrong. To be successful, an MC has to be liked and trusted by his audience, which is, for the Oscars, the people inside the theater above all. A huge percentage, even a half or more, of the Oscar audience is gay. No one can host the Oscars while it is known that he once said, even eight years ago, that he was terrified that his son might grow up to be gay. It doesn’t matter that he may have “evolved.”  Hollywood is a substantially gay community, and the host of its biggest party of the year should neither be nor be suspected of being homophobic,

Why the Academy’s vetters and Hart himself couldn’t figure this out is a different issue: gross incompetence. Continue reading

In Kansas, A High School Ethics Train Wreck: An Unqualified Principal, Unethical Students, And A False And Dangerous Lesson About Consequentialism

Why are these students smiling sweetly? Because they sent the message to their teachers to be wary; after all, there’s a lot of dirt on the internet…

Ugh.

Seemingly every one is cheering the Pittsburg High School (Kansas) students on the school paper who investigated their newly hired principal, found her credentials to be dubious, and forced her to resigned from her $93,000-a-year job. You can read the story here and here.

For the purposes of Ethics Alarms, I’m not interested in the principal at all. What matters here is that journalists, teachers, TV talking heads and everyone else commenting on the story are proving themselves ignorant of basic ethical principles, like the fact that conduct that happens to result in something desirable doesn’t make the conduct appropriate if it wasn’t ethical at the outset, aka “consequentialism leads to bad lessons and bad ethics,” and “the ends justifies the means.”

From the article:

“Pittsburg journalism adviser Emily Smith said she is “very proud” of her students. “They were not out to get anyone to resign or to get anyone fired. They worked very hard to uncover the truth.”

Emily Smith is too incompetent and ethically confused to advise aspiring student journalists or any other students. The students “wanted be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials,” according to the student editor of the paper. That’s not their job, their duty, or their business. They aren’t journalists; they are students learning about journalism. Determining if the new principal was qualified was entirely the responsibility of the the Pittsburg Board of Education, which botched its job and approved hiring the principal at its meeting March 6. That the students did the due diligence the Board failed to do is being used as cover by the Board: Everything worked out because of these great students, who we have educated so well!

Wrong. Unbelievably wrong. Dangerously wrong.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

If You Were Wondering How Our College Students Got This Way, Here’s A Clue…Meet The Cretinous Joe Crachiolo

The Horror.

The Horror.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, a first-grader at Our Lady of Lourdes school,  just six-years old, was  pretending to be a Power Ranger during recess, and “shot” another student with an imaginary bow and arrow. Principal Joe Crachiolo suspended the 6-year-old student for three days.

Denying the parents’ pleas to reconsider, Crachiolo sent a letter home to parents stating in part:

“I have no tolerance for any real, pretend, or imitated violence. The punishment is an out of school suspension.” Continue reading

The Duty To Confront, Part Two: A Teacher Takes A Stand

confrontation

Here is the tale of a teacher who understands the duty to confront-–and not to consent to being a victim from Washington Post local columnist Jay Mathews latest:

Linda Johnson, a retired California teacher, told me what happened…

“About 10 years ago, my student teacher and I were walking my first-graders to the computer lab,” she said. “One little boy started to yell and jump around, so I asked him to go back to the room with the student teacher. In a few minutes, the boy’s father came along to check his son out for a dental appointment. When he saw the boy crying, he went ballistic and came running after me. He cornered me at the entrance to the computer room and screamed at me in a menacing way in front of my students. He waved his arm at me in a threatening way.”

He warned her never to do it again. It looked like the man was going to hit her. “I was very frightened for my students and was careful not to provoke him further,” Johnson said.

Fifteen minutes later, after school was dismissed, she went to the principal’s office and found the father reporting her to the vice principal. [Johnson] screamed at the man: “If you ever threaten me in front of my class again, I’ll go to the police.”

…The next day, as Johnson expected, she was called into the principal’s office. The vice principal also was there. They told her that they were putting a letter in her file for screaming at the man. “Excuse me,” she said. “I am the victim, and I will write the letter. I am also going to file a report with the police.” When the principal, not expecting this, tried to retract what he said, she walked out of the office and went straight to police headquarters. She signed a complaint against the father, accusing him of “disturbing school.”

She sent a letter of complaint about the way she was treated to the superintendent, the teachers union president, the principal, the vice principal and every member of the school board. She asked for letters of apology within 30 days. By the time the police case came up, she thought she might have been too hard on the father and told the court that she didn’t think he realized he was committing a misdemeanor.

 “Don’t worry about that,” the court commissioner said. “He knows his felonies from his misdemeanors.” The father was indeed a felon. …The school district banned the father from the school and transferred his children to another campus…

Teachers who have had such experiences will understand how good Johnson felt when the two administrators gave her their letters of apology.

As in Part One, this reminds me of another personal experience, this one from the weekend, and not yet finished. Continue reading