Let’s Get The Week Off To A Positive Start With Encouraging Ethics Stories! Like…Oh. Never Mind…(Part I)

I try. I really do. In 2016, it was about this time when I started getting complaints that too many of the posts were about political topics…what I needed to do was write more about people in lobster hats.

I search the most obscure sources to try to find non-political ethics topics. I’m so sick of the politicizing of everything I could spit—in fact, I think I will. There. Just let me wipe off the screen… The final straw may have been having to look at “Black Lives Matter” in the center field bleachers in Fenway Park. I’m about to grab my machete and run amuck.

However, the attempt by the Democratic Party, “the resistance,” and the mainstream news media to try to first, rig the 2016 election, then to undo the 2016 election, then to deny the legitimacy of the President elected, then to try to engineer a soft coup, and now to use disinformation, and social unrest to corrupt the 2020 election, in total a general assault on democracy and our culture of democracy itself, is the most important ethics  story of the past half-century by far.  It is among the three most consequential ethics stories of the last hundred years, along with the civil rights movement and the Red Scare/McCarthyism.  This is an ethics blog. I have to write about it.

But I promise to keep searching for as many non-political stories as I can find. I do miss the assistance of now retired crack ethics story scout Fred, who somehow sniffed out issues and controversies from the damnedest places, but many of you are helping out. Keep looking.

1. What’s going on here? Why isn’t it obvious to everybody?  In Illinois, leaders in education, politics and other areas gathered in Evanston yesterday to demand that the Illinois State Board of Education….wait for it!… eliminate history classes in public schools statewide.  State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford held a news conferences to argue that current history books create a racist society and overlook the contributions of women and minorities, so school districts should immediately remove history books that “unfairly communicate” history. “It costs us as a society in the long run forever when we don’t understand our brothers and sisters that we live, work and play with,” Ford said, explaining that he is sponsoring a bill that would require elementary schools to prioritize teaching students about the civil rights movement.

Of course, this is an open demand for propaganda rather than education,  advancing the core belief of Black Lives Matter that Fac’s Don’t Matter. What is significant is that Ford and others are so transparent about it. Those who have actually read about history—it’s not as if schools competently teach it now—know that fanatic movements keep pushing for increasingly extreme demands as long as as those in power and the public hesitate to say “No. That’s irresponsible and ridiculous.” Continue reading

SCOTUS Approves State Tuition Aid For Students To Attend Religious Schools

People gather outside the Supreme Court building as the court hears oral arguments in the Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue case in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger.

This opinion just came down, and I haven’t had an opportunity to read it, and probably won’t until tomorrow.  In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the justices held that the application of the Montana Constitution’s “no-aid” provision to a state program providing tuition assistance to parents who send their children to private schools discriminated against religious schools and the families whose children attend or hope to attend them, in violation of the free exercise clause.  This was a straight conservatives vs. liberals majority, and Chief Justice Roberts, much maligned of late, wrote the majority opinion. The Washington Post  reports,

Chief Justice John G. Roberts …said the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to strike down the program because of a provision in the state constitution that forbids public funds from going to religious institutions. The U.S. Constitution’s protection of religious freedom prevails, he said.

“A state need not subsidize private education,” Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.

Again, I haven’t read the legal arguments, but the ethical justification for the opinion is clear. If public schools could be trusted not to indoctrinate students with political view and social positions that their parents might oppose, the urgency of the state providing affordable alternatives would be far less. However, alert and involved parents realize, or should, that by sending students to public schools, they are too often subjecting them to partisan and ideological brain-washing, and we are seeing the results in the streets as I write this. There need to be alternatives other than home-schooling. The ethics principles here are fairness, respect, and autonomy. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 4/4/2020: Letting The Perfect Be The Enemy Of The Good, And Other Blunders

Why is today unlike any other day?

1. What’s wrong with this picture? This, courtesy of ABC News, was the scene on a New York City subway yesterday:

My question is this: how can everyone be cheering Governor Cuomo’s leadership during the pandemic crisis when this is still going on? I heard Cuomo say, in one of his briefings, “You can’t stop public transportation. You just can’t.” Yet if you are going to allow the above scene all day, every day in your state’s largest city, why bother with the rest of the measures? Just wall off the Big Apple and let everyone get sick.

2. And speaking of New York…and while we’re justly bashing China for all the lies and disinformation,  this blogger finds the charts , models and projections showing how the health care system will be overwhelmed by April 15 puzzling, and asks, Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: The North West Hendricks School Corporation

How can organizations, especially schools,  think this kind of thing is acceptable, much less ethical? Who are the lawyers advising these people? Where do they think they’re living?

In Indiana, the North West Hendricks School Corporation’s “ Parent Code of Conduct ” says that parents should not use social media to make “rude or offensive comments” regarding school staff members or the school itself. Parents also cannot use social media to “campaign against or fuel outrage against individual staff members, the school or policies implemented by the school or district.” Violating the policy means that a parent can be removed from the school premises and banned from entering school grounds forevermore.

This is one of those unenforceable provisions that exist to intimidate and deceive those ignorant parents who were so badly educated (perhaps in the North West Hendricks School Corporation ) that they can’t spot an unconstitutional rule when they see one. No public school can tell parents what they can or can’t say on social media. This is a pure First Amendment violation, so blatant that it even roused the local ACLU from its accustomed slumber.

The ACLU of Indiana was asked about its assessment of the restriction on parents’ speech, and  legal director Ken Falk replied,

“I think this is flagrantly unconstitutional. The overarching problem is you have the government saying if we don’t like what you’re saying, we can punish you — but the government is not allowed to do that. That’s why we have the First Amendment.”

The rule has been in the Parent Code since 2016, but nobody reads these things. It is coming to the fore now because the district is currently keeping a teacher on its payroll despite allegations of sexual misconduct toward a student. Some parents have been discussing the situation on Facebook, and wonder about the school’s response. The district made a point of  handing out copies of the Parent Code of Conduct at a December school board meeting, and it was taken by many as a warning. Continue reading

Last Sunday Of The Decade Ethics Alarms, 12/29/2019: Herman Kahn Rolling Over In His Grave Edition

Good morning!

In my one, fortuitous one-on-one conversation with futurist Herman Kahn, then regarded as the most brilliant man in America, he observed that society periodically for forgets everything it has learned over the years, and then chaos reigns temporarily until bad ideas and horrific mistakes re-teach the lessons that once were accepted as obvious. He was talking about the Sixties, but it is clear that this is another one of those periods. Kahn also noted that some of the forgotten lessons are re-learned too late to save society from permanent harm. The Sixties gave us socially acceptable promiscuous sex and the resulting normalization of children born out of wedlock, the re-assignment of of abortion as ethical (somehow) rather than criminal, and societal sanctions of recreational drug use.

Nice work, Boomers…

1. Speaking of abortion...can there be a more empty, fatuous justification of it than what Senator Cory Booker tried last week? ”Abortion rights shouldn’t matter to men because women are our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends,” Booker tweeted. “They should matter to men — to everyone — because women are people.”

How profound. Nobody has ever disputed that women are people, and Booker’s non-logic—the statement compels the response, “And SO…????”—is an appeal to emotion without substance. It also makes its own rebuttal screamingly obvious to anyone but a pro-abortion zealot: “Abortion should be repugnant to men and women…and Presidential candidates…because unborn babies are living human beings.” Continue reading

Unethical Tweet Of The Week: Melissa Barnett, The Washington Township, NJ. Public Schools’ Head Of English Language Arts

Nice.

Nah, there’s no public school political indoctrination!

Like most aspiring totalitarians who inadvertently reveal their true nature and agendas, Melissa took down her tweet, and is now hoping that no parents with my proclivities saw it and will demand both an explanation of what she means by “relevant,” what the standards were for eliminating these books, and the titles of the books that were sent to the book-bins of history.

_____________________________

Pointer: Rod Dreher, who writes, “Those poor children of Washington Township schools. The teachers responsible for their education are throwing old books into Dumpsters, and filling their minds with histories of privilege, oppression, and power. It’s all from Paul Gorski and his “Equity Literacy” idea, which is the Marxisization of teaching high school literature. Look at the Principles Of Equity Literacy”… Continue reading

They Seem Like Good Ideas…But Not Really. Clarence Darrow Knew Why.

I. The Daily Telegraph officially apologized “unreservedly” to Melania Trump and agreed to pay her “substantial damages” for an article it published last week. Mrs. Trump had sued the paper in British courts.

The paper said its Saturday Magazine cover story “The Mystery of Melania” this month contained false statements, as her lawsuit claimed. It wrote,

Following last Saturday’s (Jan 19) Telegraph magazine cover story “The mystery of Melania”, we have been asked to make clear that the article contained a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published. Mrs Trump’s father was not a fearsome presence and did not control the family.  Mrs Trump did not leave her Design and Architecture course at University relating to the completion of an exam, as alleged in the article, but rather because she wanted to pursue a successful career as a professional model. Mrs Trump was not struggling in her modelling career before she met Mr Trump, and she did not advance in her career due to the assistance of Mr Trump.

We accept that Mrs Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modelling work without his assistance. Mrs Trump met Mr Trump in 1998, not in 1996 as stated in the article. The article also wrongly claimed that Mrs Trump’s mother, father and sister relocated to New York in 2005 to live in buildings owned by Mr Trump.  They did not. The claim that Mrs Trump cried on election night is also false.

We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations.  As a mark of our regret we have agreed to pay Mrs Trump substantial damages as well as her leg

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/29/2017: A Rude Librarian, Another Incoherent Knee, I Need To Start Listening To My Own Lectures, And Did YOU Know That “Green Eggs And Ham” Was Racist?

Good Morning!

1 In the middle of yesterday’s continuing legal education seminar on technology and legal ethics, I was telling the attendees about the dangers of all things Google. As I was explaining why lawyers should never, never do legal business on a gmail account, I added that they also have an obligation to tell their clients that there is not a sufficient expectation of privacy when they use gmail to communicate with their attorney. Then I literally froze and stared into space.

“I just realized that one of my recent consulting clients, a lawyer, has been sending all of his communications and documents to me using gmail,” I said. I had noticed it, but it still didn’t trigger the response that I have been teaching to others for at least three years.

As a wise man once said, “D’oh!”

2. In the “I can keep it up as long as they can” category: There is now a viral photo of some idiot taking a kneel  during Taps at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/26/17

Good Morning!

(My Dad was from Kentucky. He couldn’t stand Tom T. Hall…or Mitch McConnell)

1. I have been working on a legal ethics seminar for lawyers who represent seniors (I was told that the politically correct term among the groups was “older clients.” Older than what?) It is one of those areas of the law in which the usual ethics rules don’t work very well, or sometimes not at all. This anomaly requires a lawyer practicing in the field to be ready to embrace the Ethics Incompleteness Principle: to violate the letter of the professional ethics rules in the best interests of the client. For example, what does a lawyer do whose aging client lives with a son or daughter, and the lawyers sees signs of elder abuse? When the lawyer asks the client, he makes various excuses for his caretakers, and finally says that while he has been abused, it’s not serious and will only get worse if the lawyer says or does anything in response to it. Now what? The fact of the abuse, under the usual construction of the rules, is a confidence controlled by the client.

The emerging consensus is that the lawyer can ethically use the exception to confidentiality that allows an attorney to reveal a client confidence to prevent death or serious bodily injury to a “third party,” the client becoming “the third party” for his own protection.

2. A federal lawsuit was filed last week alleging that a Tennessee judge and sheriff violated inmates’ constitutional rights by instituting a program offering reduced jail time for criminals who agree to undergo vasectomies or get contraceptive implants. The suit claims the White County program amounted to “eugenics with a twist.” I don’t think it’s much of a twist; I’d say it’s eugenics, straight up. I’d assume CBS will love it: after all, eliminating criminal types is even better than eradicating Down Syndrome babies. Isn’t it?

3. Lots of people sent me this horrible story, about the cheerleader camp at a Denver area high school where young girls were being forced to do splits (it hurts me even thinking about doing splits) , with the camp’s instructor shown in a leaked video pushing down on the shoulders of a 13-year-old as she screamed for him to stop.

Boy, there is a lot of child abuse out there.

The Denver Board of Education said in a statement: “As the elected representatives for Denver Public Schools — and as the moms, dads and family members of D.P.S. students ourselves — we are deeply disturbed by the videos of cheer practices at East High School that came to our attention yesterday.”

Gee, it’s good to know that you are all disturbed that children are being tortured at schools that you are supposed to be overseeing.. This must mean you are competently doing your jobs. No, actually it doesn’t

“As the investigation continues,’’ it states, “our focus must be entirely on our students, families and educators.”

The school superintendent also said: “We have sent notification to our athletic directors emphasizing that D.P.S. does not allow the use of ‘forced splits’ or any other activity that puts a student’s physical or mental health at risk, or in which a student is forced to perform an exercise beyond the point at which they express their desire to stop.”

An Ethics Alarms note to that school system: Any athletic directors who have to be reminded that abusing children in their care, and continuing to make them perform painful acts after they have said that they don’t want to, is not something they should be doing shouldn’t be employed in the first place. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/23/17”

Like Baltimore removing its politically incorrect statues, here I am in the dead of night trying to catch up with the Ethics Alarms Comments of the Day.

By the way, of all the statues taken down and under attack, the one I can most sympathize with is that of Chief Justice Roger Taney. There is only one reason anyone remembers Taney, and only one thing a statute to him can symbolize: the Dred Scott decision, which he authored. Since it is, by acclamation, the single most disastrous Supreme Court decision in the nation’s history, having a statue of Taney standing in front of the Maryland state house is difficult to defend.

Taney is something of a tragic figure. The rest of his judicial career was distinguished, but that is a bit like saying that the rest of that performance of “Our American Cousin” was terrific. He actually thought the Dred Scott decision would avert a civil war by settling the slavery question once and for all. He was not an evil man, just a horribly misguided one.

There is a street named after Taney in Alexandria. Every time I pass the sign, I think, “This is weird.” Who defends the Dred Scott case? Who has defended it in the last 150 years?

But I digress.

Tippy Scales is an undercover journalist, registering his period disgust at the ethical collapse of his profession here because it is not safe to do so elsewhere. He filed this Comment of the Day two days ago, on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 8/23/17

(I’ve linked to the topics and posts he  has referred to within his post.)

Let’s review the past few days… Continue reading