Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 11/4/2018 (Part I): Gary Hart’s Prophesy, Media Values, And High School Babylon [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

I’m headed to Boston this afternoon for one of my semi-monthly ethics seminars for new Mass. bar admittees. I have been having bad luck with keeping up on the blog while traveling of late, so I’m going to post a two-part Warm-Up to try to avoid falling too far behind.

1. Maureen Dowd made my head explode with her ridiculous profile of Gary Hart—you know, Donna Rice, “Monkey Business”—so I’m going to rely heavily on Ann Althouse’s analysis which parallels mine. Her head is just more resilient, apparently. [Tangent: I wonder how Ann’s traffic is doing? I have noticed that progressive commenters have virtually disappeared from her blog as well, where a couple of years ago they were equally represented. I don’t consider Althouse a conservative at all: she is relentlessly objective and non-partisan, and mostly serves as the web’s best bullshit detector. She has, however, defended the President against unfair attacks and hypocrisy, and called out the news media for fake news, fake headlines, and bias. That’s asking for a boycott, apparently.) Hart makes this statement:

“If all that stuff had not happened and if I had been elected, there would have been no gulf war. H.W. wouldn’t have been president. W. wouldn’t have been president. Everything would have changed. I don’t say that to aggrandize myself. It’s just, history changed. And that has haunted me for thirty years. I had only one talent and it wasn’t traditional politics — I could see farther ahead than anybody.”

I could write a long essay about this arrogant nonsense with my eyes closed. Ann had the same instant reaction I did: Funny, you weren’t able to foresee that daring reporters to check on your martial virtue would result in your being caught adultery-handed in Clintonesque trysts, you big dummy. (My words, not Ann’s.) And if hindsight is 20-20, hindsight aternate future readings are even better. Gary needs to study Chaos Theory  a bit more closely, and watch that old Star Trek episode. For all he knows, his election would have resulted in the world being taken over by Mole People.

Althouse also flagged the Dowd section where the Queen of Snark writes,

“As we fantasize about a parallel universe, where America is not a joke and our president cares about other human beings, the same questions keep swirling in our heads. What has happened to this country? Can he be stopped? When will it end? How the hell did we get here?”

Wow, Talk about bias making you stupid. To many of us who are at least as smart as Maureen, America is a joke when it embraces open borders and edicts by international organizations, when it warps the Constitution by declaring that men and police can be guilty until proven innocent if a member of a favored group accuses them, and allows a partisan news media to control public opinion. It’s not a very funny joke, though. Some trenchant comments on Ann’s post:

“I don’t know why I’m still surprised by liberals’ inability to do any real soul-searching. You’d think by now, after many hundreds of “how did we get here, why aren’t smart people like me listened to by the stupids?” articles, I’d give up hope that they will ever open their eyes and see what’s right in front of them. But then I remember, I’m a pollyanna. I can’t give up on anybody.”

***

“It would seem obvious to me that Trump does care about human beings, but not the ones Dowd think he should be caring about. And maybe her friends consider America a joke, and maybe that’s why we got were we are..”

***

“Dowd’s perspective is Technocratic. Society needs to be supervised by an educated elite. Democracy is just mob rule that will lead to ruin. But, we have to put on a facade so that the deplorables will accept our edicts. So we do the election thing, but the real rules are set behind the scenes by career bureaucrats. Politicians and the medias’ job is to set the agenda and influence popular opinion towards the “correct” attitudes”

Bingo. Bingo. Bingo. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Month: Above the Law’s Joe Patrice

[C]onsensual relationships with adults don’t seem like a big deal. Sure, the conflict of interest of sleeping with someone in your class is deserving of discipline, but, really, in a state where you can marry your sister, is it a fireable offense to hookup with a twenty-something attorney-to-be? Obviously, if there were more serious allegations that would be another matter, but so far we’ve only learned of this more benign brand of misconduct.

—-Above the Law writer Joe Patrice, commenting, incompetently, on the firing of Virginia University College of Law Professor Arthur Rizer, for having sexual relations with multiple students.

Professor Rizer, the Sam Malone of West Virginia University College of Law...

Professor Rizer, the Sam Malone of West Virginia University College of Law…

This commentary, from a regular writer for a website that covers law schools, is so ethically obtuse and legally ignorant that he should be fired. “Not a big deal”? Sexual harassment at law firms is a very big deal as well as a very big problem, and a law professor who flagrantly violates an anti-harassment policy like the prohibition against professors treating the student body as their own personal dating bar is teaching that seeking sex with subordinates is culturally acceptable in the legal profession. It isn’t. It never has been.

The professor’s conflict of interest is the least of his self-created problems. First, there is no valid consent in such cases. The professor has real and perceived control over students’ academic success and legal career viability. This is classic inequality of power that gives a professor implied leverage over a student’s “consent” to sexual relations. Moreover, the knowledge that a professor is having sex with students constitutes third-party sexual harassment. Do other students assume that they are expected to have sex with the professor if he requests it? Is the professor looking at female students as mere sex objects? Are students that provide sexual access more likely to get high grades? What happens to students who say “no”? This creates a hostile environment for study and education. Continue reading

Our Sick, Sick, Untrustworthy Schools

And you thought Hogwarts was dangerous...

And you thought Hogwarts was dangerous…

The easiest place to render oneself disconsolate regarding the pit of warped values we must send our public school children into every day is Fark.com, which cheerily documents the child predators in the teaching ranks and their exploits. Let’s see, I haven’t checked in a while…I wonder what the tally is for February? Hey, February’s a light month! I have to go all the way back to the 19th to find the first, LaShawn Simmons, a 41-year-old former Pasadena middle-school math teacher who had sex with four students. She’s charged with sexual assault of a child, two counts of improper relationship between an educator and a student, online solicitation of a minor and possession of child pornography.

Actually, February was a terrible month to go to school, just not one with a bumper crop of child-molesting teachers. For example, in Port St. Lucie, Florida, we had a female teacher who didn’t have sex with a male student, she only purchased drugs from him and went drinking with him. It would be hard to top the teacher who poured pencil shavings in the special ed student’s mouth (and who wasn’t fired), but I think the Linden, California gym teacher who was caught on video stealing money from her students’ backpacks gets the prize. She was caught when a suspicious student and aspiring Nancy Drew hid in a locker to see if she could solve a string of thefts, and recorded the teacher’s larceny on her phone. It gets worse: when she brought the video to the attention of the principal, he told her to destroy the evidence. Luckily, she had already sent the video to her father. Continue reading

Test: Which Teacher Do You Trust Least?

Your challenge: Rank from “Most Untrustworthy” to “Least Untrustworthy”  the following unethical teachers, all the subjects of news stories over the past 30 days:

The candidates:

A. Jack Conkling, a high school social studies teacher in Buhler, Kansas, who began a rant this on his Facebook page like this:

“All this talk in the news about gay marriage recently has finally driven me to write. Gay marriage is wrong because homosexuality is wrong. The Bible clearly states it is sin. Now I do not claim it to be a sin any worse than other sins. It ranks in God’s eyes the same as murder, lying, stealing, or cheating…”

Yes, he had students among his Facebook friends, who made sure everyone in the school was aware of Conkling’s views. Continue reading

Sexual Predator Teachers: 1) Not Funny 2) Epidemic 3) Now What?

Child rapist teachers! LOL!

Two nights ago, Tonight Show host Jay Leno included in his monologue a joke about Christine McCallum, the Brockton, Mass. teacher convicted of having sex with a 13-year-old boy over 300 times. Jay can make jokes about whatever he wants, but the fact that we are laughing about this kind of conduct by teachers rather than asking hard questions and insisting on some accountability for the schools shows how tolerant our society is of a supposedly essential institution and a once respectable profession that have both fallen into rot and ruin.

In 1996, when Mary Kay LeTourneau was revealed to have made an undereage student her lover and fathered a child by him, it was national news. For me, it was the first I had ever heard of a teacher abusing her power and profession to that extent. This month alone, March 2012, I have counted thirteen such cases making the local news across the country, including McCallum, and I’m sure I missed some. I’m also reasonably sure that for every one of these cases that get prosecuted, many more are covered up or never discovered at all. Continue reading

The Emma Sullivan Affair: Not Just An Aberration

Time to double-down.

Yes, it's student-hating teacher Natalie Munroe, back again to remind us that the welfare of our children is no longer guranteed to be the #1 priority for your child's teacher, principal or school board member.

Over the weekend, I managed to ignite a controversy with one sentence I included in my discussion of the ridiculous incident which began when high school student Emma Sullivan tweeted that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback “sucks” and ended with her being called on the carpet for it by her principal. Noting that the incident should have been cut short by the school district administrator telling Brownback’s lackey to stop bullying kids, I wrote,

“But the school district administrator had neither the integrity, courage or common sense to do that, which permitted the fiasco to be passed on to the next spineless incompetent, and which also, I submit, tells us all we need to know about why public education in the U.S. is a disgrace.”

“I disagree with your statement and think it is an unfair generalization!” wrote Michael Boyd. Tim LeVier wrote, “…how many public schools are there in the U.S.? How many students are educated (enrolled) by those public schools in the U.S.? How many “social networking” fiascos have there been? Do the positive situations get the same amount of attention as the negative?”

Obviously, I was insufficiently precise, as both Michael and Tim are solid analysts and deft critics here. I was not suggesting that this one incident proves anything about the U.S. public education system. No one incident in a Kansas high school can prove anything about the system as a whole. I was, however, asserting that the deficits of character, warped priorities and lack of common sense displayed by the administrators in this incident are emblematic of the problems of the educational system as a whole. There are too many incompetents in high places, and too often the priorities of the system lie with staying on the right side of the political structure rather than being concerned about the welfare and development of students. To be broader still, my statement indicated that this is the kind of incident that shows why I believe that we can no longer trust the educational establishment, which has “jumped the shark,” “nuked the fridge”, or any other metaphor you  designate to describe when a profession has lost its moorings to professionalism and ethics. Continue reading