“Be afraid…be very afraid.”—Geena Davis in “The Fly”
Kenneth Fisher, the acclaimed billionaire money manager whose investment firm manages more than $112 billion of investors’ money, spoke at an October 8 conference. In his remarks, he said getting new clients was akin to “trying to get into a girl’s pants.” The analogy between marketing and seduction is old, common, and not without validity. It can (and should) be expressed in less vulgar ways, to be sure, but no one in the audience could have mistaken Fisher’s meaning.
Yet the New York Times described the remark as a “lewd and sexist joke”—Lewd? Joke?—and like-minded cancellation culture posse members set out to destroy Fisher and his business in retribution for using an analogy of dubious taste. [ I should note that some attendees at the conference–including some who are Fisher’s competitors—reported that there were other “off-color” comments that could not be confirmed by the Times.]
Thanks to a news and social media campaign since he made that “joke,” the past two weeks have seen public pensions and institutional investors pull nearly $2 billion from Fisher Investments, which has 3,500 employees. They also deserve to lose their jobs, presumably, because their boss is insufficiently sensitive in a #MeToo world. Other public pensions have placed Fisher’s firm on a watch list for potential action.
A history teacher at the Great Hearts Monte Vista Charter School (in San Antonio, Texas) distributed an assignment consisting of a worksheet titled “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View” to eighth graders. The idea was for student to list the positive and negative aspects of slavery. After parent Roberto Livar posted to social media the worksheet his son Manu brought home to complete, the teacher was placed on leave and the school said it would audit the textbook associated with the lesson. Aaron Kindel, the superintendent of Great Hearts Texas, which operates 28 public charter schools in that state and Arizona, said in a statement posted on the Great Hearts Facebook page, “To be clear, there is no debate about slavery. It is immoral and a crime against humanity.” He said the school’s headmaster plans will explain the mistake to the history class.
I can’t wait to hear what that explanation is. How does any American living in the 21st Century not flinch at a title like “The Life of Slaves: A Balanced View”? It sounds like a joke, in fact: there is a whole genre of galley slave cartoons that rely on the idea that there is anything positive about being a slave is inherently ridiculous. (“It’s not a paid position but I’m gaining invaluable experience in the rowing sector!”). Yes, this teacher is incompetent, and leave is too good for him (or her). If you can’t trust a teacher not to hand out something that stupid, what else might be handed out? Hand grenades? “What Happened”?
Sadly, Mr. Livar couldn’t maintain the high ground, and had to say this:
“We are fully aware that there is a concerted effort by the far-right nationally to reframe slavery as being ‘not that bad’ and trying to revise the Civil War as being about ‘states rights’ and not about slavery. We were concerned that this assignment fell in line with that ideology and were naturally concerned, as well as other parents. These issues are not isolated to one school or one book. These issues are systemic and continue up the chain all the way to the Texas School Board of Education.”
He also said this likely happened because the school is short on diversity.
No, it happened because someone mistakenly hired an idiot as a teacher. Continue reading
A better application of the Ethics Incompleteness Principle would be difficult to find than the decision by Memphis, Tennessee to remove a huge monument to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and an even larger heroic equestrian statue (above) of Nathan Bedford Forrest, swashbuckling Confederate general and (allegedly) the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, from two public parks.
As we have discussed here in great detail, I am unalterably opposed to the current mania among our Left-leaning friends and neighbors of tearing down statues, monuments and memorials honoring past historical figures because their lives, beliefs and character do not comport with current day standards or political norms. This primitive exercise in historical censorship has been especially focused on famous and notable figures from the Confederacy, although recent efforts have targeted George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and even Theodore Roosevelt. Of the attacks on memorials to Confederate figures, I wrote,
[ Union veterans] didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule. After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.
Yet now, self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing views, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.
Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record.
I feel strongly about this, as the tone of that post, far from my first on the subject, shows.
But… Continue reading
It is seductively easy to be certain about one’s analysis of controversial issues if you simplify them to the point of distortion. This is what politicians do, and it is often impossible to tell whether they are trying to deceive, just don’t understand the issue at hand, or are deliberately ignoring inconvenient facts to advance an agenda. Sometimes it is all three. The Civil War, as the recent debate over Confederate statues again illustrates, is a classic example of this phenomenon, and has been since the war itself began. Southerners saw their cause as just, because they were fighting for the right to determine the shape of their own culture, a right they felt was embodied in the Constitution itself. Since that culture included slavery, to assert that the South had a measure of law and ethics on its side has routinely dismissed as, and simplifies as, sympathizing with slaveholders. (As an aside, I wonder if the censorious Left will redouble its efforts to get “Gone With The Wind” exiled from television permanently. I’m betting yes.)
Arguments about what the Civil War was fought over have been taking on the tenor of the old Miller Beer commercials: “Less filling!” “More taste,” or perhaps the Certs ads: “Certs is a breath mint!” “Certs is a candy mint!” “STOP you’re both right!” To his great credit, texagg04 accepted the challenge of trying to clarify the complexities of the “root causes of the Civil War” confusion in a concise comment (the topic has filled long scholarly books). He did an excellent job, and as he wrote as he began his explanation, the complexities matter. They usually do.
Here is texaggo4’s Comment of the Day on the post,Yes, Virginia, There Is A White Supremicist Teacher Principle:
…The South seceded to defend against what it believed would be the Republican plan to eradicate slavery via the National level of government.
Slavery is why the South seceded – Slavery could be said to be a type of Final Cause of secession.
But that said, slavery was merely the topic of the question, “Who has final authority to make significant economic decisions within the individual states: The States or the National level of government?” State powers — those not delegated to the Union — was the issue to be answered as it pertained to slavery. So “States Rights” could be said to be a type of Formal Cause of secession.
There was NO war at that point, because secession, prior to the Civil War, was widely regarded as a perfectly legal course for States *voluntarily* part of a Union to do.
Stopping secession, that is preserving the Union status quo, is *why* hostilities began. Continue reading
As an introduction, I have to say that this episode, which has quickly turned into an ethics train wreck of sweeping and perhaps catastrophic proportions, frightens me as few issues do. It has become a danger to free speech, to cultural diversity, to liberty, education, historical fairness, cultural cohesion and common sense. It appears to be the metastasis of all the demonizing rhetoric, self-righteous pandering and virtue-signaling, and totalitarian-minded efforts to remold the past in order to control the future. The level of contempt, hate and intimidation being focused on those who—like me—are attempting to keep the issues in perspective by analyzing complex and emotional ethical components in context is causing the fervor involved to approach that of unthinking mobs. The damage done by the worst mobs of the past, however, were mostly confined to a restricted region, or, like The Terror in France or the Red Scare here, were immediately repudiated one the fever broke. I’m not sure that this fever will break, at least not before it breaks us. It is the perfect storm of self-righteous fanaticism, as the anti-Trump hysteria collides with Obama era race-baiting and victim-mongering, both of which have run head on into the mania for air-brushing history to remove any mention of events, movements, attitudes or human beings that “trigger” the perpetually outraged of today.
Social media has magnified the intensity of this already deadly storm, by allowing once intelligent people to throttle their brains and judgment into mush by confining their consideration of the issues to partisan echo chambers. Daily, I am embarrassed and horrified by what I read on Facebook by people who I know—I KNOW—are capable of competent critical thought but who have completely abandoned it to be on the “right” side, where facile, half-truths and lazy conclusions are greeted by a myriad “thumbs up” and “hearts.”
And I am angry–contrary to popular opinion, I’m not usually emotionally involved in the issues I write about; like Jessica Rabbit, who isn’t really bad (she’s just drawn that way), I’m not usually as intense as I seem. I just write that way—that I am so tangential and impotent that what see so clearly has little persuasive power at all, because I’ve frittered away my opportunities to be influential in a thousand ways.
I have never allowed futility to stop me, though, because I have spent a lifetime banging my head against walls.
Here are the ethics observations I’ve been accumulating since the first torches were lit in Charlotte:
- Please watch this video, from Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”:
I was moved when I first saw this, which was in the documentary’s final chapter, and I am moved still. The old Union soldiers moaned when they saw the men who had tried to kill them, and who had killed their friends and comrades, re-enacting their desperate open field march into deadly artillery. Then they dropped their arms and met their former foes, and embraced them.
These men didn’t think of the former Confederates as traitors, or racists, or slavery advocates. They, like the Union veterans, were just men of their times, caught up in a great political and human rights conflict that came too fast and too furiously for any of them to manage. They were caught in the same, violent maelstrom, and knew it even 50 years earlier. Soldiers on both side wrote how they admired the courage of the enemy combatants they were killing, because they knew they were, in all the ways that mattered, just like them. It was the Golden Rule. After the war, these soldiers who had faced death at the hands of these same generals, officers and troops, did not begrudge them the honor of their statues and memorials, nor their families pride in the bravery of their loved ones.
Yet now, self-righteous social justice censors who never took up arms for any cause and in many cases never would, employ their pitifully inadequate knowledge of history to proclaim all the Civil War’s combatants on the losing side as racists and traitors, and decree that they should be hidden from future generations in shame. We have honored men and women for the good that they represent, not the mistakes, sins and misconduct that are usually the product of the times and values in which they lived. In doing so, we leave clues, memories, controversies, differing vews, and stories for new generations to consider and better understand their own culture and society, and how it came to be what it is.
Those who want to tear down monuments to the imperfect, whether they know it or not, are impeding knowledge, perspective, wisdom, and understanding. They want only one view of history, because they will only tolerate one that advances their ideology and values—just as the Americans of the past believed in their values. Foolishly, I suppose, they trusted future generations to act on their own ethical enlightenment without corrupting the historical record. Continue reading
President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education is facing the closest Senate vote on any cabinet member ever, in part because two Republican Senators (what the Democrats say doesn’t matter, since they have decided not to cooperate in the governing process) question whether Betsy DeVos “understands the public schools.” In her defense, I don’t see how anyone could understand public schools, especially when they behave like this one…
In Folsom, California, the family of an African American 8th grader filed a complaint against Sutter Middle School history teacher Woody Hart. Tyrie McIntyre’s son had asked Hart for a definition of equality during a discussion of the U.S. Constitution. The teacher allegedly told his eighth-grade class, “When you hang one black person, you have to hang them all. That is equality.” At least that is what Tyler McIntyre, 13, thought Hart said. Tyler, one of only a handful of black students in the class and school, felt embarrassed.
Hart, 70, didn’t deny his student’s account, but explained in an interview that he made the comparison because he was trying to make the discussion “interesting” and “express something that would catch students’ attention.”
“Here’s what I said: ‘If you hang black people in the South, that means that you hang any black person who comes from outside the state. ”
Hart also said that he has spent much of the year teaching his students about racial equality. If that’s the clarity, logic and accuracy with which he taught it, a remedial course, indeed several, may be required.
After the complaint, Principal Keri Phillips interviewed six students chosen at random, all of whom heard Hart give “hanging all blacks” as an example of how states treated individuals under the Constitution. She said that Hart has been told to henceforward use examples “at a level that eighth graders can understand,” avoid stereotypes or culturally insensitive language, and must rely on “very simple analogies that do not focus on the controversy” during lessons involving challenging material.
McIntyre said that this doesn’t address his concerns. “My issue wasn’t the context,” he said. “It was the content. There was no way to justify the statement that he made.”
That’s exactly right, because the statement that “If you hang black people in the South, that means that you hang any black person who comes from outside the state” isn’t insensitive or “too complex” for an 8th grader. It’s stone-cold stupid, bad logic, bad history, and bad teaching. An example that is “at a level that an 8th grader can’t understand”? I’m worried about anyone who thinks he does understand Hart’s example. That the teacher thinks it makes sense tells me that it is an unacceptable risk to allow Hart to teach any subject to anyone.
Nonetheless, Woody Hart was allowed to keep teaching, because public schools. Ah, but last month, he really crossed the line, or whatever it is that causes schools to ding teachers. Teaching the students about the Civil Way, Hart showed them…