Saturday Ethics Catch-Up, 6/22/2019: “The Rifleman” Whiffs. A Paralegal Spills, The Commies Like Democrats, But Students Hate Pioneers

I am so, so far behind, both here on Ethics Alarms, and elsewhere, like prepping for some upcoming seminars, writing new programs, and trying to get the business and home budgets to work. Last week involved the car dying, getting a new one, enduring a six hour, 17 inning loss by the Red Sox, some lingering new computer glitches, and a major video shoot for which I had to write and refine the script, acquire the props and costumes, and rehearse the actors, then assist the team of seven who handled the shoot itself, all while being sick, and progressively exhausted. (This project would not have all happened without the brilliant and tireless work of my business partner and love of my life, Grace.)

Ethics Alarms was lower on the priority list this week than I would have liked it to have been. I’m sorry.

1. “The Rifleman” Ethics: As I have mentioned here before, “The Rifleman,” the 30 minute TV Western drama, starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain that ran from 1959-1962, was all about ethics, with almost every episode teaching an ethics lesson to the Rifleman’s son Mark, played by the charming juvenile actor Johnny Crawford.  I just watched an episode from the show’s final season that I hadn’t seen before. Guest-starring Mark Goddard (best known as the hot-headed young co-pilot in the original “Lost in Space” on ABC), the story involved a charismatic young huckster whom Mark admires but his father distrusts. This causes rare friction between father and son. Eventually, Lucas is proven right: the young man is a liar and a crook who was taking advantage of Mark’s guilelessness.

Mark shamefully but manfully tells his father, “I apologize for being wrong.”

NO! One shouldn’t apologize for being wrong. One  has an obligation to apologize for doing wrong, which includes making a bad decision because of laziness, carelessness, poor reasoning, inadequate analysis, or through some other failing. There is no shame or blame in being wrong in the kind of situation laid out in the episode, however.

Until the final moments, the audience couldn’t tell whether this would be one of the episodes where Chuck screws up, with the lesson to Mark being, “Jumping to conclusions and judging strangers harshly before you know anything about them is unfair, Mark. You were right. I’m proud of you.”

In fact, after Mark apologized, I expected his father to come back with exactly what I just wrote. This was moral luck: Mark had nothing to apologize for.

Boy, I’m never going to catch up if  I let issues jump in line like that… Continue reading

College Indoctrination: Like Water To A Fish

Over at Campus Reform, the conservative site dedicated to spotlighting left-wing bias on college campuses, reporter Grace Gottschling has been issuing some provocative, if not exactly surprising, reports on the partisan tilt of some schools’ administration and staff. There have been three so far. Most recently, she determined that 98.4 % of University of Missouri administrators and 97.6% of faculty donated to Democratic Party candidates or causes. Previously, her research covered the University of Oregon, where 100% of administrators, and 99.95%  of faculty have donated to Democrats—she found that a grand total $35.17, .0005% of the political contributions of 201 faculty members, went to Republicans—and the University of Texas, where the numbers were 96.1% of administrators, and 93.5% of faculty supporting Democrats.

Gottschling doesn’t say it–her reports just lay out the facts—so I will. It is impossible, literally impossible, for students to receive a balanced, objective and responsible education in institutions with such unbalanced and ideologically uniform campus cultures as these. Culture’s power over human beings has been accurately described as resembling water’s relationship to a fish: it influences everything in the lives of the people in it, often with their never being aware that they are dependent on it and controlled by its limitations. You can choose your own analogies, but active indoctrination into political beliefs and partisan values is hardly necessary when uniform attitudes are all around students, displayed in subtle and not-so subtle ways, every day, all day, in class and out. Continue reading

The Professor’s Blackface Salute: An Ethics Mess

oregon-blackface-mashup

Halloween costumes, political correctness, law, privacy, and the Niggardly Principles—this one has it all.

Last Halloween, University of Oregon law professor Nancy Shurtz dressed as Dr. Damon Tweedy, the author of Black Men In A White Coat , as an homage to the African American physician and author. She did this at a Halloween party in her own home. Nobody at the party appeared to misunderstand the gesture or the intent of the costume, in part because she could explain it on the spot, and because they knew that Shurtz was no racist. Shurtz had also told the students who were invited that she would be “going as a popular book title,” hence the blackface, Afro wig, white coat, and  stethoscope.The university report on the episode states that Shurtz “was inspired by this book and by the author, that she greatly admires [the author] and wanted to honor him, and that she dressed as the book because she finds it reprehensible that there is a shortage of racial diversity, and particularly of black men, in higher education.”

But as always happens now because there is no such thing as a reasonable expectation of privacy even in one’s own home, reports of Shurtz in costume and make-up got out into the campus at large, and inflamed the predictable outrage. The university launched an investigation that culminated in a critical report prepared by an attorney and the university’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity.  Shurtz issued an apology—for her private conduct within her own home that was pounced upon by Political Correctness Furies, since she appears to be one herself-–on November 1. Some of her colleagues on the faculty and many students demanded that she resign, and she may have to yet. Shurtz has been censored and suspended, and is now on paid leave. It being claimed that her wearing the costume–within her own home as a gesture that all agreed was intended as benign and that nobody at the party either objected to or failed to understand— created “a hostile environment” at the school. This is apparently because

“as part of the uproar, students said things of which the administration disapproved: The report specifically notes that students used “other offensive racially-based terminology during class times in the context of discussing this event and broader racial issues.” It related that “some of the witnesses reported that the students’ reactions to the event were racially insensitive or divisive.” And it apparently viewed such statements as relevant to whether Shurtz’s own speech was properly punished.”

The report, meanwhile, concludes that the costume constituted “harassment,” and that her intentions are irrelevant.

Writes First Amendment expert Prof. Eugene Volokh: Continue reading