A Hanlon’s Razor Conundrum: The Case Of The Missing Cheerleader

cheerleader left out

This one made me want to cry.

Fourteen-year-old Morgyn Arnold grew up in Layton, Utah cheering for her six older siblings at sporting events, and worked hard to become an official cheerleader, like her father and sister before her.

Morgyn has Down syndrome, so being on the Shoreline Junior High School cheerleading squad as the team manager means more to her than being part of a cheer team does to most cheerleaders, giving her pride and a sense of achievement while providing the opportunity to make new friends. She also learned all of the dance moves so she could cheer in front of the home team crowd.

It is understandable, then, that she was, according to her family, heartbroken when the school’s yearbook came out a few weeks ago and Morgyn was not in the team picture or listed as part of the squad. What isn’t understandable is how this could happen. The school apologized and claimed it was a “mistake.” Morgyn’s sister Jordan Poole believes the cruel snub was intentional.

So do I.

Two pictures were taken, one including Morgyn, on the left, and the other excluding her. Why would there be two pictures, unless someone thought that they might choose to use the photo with only the conventionally pretty girls in it? Team mate Maddie Campbell, 15, said she did not remember whether the photographer or the team’s adviser asked Morgyn to sit out of some of the team’s photos, and does not recall hearing any explanation for the action. She says she thought it was a weird request at the time.

Well, now she knows why they did it. Sure enough, the photo without Morgyn was used in yearbooks and school social media accounts.

Hence the Hanlon’s Razor controversy. Hanlon’s Razor states that one should never assume malice when stupidity can explain conduct. But who is that stupid? And who could be that malicious?

Davis School District community relations supervisor Shauna Lund told The New York Times that the incident was “under investigation” and the school planned to work with the family to “make sure this doesn’t happen again.” Oh, I think it’s fair to say that they won’t leave out Morgyn’s photo again. THAT would really be stupid.

Then Lund mouthed the mandatory wokisms. “We also want to apologize to those who were impacted outside of that family who feel that something was done to not be inclusive. We want the student to feel like she is included in the community. We want to apologize for that mistake,” said Lund. The family doesn’t “feel” something was done: their daughter was excluded from the yearbook, which is not “inclusive” by definition.

Morgyn’s father, Jeff Arnold, is almost as bad as Lund. He said that instead of placing the blame on the school, he wanted to use the situation to raise awareness of the importance of “thoughtful inclusion and compassion.” “If we can find ways so that doesn’t happen to anyone else, that’s just what we want,” Mr Arnold said. “That’s all that matters, because we can’t go back and put it in the yearbook.”

No, but you can sue the school for negligent infliction of emotional distress. You know how to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else? Make it hurt. Don’t let these administrators get off with cheap pieties. Make it hurt enough that the little monsters who conspired to shun the Down Symdrome girl are made to regret their cruelty, and that the sleepy faculty advisor who let this happen under his or her watch is soon searching the online want ads

Poll says her sister has already forgiven everyone involved. Of course she has. Down Syndrome kids are usually instinctively kind and generous. One of their differences is that they seem to be imbued with a natural sweetness, and intrinsic ethical instincts. So, naturally, her school mates decided to rip her heart out.

Shoreline Junior High is fortunate that I am not Morgyn’s father, and if my wife Grace were her mother, the staff would have to hide out in Monument Valley. Trust me.

Post Script: Our professional journalists at work: In four sources, I found Morgyn’s name spelled Morgyn, Morgan, and Morgin, with multiple spellings appearing in the one article.

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 5/25/2021: The George Floyd Ethics Train Wreck Is One Year Old Today

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It really is amazing: I have already read three references today to George Floyd’s death as a cultural watershed in the U.S. society’s recognition of racial injustice, yet there remains not a single piece of evidence or a logical argument that Floyd’s death had any relationship to his race whatsoever. This was a manufactured narrative that the news media deliberately advanced in flagrant defiance of the facts. I have challenged more indignant progressives than I can count to justify treating Floyd’s death as anything but negligence and brutality by a local cop who should never have been allowed to keep his badge. All they can come up with is that the officer was white, and Floyd was black—in other words, presumed racism based on skin color, which is itself racism, or that the episode had a positive impact, justifying treating it as something it was not. That, of course, is an “ends justifies the means” rationalization.

The ugly episode is a lesson, not in “racial reconciliation,” but in how events can be manipulated for political gain—in this case, involving violent protests and virtual societal extortion— if there is no trustworthy news source to keep the public informed.

Today is also the anniversary of another ethics low in U.S. history. It was on this date in 1861 that President Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus so he could keep a Maryland state legislator locked up on the charge of hindering Union troops.

SCOTUS Chief Justice Taney issued a ruling stating that President Lincoln did not have the authority to suspend habeas corpus, but Lincoln, channeling his inner Andrew Jackson, just defied the Court. Five years later, another Supreme Court case held that only Congress could suspend habeas corpus.

1. The Confederate Statuary Ethics Train Wreck misses its biggest target. Good. The giant images of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson carved into Stone Mountain as Confederate nostalgia’s answer to Mount Rushmore have survived the latest effort to tear them down. The Confederate flags at the base of Georgia’s Stone Mountain, placed there by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, will be removed, and new exhibits will offer a more thorough history of the park, including the role the Ku Klux Klan and resistance to desegregation played in its creation. Also good. The thing is a pro-Confederacy monument to be sure, a defiant one, but it also is a piece of history that should be seen, debated and thought about.

Many dedicated historical censors are upset that the mountain art will not be blown up any time soon. arguing that racist anger, not a desire to honor the South’s heroes, inspired the monument’s creation. OK, and so what? It is a vivid historical relic. Fall River’s Joe Aronoski, 82, told the New York Times after touring Stone Mountain, “It’s American history. It shouldn’t be destroyed. What are you going to do? Make-believe the Civil War didn’t happen?”

Well yes, that’s the general idea behind statue-toppling: make believe any events that make some people “uncomfortable” didn’t happen.

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“Systemic,” A Four Part Ethics Alarms Depression, Part II: Now THIS Is Systemic Racism!

Love is Love

Once again, I don’t understand how this episode could happen. But let me back up.

Today, while walking my dog on a glorious fall day in Alexandria Virginia, and observing the odd juxtaposition of virtue-signaling lawn signs, Biden-Harris signs and Halloween decorations (Spuds was quite unsettled by 8 foot standing models of a ghoul and his love wearing Trump and Melania masks), I passed one neighbor with a lawn sign grand slam: a Biden sign, the thing above, a straight Black Lives Matter sign, and a sign that read, “End Racism Now!”

I already noted the questions I would like to ask anyone with the BLM sign here. The virtue-signaling extravaganza above is almost too easy, since it’s one flaccid, intellectually lazy generalization without substance after another, and to my mind, is signature significance for a dolt. (“Love is Love, for example,is Rationalization  23 A. Woody’s Excuse: “The heart wants what the heart wants”)

But what precisely is the entreaty “End Racism Now” demanding? It appears to contradict Black Lives Matters, which involves demonizing whites and white society, as well as requiring an end to race-based preferences. What is racism? If it’s an attitude, the sign seems to be advocating brain-washing, indoctrination and re-education camps. If the sign refers to conduct, then I need a definition. Many “systemic racism” complaints consist of African Americans preferring to have “someone who looks like me” on a court, on a board, in a  movie cast. Isn’t a preference for those who are like us one of the definitions of racism being advanced? (It’s not racism, or if it is, it’s racism for anyone, not just whites.)

This story, however, is an example of racial discrimination oozing from racism, and not only should we be able to end such incidents now, I’m stunned that this kind of conduct hasn’t been wiped off the face of the U.S. map.

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DOUBLE KABOOM!! Ignorant, Abusive And Incompetent: How Much More Evidence Do We Need That Our Educators And Schools Are Untrustworthy?

double KABOOM

I’m sorry to endanger the integrity of your head—mine may never be reassembled, by the looks of things—but here are two recent high school horror stories, one in Texas and one in Arizona, and they do not even involve sexual predators or kids being suspended for pretending to shoot someone with a finger gun.

I. The Two Dollar Bill

Two dollar bill

I’m going to just summarize this stunningly stupid story, and you can read the details here. 13-year-old eighth grader Danesiah Neal, a student  at Fort Bend Independent School District’s Christa McAuliffe Middle School, attempted to pay for her lunch one day with a two-dollar bill given to her by her grandmother. The lunch lady had never seen a $2 bill, so she alerted the school administrators, who called the police. THEY had apparently never seen a $2 bill, and told the girl that she was being investigated for counterfeiting, a felony, as the school allowed this idiocy to unfold. They called the grandmother, and told her she was under investigation too.

A campus officer traced the bill to where granny got it, a 7-11, and then cleverly traced the bill to…THE BANK, which informed these officious, incompetent morons that the two is a genuine piece of currency, and has been in circulation since 1862. Continue reading

Apology Of The Year Nominee: Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep

JESSICA_URBINAIn May, I wrote about the wretched treatment of student Jessica Urbina by her high school, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep in San Francisco. Jessica was humiliated by the school when it refused to include her graduation photo in the class yearbook on the grounds that she had worn a tuxedo rather than a dress. I wrote…

“The rule is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong. The best way to change a rule that is sexist, archaic, unthinking, prejudicial, arbitrary, cruel and wrong is to break it, and see if those in charge have the sense and compassion to do the right thing. The administrators of Sacred Heart Cathedral High School flunked. I doubt that Jessica was even trying to provoke a confrontation: like any normal student, she wanted her image in the most important piece of memorabilia of her high school years to accurately portray her as she was, not as some alien ideal dictated by the Catholic Church. There was nothing to be achieved by banning the photo.”

It turns out that by the time I had discovered the story and commented on it, Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep had already reversed its decision. It wouldn’t normally garner much praise here for that: we have seen legions of stories of schools taking cruel, mean-spirited and idiotic measures against innocent students and then back-tracking later, only because the publicity and public backlash became too toxic. In this case, however, the school announced its reversal with an apology of unusual sincerity and grace, which I will reprint in its entirety: Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “The Humiliation of Jessica Urbina”

catholic church

I confess to priming Patrice, an old friend and the resident Catholic theologian here, for this. I have known here for many years, and she is what I would call a passionate and rebellious Catholic scholar, and hoping she would weigh in on my criticism of the Catholic Church in the wake of the treatment of high school senior Jessica Urbina, which I view as symptomatic of the Church as it is of the schools. As I expected, however, Patrice makes a strong case.

Here is her Comment of the Day on the post, The Humiliation of Jessica Urbina:

Well, you knew I was going to respond, right?

“The cruel treatment of Jessica is one more indication of the sorry state of the Catholic Church, which appears to be a fatal cesspool of hypocrisy, desperate public relations, and an integrity vacuum. There are two kinds of Catholics, it seems: those who profess the be devout followers of the Church but who discard and violate its doctrine and core principles whenever they seem too burdensome, unpopular or embarrassing, and those who blindly follow the dictates of the Church, no matter how clearly they have been proven wrong and wrongful by the accumulated experience and wisdom of civilization, because morality never changes.”

So, what am I? The feckless “Cafeteria Catholic” or the “Fundamentalist Catholic”? I really take exception to your gross generalizations about Catholics as being one or the other of your versions. Knowing me, Jack, how could you make such generalizations?

As a sometime student of Theology, I prefer to see myself as a Catholic who dissents in good conscience from certain teachings of the Church — not because they are “too burdensome, unpopular, or embarrassing,” but because I believe that there is more to be learned from the core teachings of Jesus than what we have thus far proclaimed. And for the record, I am saddened by what happened to Jessica. What the school did (notice I say school, not church) was not compassionate, kind, or tolerant.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following:
“A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.”

The problematic part comes after that: “Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.” It’s kind of a Catch 22. Does the Church see a well-formed conscience as one that has been properly educated (indoctrinated?) in the “truths” that the Church has put forth, and therefore agrees with the Church on all matters? Maybe. I suspect that this conscience thing was intended to give courage to Catholics who would have to disobey their “Catholic conscience” to do something they were being encouraged or forced to do in the secular world that is against Church teachings. Thus, martyrs. Regardless, I stand by my educated conscience.

I hold up the subjects of my senior thesis, which was about dissent in the Church: Hans Küng and Charles Curran. Both censured for their dissent, but still voices in the wilderness. Look at Pierre Telhard de Chardin. Got into a lot of trouble for his writings, but somewhat “rehabilitated” in today’s world of theological thought.

With regard to Jessica, I see this as an educational system problem, because it might have happened at any school. The fact that it happened at a Catholic school makes it look like a Catholic problem, but I sense that you would find the same problem in schools in various places around the country, as well as other denominations which teach (yes, there are others) that homosexuality is wrong/forbidden/whatever. I’m sure I’m breaking one of your principles here, but really I do see this as an authoritarian school problem first and foremost. It’s also a self-expression issue.

I personally wish Jessica great success as she, no doubt, continues to break the barriers that keep her and others from being and expressing who they are.

The Humiliation of Jessica Urbina

JESSICA_URBINA

Every year at this time, Ethics Alarms covers one or more ethics controversies over a yearbook photo that has been deemed inappropriate for a high school graduation yearbook. The 2014 controversy, I think, has more significance than the others. Like other examples of rigid school administrator enforcement of poorly though-out rules and blatant cruelty to children, what was done to Jessica Urbina demonstrates the peril of allowing those in what no passes as the education profession to have power over our children, since they so frequently abuse it, or influence over the development of our children’s character, as the administrators display such flawed character themselves. The more I think about this incident, however, the more I conclude that it foretells the dying of a major religion in this country, and why it may deserve to die.

The yearbook photo of senior Jessica Urbina was deleted from her class  yearbook because she wore a tuxedo. School officials at San Francisco’s Sacred Heart Cathedral High School said  she violated the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s policy because she didn’t wear the dress that’s required for female students in yearbook photos. This is the no-tolerance version of yearbook photo rules, sexist, anti-gay, cruel and stupid. Jessica isn’t dressed inappropriately or unkempt; in fact, she looks great. She took care to make herself presentable for her yearbook, and succeeded. Quite reasonably, however, she decided to appear in clothing that made her feel comfortable, given her sexual orientation, for she is reputedly gay. Tuxes are not a gay uniform by any means; hetero and gay women have worn them as fashion for decades. Below are, clockwise, Ellen Paige, Kim Kardashian, Madonna, super-model Danielle Luquet de St Germain, and the immortal Marlene Dietrich:

Celebs in Tux

I know: yecchhh! How disgusting!

Seriously–there is nothing, nothing, provocative, inappropriate or wrong with Jessica’s attire. She is nicely groomed, her clothing is impeccable, the photograph is impeccable, and she looks cute and happy. The school officials knew what to do about that.
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More Yearbook Ethics: Pregnant Seniors, Clueless Administrators

Deonna and Kimberly: fit for classes, unfit for the yearbook?

Deonna and Kimberly: fit for classes, unfit for the yearbook?

It was only a couple of weeks ago that an Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz featured the decision of North Carolina’s Wheatmore High School to disallow the yearbook photo a beaming unwed senior took with her baby, after the school unwisely opened the can of ethical worms by inviting students to include meaningful “props” in their pictures. Of that controversy, I wrote,

“Society sends foolishly mixed messages about unwed and teen pregnancies already, and a student using her yearbook photo to proclaim her pride in single-motherhood would indeed appear to be teen pregnancy advocacy. See? She’s happy! She graduated! She has an adorable baby! You can have one of these adorable living dolls too! “Don’t get pregnant before you’re legal, married and have a degree, but if you do have a baby, we’ll be glad to let you display it like it was your winning 4H project!” makes no sense, not that the whole “bring a prop” plan was much better.”

Now the predictable variation has raised its troublesome head. In White Cloud, Michigan, high school students Deonna Harris and Kimberly Haney were told by high school administrators that their pictures were unfit for publication in this year’s school yearbook, because they are pregnant. They were offered the chance to be shown from the neckt up—you know, like they used to show actresses  on TV sitcoms from the waist up when a a star’s  pregnancy couldn’t be worked into the script—but the students refused.

The “logic” of Barry Seabrook, White Cloud schools superintendent, was that 1) allowing the full body photos would constitute a violation of Michigan’s official policy that the school’s sex education program should be based on abstinence; 2) some parents would make trouble, and 3)  the inclusion of the pictures in the yearbook might promote teen pregnancy. Not one of these makes logical sense, is fair, or just reason to stigmatize the girls or make them disguise themselves. Continue reading

Yearbook Ethics Quiz: The Proud Teen Mom’s Rejection

teenmom4n-1-web

Last year’s high school controversial high school yearbook-related Ethics Quiz in involved a comely female student who wanted to advertise sex;* this year’s edition is about the potential results of effective advertising.

Wheatmore High School in North Carolina told its graduating seniors that they should have their yearbook photos should include some object that would have personal significance. It was very kind of them to guarantee at least one Ethics Alarms-worthy donnybrook with this brain-dead idea: just imagine all the props students could have brought along to prime lawsuits and Fox News stories. A diabetic student might have posed with a syringe, for example. Or an empty martini glass.  The “V is For Vendetta” mask. A Romney-Ryan button. A John Edwards for President button! A winning poker hand. A blow-up doll. A Samurai sword, or more edgy yet, a pressure cooker. Or, of course, a hunting rifle. I’m amazed that only graduating senior Caitlin Tiller thought of a prop that was guaranteed to set school administrators’ teeth grinding, but she certainly chose a dandy one: her baby.

The school rejected the resulting photo of the happy 17-year-old, unmarried mother holding her year old child, Leelin, as celebrating teen pregnancy and motherhood. It also cannily waited long enough to inform Caitlin that the yearbook was days from publication by the time she found out. Caitlin and her mother vociferously protested ( “They should be proud students are willing to stay in school graduate and make something of themselves and not try and hide it” —-Tiller’s mother, Karen Morgan), but to no avail.

Your 2013 Ethics Alarms Yearbook Ethics Quiz:

Was it fair and responsible for the school to reject the photo of Caitlin and Leelin?

and a Bonus QuestionContinue reading

Ethics Quiz: Sydney’s Expressive Yearbook Photo

My high school was never like this.

The photo above, believe it or not, was submitted to the Durango (Colorado) High School Yearbook as the senior photo of one Sydney Spies. The yearbook staff rejected it as inappropriate, and young Sydney is crying foul, saying that her First Amendment rights have been violated. Opinions differ on what message her photo was intended to convey. Suffice it to say that “Well, it’s late! I think I’ll go finish my algebra homework, read the Wall Street Journal and turn in!” is not one of the popular options.

Your Question in this week’s Ethics Quiz: Which party is in the wrong here? Continue reading