Politics, Teaching, Ethics, Logic, Godnose…

Warning. Politics.

Yesterday I read in the news that IQ 45 (who is no longer the president of the USA) had written — two days ago! — a letter to Georgia Secretary of State:

“…Which brings us to Friday. Trump sent a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), insisting that the results of the 2020 election in Georgia be decertified, something Trump has been pestering Raffensperger about since that January call in which he begged the secretary to “find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.” Raffensperger didn’t find Trump an extra 12,000 votes, because there were no votes to find. Trump’s insistences that you could cobble together that number from various places were all fruitless, since he was wrong…” (Source)

It’s as if this idiot is punching at one of those inflated clown punching bag toys like my brother had as a kid. His adversary is a plastic sack filled with wind. Anyway, I hope that’s all it is.

I would find this laughable if the congressional representative from my district didn’t believe that IQ 45 is still president.

My friend Elizabeth taught elementary school for many, many years — the upper grades. The other day we were talking about the little anti-vax “Freedom Rally” in our town (both of us angered by the participation of the mayor). Elizabeth said she didn’t understand it. She said she’d spent a lot of time in her classes teaching critical thinking and reasoning and it seems the students just forgot it. I told her I had the same feeling, and it made me really sad. I taught straight-up critical thinking (logic) for 25 years in two different classes — one Advanced Composition and Critical thinking and then in my Business Communication classes. We agreed it made us sad to see people NOT using their reasoning skills. OK, they’re probably not our students, but we weren’t the only two teachers.

I thought about it some more. Maybe Critical Thinking wasn’t enough. Maybe ethics. Ethics was part of business communication classes, an ancillary topic called “Business Ethics,” and everything was pretty obvious, like, “Don’t embezzle from the company.” Even then, the self-sorting of students into a business major results in classes filled with out-going, competitive students who are motivated by money and all that money can buy. The ONLY episode of The Apprentice I’ve ever seen was that done as a skit by my students as a commercial for a product. They thought IQ 45 was funny and typical of successful businessmen.

Ethics is difficult and more than a little abstruse. Yeah, it’s the evaluation of “right and wrong,” but right there, in our world, (or any world?) you get into the forest of “Who said? Whose standard?” It’s a place where people get their hackles up pretty quickly.

I taught ethics in a subversive kind of way, through messages to customers, co-workers, etc. “Think about the person you’re writing to,” I’d say, “Imagine their world and how they feel having bought a DSLR camera from you that quit working after one day. Is your ‘No Refund Policy’ the best you can do for this customer? Is it more important to keep that $ or to create goodwill, get his repeat business and good word-of-mouth advertising? Which is better for you in the long term? Is there any middle way here? Remember. You’re not a big chain. You’re a small, independent shop.”

Sometimes a student would say, “Well, maybe the camera really WAS defective. Isn’t that the manufacturer’s problem? Couldn’t we take the camera back, trade for a good camera, and make the manufacturer pay?” Or a student would say, “Maybe we can repair it or have it repaired. Should we charge for that?” Most students would just say, “He knew the policy. He can find a repair shop.” Then someone might say, “Maybe we could pick up the tab for the repairs?”

Ethics. For that time and that place it centered on maintaining the goodwill of customers which is really the Golden Rule.

I thought of all this reading about the “Freedom Rally,” that happened in my town last week, people objecting to health care workers being compelled by the State of Colorado to be vaccinated or lose their jobs. I thought that was a failure of ethics. How would a nurse in an old folks home feel if he/she ran around doing his/her job while infected with Covid 19 — but asymptomatic — and later ALL of his/her patients ended up in the hospital (taking up the few beds in our valley and/or being flown out to bigger hospitals with more facilities at great expense). How could ANYONE not think of it this way? It’s not a critical thinking problem; it’s not logic. It’s ethics.

Dr. Mueller

“Fair is for soccer,” said the Intro to Religious Studies professor. He said this every semester, maybe to every freshman class he taught. There are things that must be said to university freshmen, and that’s one of them. “Don’t expect ‘fairness’ out of life.”

“Yeah, but…” sputtered a long-haired blonde girl in the front row.

“There’s no ‘yeah, but.’ It’s how it is. Fairness is something humans have made up. It’s why we have laws.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” said a kid in the third row from the left, toward the back.

“It doesn’t? Why not?” asked the Prof.

“Justice comes from God.”

“Does it? Tell that to the mother of the baby born dead. Tell that to the family whose husband/father is killed by a drunk driver. There are plenty of people who believe God ‘did’ that to punish those people. Is that what you mean but ‘justice comes from God’?”

“Well, the 10 Commandments.”

“Law. Those are laws.”

“But they came from God.”

“They came from someone who didn’t want to give his name.” The professor smiled. This is how it went every semester. “Anyway, law is our attempt to create fairness in an unfair world where some people are just plain luckier than others.”

“I don’t believe in luck.”

“You don’t think you’re lucky to have a chance to study at a university while that mentally retarded guy two doors down from you is lucky to tie his own shoes? You don’t think that’s luck?”

“I didn’t think of that.”

“Maybe human ethics means we’re able to equalize the unfair portions of luck just a little bit. Let’s say you discover, through your time here at the university, that you want to do research on the human brain or you want to be a social worker or teach special ed. Any one of those things could change the life of that mentally retarded guy two doors down for the better. Your luck could improve someone else’s. That is higher justice. See what I’m saying?”

“There’s no law that says I have to help that guy, Professor.”

“No, there’s no law. Laws are for the lowest common denominator of human behavior. The laws forbid you from hurting him and tell you that you’ll be punished if you do. There is no law that says you must help him. There can’t be.”

“Why not?”

“That’s a question I want you to answer in your journals for Monday. I look forward to finding them in my office by 9 am.”


P.S. Dr. Mueller is/was a real professor. His lectures were so well delivered, so animated and engaging, that I used to sit in on them. Lecturing was not my strong point as a teacher, but it was a necessary evil especially in the beginning of a semester. I saw this dialogue play out three or four times and it always amazed me.