Ethics are optional?

A line graph of Enron's stock price (in USD) from April 23, 2000 to January 11, 2002. Data compiled from Enron Securities Litigation Web Site
A line graph of Enron’s stock price (in USD) from April 23, 2000 to January 11, 2002. Data compiled from Enron Securities Litigation Web Site. Created by Nehrams2020 and licensed under Creative Commons 3.0.

Yes, that’s always been true, and more true for some than for others. Popes who fathered children. CEOs who raided stock before departed for bigger and better things, leaving 401k plans in the dust.

But college professors who are “proudly unethical,” writing essays for students?  Yup, it’s going on right now.  Thanks to a recent Gawker article, I got another lesson in what other people think.

The article itself isn’t that amazing.  Like I said, there have been plenty of unethical people throughout history, and it kind of makes sense for academics to write academic papers.  Logical.  But totally, totally wrong.

The point is that there is a company in Montreal that hires unemployed college professors (are they “college professors” is they aren’t employed by a college? I suppose that’s another essay…) to write papers for students for money.  No attempt at teaching.  Purely a paper-writing mill.  The website itself acknowledges that it is unethical for the professors to be writing the papers, but, according to them, that’s okay.  “…because the academic system is already so corrupt, we’re totally cool with that.

Quick point – I’m not sure how they find the system corrupt.  There is no definition of how a college is corrupt.  Sure, I can see it when the administration raids the funds of the university to furnish their own home, but that really has no bearing on the actual quality and standards of the college itself.  (And I’m not going to go into the argument about whether or not grade inflation exists.  It does.  But, if anything, that is in the students’ favor, so don’t complain.)

But back to the point at hand.  The most interesting point about this article is actually the commentary from the people who have read it.  Some people think it’s cheating and therefore wrong.  Or they see it as double-cheating – you’re paying for an education and then cheating on the work, which means you’re also cheating yourself out of the money you’re spending on a supposed education.  My favorite one, however, is from someone who says:

“…if I was an unemployed professor…I’d rather sit at Starbucks writing some Johnnie’s 101 paper than work at Subway, rake leaves or any other d***sucking job.  THIS IS THE FUTURE. GET IN WHERE YOU FIT IN.  ETHICS HAVE BECOME AN IDEA, NOT A REQUIREMENT.”

Hence the title of this blog.  Ethics are optional, as per this anonymous poster who goes by the name “SadDaveKrieg.”

Well, hell, if ethics is optional, why am I paying my bills at all?  Why work?  I can forge forms showing I have a disability.  I mean, obviously, I don’t belong working at a – gasp! – Subway! Only the lowest of the low would do that.  And…bigger gasp…raking leaves! Manual labor? For someone with a degree?  Now that’s even worse than having ethics!

Seriously, what is wrong with this world when we think we’re entitled to do something “where we fit in.”  Who determines where we fit in?

And, keep in mind, I write this as an underemployed college professor who works part-time at two colleges to earn less than a full-time professor but has to teach more classes and has less support.  And I still would rather hang on to my ethics and not be “where I fit in.”  And if I had to work retail, I would.  And if I had to rake leaves, I would.  Because I’d rather have a job “below” me than discover that I compromised what I’d learned and what I believed in.  I have to wonder if “SadDave” has a college degree, and how honest he was in getting it.  And I also have to wonder…did “SadDave” ever take a critical thinking class, or perhaps one on ethics?  Because obviously he deserves his money back on both of them if he did.


Ethics? What are those?

The Cardsharps by Valentin de Boulogne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Cardsharps by Valentin de Boulogne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Is buying a book review any different than buying a research paper?

On one hand, yeah, it’s totally different.  It’s a book review!  It’s not being submitted for a grade.  But…those seem to be the only differences.

In both cases, it’s someone lying.  Someone misrepresenting the truth.  Someone attempting to fool a reader.  Someone trying to pull the wool over someone else’s eyes.

Where does this cheating come from?  Because, let’s be honest, it is cheating.  It’s an attempt to fool someone into believing something that is not true and for someone to take credit that isn’t theirs to take, whether it’s taking credit in a class or taking credit for a “good” book.

Book reviewers charge more for better reviews, and people who write papers are happy to do so for whatever grade or standard the paying student wants.

How crazy is it that people think these things are okay?  What has gone wrong with the world?  Or has it not changed, only changed mediums?

Think back to the days of snake oils and confidence men.  We have movies (The Sting) and musicals (The Music Man) that actually teach us that this trickery is a skill and requires charm and confidence.  It’s all positive attributes.  Something to be admired.  Good business sense.

And it is good business sense!  Selling book reviews is lucrative as is writing papers for students.  So does that make it okay?  Again, I say no, and from the outraged generated from the fake books reviews and the article written by one of the (anonymous) paper writers, it’s clear that I’m not alone in my attitude.

So where did our ethics go?  Or did we never have them?


Eugenics…not gone but somehow forgotten

Sheet music cover of "Have a Heart", from the musical of the same name.
Sheet music cover of “Have a Heart”, from the musical of the same name.

Eugenics is not new.  It’s been around as long as any other pseudoscience.

Yet somehow, we forget about it.  We push it to the background.  We pretend it doesn’t exist, even as people talk about aborting fetuses that show signs of having disabilities or we run into problems like the one a mother in Philadelphia is going through.

This mother has a 23 year old son with a problem.  His heart.  But that’s okay – while he has a serious heart ailment (a congenital disorder that he was diagnosed with in 2008), it isn’t necessarily fatal.  He could get a transplant.

Except that he can’t get a transplant because a doctor wrote that, “I have recommended against transplant given his psychiatric issues, autism, the complexity of the process, multiple procedures and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior.

The son, who is 23, has PDD (pervasive development disorder, which is on the mild side of the autism spectrum), is “upset by the decision, but optimistic that a transplant could come.”

What makes it even better is that the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center issued a statement, saying, “The thing to keep in mind is if more of us would sign donor cards, there would be less pressure to reject anybody. It’s the huge shortage of hearts that really drives this problem.”

Now, I hate to disagree with the head of an ethics division, but, no, it’s not that not enough people donate organs.  (Although I do agree that more people need to donate, and I myself am an organ donor…)  The real problem here is that we have unequal care based on, when it all comes down to it, psychiatric issues and autism.  Everyone who has the procedure risks “multiple procedures and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior.”  The 23 year old man is not alone in those risks.  But autism…that’s the kicker.

Why is it okay to give a transplant to someone who is “normal” but not someone who has a disability?  If he was blind or deaf, would they drop him out of the pool?  Or do we only feel that it’s right to discriminate against those with cognitive and developmental disorders?

This really harkens right back to my other blog about Oprah.com calling children with autism “weird” and “creepy.”  If we don’t understand something, we try to get rid of it.

And that’s where the whole eugenics thing rears its ugly head again.

Now, you might not know what eugenics is.  So let’s try to get a balanced view.

PBS.org has a great article at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh23eu.html  They say, among other things, that eugenics was “presented as a mathematical science that could be used to predict the traits and behaviors of humans, and in a perfect world, to control human breeding so that people with the best genes would reproduce and thus improve the species.”  It sounds…interesting.  But, of course, there’s more to it than that.  “In 1923, organizers founded the American Eugenics Society, and it quickly grew to 29 chapters around the country. At fairs and exhibitions, eugenicists spread the word and hosted “fitter family” and “better baby” competitions to award blue ribbons to the finest human stock — not unlike the awards for prize bull and biggest pumpkin. Not only did eugenicists promote better breeding, they wanted to prevent poor breeding or the risk of it. That meant keeping people with undesireable traits in their heritage (including alcoholism, pauperism, or epilepsy) separate from others or, where law allowed, preventing them from reproducing.”

And it hasn’t gone away.  Future Generations has a website up at http://www.eugenics.net/ where they talk about their goals.  “Future Generations is about humanitarian eugenics.  Humanitarian eugenics strives to leave a genuine legacy of love to future generations: good health, high intelligence, and noble character.”  They link to such articles are “IQ Will Put You In Your Place” and “The Consequences of Variable Intelligence” and “Evolution, Eugenics, and God’s Will.”  Go check them out at your leisure if you haven’t had anything to eat…

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but eugenics by any other name still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

But there is something you can do to help with the boy being denied his heart.  Go to Change.org and sign the petition to help Paul get his heart.