… will be the way it’s unlatching the experts. Already the experts are swarming out of their pens and telling anyone who’ll listen that the way to avoid child rape in your university’s showers is through ethics training.

[One expert] compared the current Penn State situation to the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

Neither university officials nor church officials are required to undergo ethics training that would prepare them to deal with conflicting allegiances and moral dilemmas involved in their work, he said.

The most enthusiastic champion of mandatory ethics training in our time was of course Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who is as we speak on his way to ten years in jail for corruption. Blagojevich required this training for every state employee, including professors at places like Northern Illinois University. A person at Western Illinois University testified to the effectiveness of the program here. She pointed out (as have zillions of others who’ve testified about similar programs) that the insultingly stupid nature of the tests and presentations drives people into frenzies of cheating in order to avoid the experience. (Read the comments after the post, too.)

I mean, look at the absurdity of this expert’s comment. Who needs mandatory ethics training? Priests. Priests!

Most people are not enmeshed in closed authoritarian worlds which may force them to mess with their conscience for the sake of a higher good. If you do happen to be in such a world, an online exam or a staged psychodrama won’t be much of a force against it.

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7 Responses to “The most excruciating part of the Penn State aftermath…”

  1. Dave Stone Says:

    I think maybe you underestimate the need for moral training. After all the Chinese philospher Mencius observed that “if men suddenly see a child about to fall into a well, they will without exception experience a feeling of alarm and distress. They will feel so, not as a ground on which they may gain the favour of the child’s parents, nor as a ground on which they may seek the praise of their neighbours and friends, nor from a dislike to the reputation of having been unmoved by such a thing. From this case we may perceive that the feeling of commiseration is essential to man . . .”

    But Mencius’ “seeing a child about to fall into a well” example clearly leaves out the case of “seeing a child get anally raped in a shower.” That this is wrong, and ought to be stopped, is evidently something people can’t figure out without help.

  2. dmf Says:

    these sham programs function as cover for administrators who can show that now employees are making “informed” choices for which they are solely responsible. The idea that anyone can learn to do anything complex/skill-related in these kinds of training seminars is one of the many charades in our times of limited training/mentoring, the idea that one can teach adults morality in such settings/circumstances is more absurd than thinking that one can teach “critical” thinking and or ethics/empathy to undergrads in book based lecture classes.

  3. MattF Says:

    I’m just… astonished that anyone with a brain (y’know, that gelatinous organ inside the skull) can claim that the Catholic bishops who tolerated sexual abuse of children did it because they lacked ethics ‘training’. This has to be the dumbest thing I’ve seen this week, at least. But then again, I haven’t been watching the Republican ‘debates’. So, who knows.

  4. Stephen Karlson Says:

    The push for ethics training is only slightly dumber than another common reaction by the chattering class, which is to call for a new Congressional investigation. Two cheers for Representative Bachmann, who, this morning, told David Gregory that Congress had enough work already (never mind that Congress investigating College Football brings to mind peacocks investigating elks for excessive preening.)

  5. david foster Says:

    In the latest issue of Scientific American/Mind, there’s a retrospective look at the Milgram experiments, in which subjects were “required” to give other subjects electrical shocks which they believed to be of painful and even potentially dangerous levels. Interesting in this context…an awful lot of people went along, and the only “closed authoritarian world” that was involved was an authority figure in the form of a scientist in a lab coat.

    Interestingly, people went along more when the requirement was stated as a strong request than when it was stated as a direct order.

  6. GTWMA Says:

    I doubt that this type of mandatory training has much of an effect.

    However, I would say that the 25 Penn State students in my class and I have had outstanding and compelling discussions of the meaning of these issues in our meetings this week.

    Imagine that, faculty and students seeking answers and understanding together.

  7. dmf Says:

    gtwma, understanding “meaning” does not translate into know-how and or will-power/courage. I’m sure if you quizzed the people involved in perpetrating this horror about these happenings in the abstract they could give you the right answers for what someone in their circumstances should have done.

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