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  • Reverend James Squire

Ethics Class To Create Patriots

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

If you are someone who likes a good moral argument, take an ethics class. My students called our class “full contact ethics”. Once you entered the classroom you were going to be involved in the discussion whether you liked it or not. Not surprising a lot of students chose to take the course as they like to be challenged. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. The guideline was also something that we have heard repeatedly recently. “You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.” They also must practice “civil discourse”, respecting different views and not attacking someone who sees things differently from what they think.

David Callahan wrote an important book in 2004 on social ethics called The Cheating Culture. He and I had phone conference calls as I wanted to use the essence of his book in ethics class. Keep in mind that year, 2004. His book was a welcome addition analyzing the epidemic of cheating in all segments of society. His words have stood the test of time, seeing such things as the following at the heart of the American phenomenon of dishonesty:

“Tax evasion by the rich is widespread and the average taxpayer has to come up with an extra $3000 a year to cover the shortfall.”

Half of resumes contain lies

Employee theft totals $600 billion or 6 percent of the GDP

Reporters have fabricated stories and major writers have been caught plagiarizing”

Add to this in 2020.:

President Trumps payment of $750 a year for taxes and other ethical issues too numerous to mention that has caused the American people to accept his unethical behavior for it has become such a norm for him.

Parents have been sent to prison for bribing universities to accept their children based on phony accomplishments. They felt entitled to do so.

The swamp still exists in Washington with a good many of Trump’s administration guilty of multiple felony counts.

If I could summarize Callahan’s book and research in one sentence it would be “given a choice between money and integrity, people will choose money.”

Part of what has caused this cheating culture is the phenomenon of the rise of the “winning class”. We have to consider that the top 1% of households haver more wealth than the entire bottom 90% have combined. We have private clubs, gated communities, chartered jets, and exclusive restaurants. President Trump said, “You are going to get tired of winning if I am elected. The one thing I can’t stand is a loser.” I still remember Leona Helmsley, a New York winner, saying that “rules are for the little people.” The winning class make up their rules as they go along and don’t mind if they are better rules than for the little people.

That is what Callahan’s research showed then and still continues today.

One of the reviews by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat of his book points to the true north of ethical action that Callahan is suggesting is as good now as it was then: “Anyone who plays by the rules can get ahead. Everyone has some say in how the rules get made. Everyone who breaks the rules suffers the same penalties. And all of us are in the same boat, living in the same moral community and striving together to build a society that confers respect on people based on a wide variety of accomplishments. He also wants government agencies to enforce these rules of fair play, more work on establishing ethical standards in the business community, more emphasis upon honor codes in schools and universities, and a return to civic-mindedness where individuals sense that we are all in the same boat and can work together to create a better and more just society.”

Our elected officials are, for the most part, politicians concerned with party above everything else. They need to change their identity to patriots who have love of nation first. This will require a familiarity with ethics more so than getting what they want to benefit their party. John McCain proved this could be done.

I know that many of my former students who know ethical language and ethical systems and how they apply to daily life could be called to Washington to engage these folks in what it means to be an ethical person. They would be far more successful than another adult in that role for students don’t suffer fools gladly, would not put up with spin, and can spot hypocrisy and inauthenticity a mile away. All of their filters lean in that direction as a result of their growth as human beings. Trust me. They would get the job done!

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