Students are returning to classrooms this fall. (Contributed)

Mitchell’s Musings: Ethics class evolves with the times

'Welcome to Ethics 2020, the age of alternative facts'

The scene: the first day of an ethics class at an unnamed American university where the students have returned to campus (or are online).

Professor Smith: “OK, class, welcome to Ethics 101. Here, we will study the importance of ethical behaviour in business, government, religion, sports, media, education and just everyday life.”

Student: “With all due respect, sir, are you serious?”

Professor: “Excuse me?”

Student: “Well, I can think of scandals in all those categories that pretty much disprove that ethics plays a role in any way, shape or form in today’s America.”

Professor: “OK, I’ll bite. Like, for instance?

Student: “Well, the stock market continues to go up and up and make the rich richer and richer due to the belief that FAANG – otherwise known as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Alphabet, formerly known as Google – are going to get even richer as largely unregulated and untouchable tech companies make even more and more during a pandemic that forces people to turn to the Net for supplies and entertainment and communication needs, meanwhile killing local retail and media and community and leaving millions of Americans unemployed and living off government handouts that can’t go on for much longer or we’re all doomed.” (Takes a breath)

Professor: “Oh, that thing. Anything else?”

Student: “Well, we’ve got a president who’s on the record with more than 20,000 false or misleading claims, so far, and that doesn’t even count his golf game, who lied to us about the seriousness of the pandemic to protect his re-election chances, along with the stock market. A guy who says he did it to not spread panic, even though spreading panic and chaos is pretty much his thing, especially when it comes to describing political unrest in the streets or what the left-wing zealots will do if Joe Biden actually wins. A new book comes out virtually every day by former staff and family members largely describing him as “unfit to govern” and having no moral compass, yet if Biden falters even a little – and he’s 77 years old – Trump could win the November 3 election, and he’s 74. How are either one of these dinosaurs going to lead us in this world of ever-escalating change anyway?”

Professor: “OK, you have a point there. Religion?”

Student: “Two words for you, professor. Jerry Falwell, Jr. OK, that’s three. And he was one of the first religious supporters of Trump that led to even more fundamentalist Christians jumping on board, despite the Access Hollywood tapes and countless other misdeeds, resulting in Trump’s triumph, and where we are today. And all because they needed a pool boy.”

Professor: “Sports?”

Student: “Houston Astros, the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, Lance Armstrong, the NBA and China….”

Professor: “Education? Surely education has maintained its ethics, at least somewhat? After all people have to believe in something. That’s why we’re here.”

Student: “Does Lori Loughlin and company and the biggest college admissions scandal of all time ring a bell? How did that happen? Also political correctness run amok on campuses. It’s spread to the real, ahem, world.”

Professor: Media?”

Student: “Well, Fox News might as well be Trump TV as they turn themselves into pretzels daily to cover for the president’s behaviour or lack thereof. And that’s getting tougher and tougher to do, so they’re earning their millions. And the left-leaning mainstream media ignores anything that doesn’t fit its progressive narrative or political correctness, and then there’s social media that is so into clicks that the truth is often irrelevant, or worse, may get in the way of more clicks. And local media are so challenged by FAANG and others that their days may be numbered. And then who’s going to hold local politicians accountable?”

Professor: “OK, OK, you’ve made your point. I think I know the answer though. Class, I stand corrected, welcome to Ethics 2020, the age of alternative facts.”

Student: “I can live with that. Guess I have to, huh?”

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