Friday, June 13, 2008

the "ethics" of lying

In Oceanside, CA, the school district has attempted to scare their students straight by lying to them, telling them that several classmates were killed in an alcohol-related car accident.

I don't know who came up with this - ah - idea, which was embraced by the school board, and carried out by the highway patrol, if you can imagine that. The plan was to get the emotional reaction - shock, grief, loss, etc. - and then clear it all up in an assembly later in the day.

Here's what guidance counselor Lori Tauber was quoted as saying: ""They were traumatized, but we wanted them to be traumatized. That's how they get the message."

Well, they got an emotional reaction, thanks to the lie. Perhaps you can imagine the reaction thereafter, however, when the students found out that it was a hoax?

No one likes to be manipulated. Even in the pursuit of a "greater good."

I think the "adults" mixed up their ends and means, and they weren't even forced to do so. There's an ethical dilemma when the S.S. asks whether you're helping to hide Jews - and you struggle with whether or not it's ok to lie in that instance. That's the Kantian extreme of not lying - no matter WHAT - which so many people reject. This wasn't even close. This is lying for expediency, for effect, to "make a point." This is lying as an acceptable tool in argumentation - so long as it "works".

How will the school officials react when the students lie - and cheat on their next exam, say - for expediency? For effect? To make a point? Surely a good grade - even a passing grade - is worth a little lie. . . in the eyes of a high school student who has just learned that all the school officials, the PTA, and even the State police will lie if the stakes are supposedly high enough. I imagine that this graduating class could also come up with any number of other "good ends" to which lying would ease the path, now that they've seen how this works.

Way to go.

Class dismissed.


Lee Anne said...

This makes me incredibly angry -- especially as someone who has taught many college freshmen who have no problem cheating or lying because they think that adults can do that, that those "rules" only apply to children.

I know of many high schools who put on "plays" about drunk driving in which the most well liked students are the fatalities. I can see that working -- it's another form of manipulation but without any ethical violations. The students in the audience are in a sense traumatized, but they know it is fiction. This is going too, too far.

prophet said...

Yep. I would have liked to have been there to hear the initial proposal. . . . I'm having a hard time picturing it.

This really does boggle the imagination.

What am I saying. . . . Imagination? They HAVE no imagination. Perhaps that's the problem.

Without imagination, there's no striving or working to make dreams come true. There are only lies and jaded disappointment when the smoke clears and the mirrors are revealed.


Non-Essential Equipment said...

And once the lie is uncovered, it makes it so the message loses all of its credibility.

And why stoop to the lie? Use a real incident from a neighboring community. Have a speaker who had something similar happen to them. You get much of the same reaction without the fallout.