Wednesday, January 31, 2018

“This is the road we are traveling. It is a road that leads to internal collapse and tyranny”—Chris Hedges

“The problem with Donald Trump is not that he is imbecilic and inept—it is that he has surrendered total power to the oligarchic and military elites. They get what they want. They do what they want. Although the president is a one-man wrecking crew aimed at democratic norms and institutions, although he has turned the United States into a laughingstock around the globe, our national crisis is embodied not in Trump but the corporate state’s now unfettered pillage.

“Trump, who has no inclination or ability to govern, has handed the machinery of government over to the bankers, corporate executives, right-wing think tanks, intelligence chiefs and generals. They are eradicating the few regulations and laws that inhibited a naked kleptocracy. They are dynamiting the institutions, including the State Department, that served interests other than corporate profit and are stacking the courts with right-wing, corporate-controlled ideologues. Trump provides the daily entertainment; the elites handle the business of looting, exploiting and destroying.

“Once democratic institutions are hollowed out, a process begun before the election of Trump, despotism is inevitable. The press is shackled. Corruption and theft take place on a massive scale. The rights and needs of citizens are irrelevant. Dissent is criminalized. Militarized police monitor, seize and detain Americans without probable cause. The rituals of democracy become farce. This is the road we are traveling. It is a road that leads to internal collapse and tyranny, and we are very far down it…

“The Russia investigation—launched when Robert Mueller became special counsel in May and which appears to be focused on money laundering, fraud and shady business practices, things that have always characterized Trump’s financial empire—is unlikely to unseat the president. He will not be impeached for mental incompetence, over the emoluments clause or for obstruction of justice, although he is guilty on all these counts. He is useful to those who hold real power in the corporate state, however much they would like to domesticate him.

“Trump’s bizarre ramblings and behavior also serve a useful purpose. They are a colorful diversion from the razing of democratic institutions. As cable news networks feed us stories of his trysts with a porn actress and outlandish tweets, the real work of the elites is being carried out largely away from public view. The courts are stacked with Federalist Society judges, the fossil fuel industry is plundering public lands and the coastlines and ripping up regulations that protected us from its poisons, and the Pentagon, given carte blanche, is engaged in an orgy of militarism with a trillion-dollar-a-year budget and about 800 military bases in scores of countries around the world…”

For the entire article, The Useful idiocy of Donald Trump by Chris Hedges, click here. 

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us MeaningWhat Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Thinking about voting for Jeanne Ives in the next Illinois gubernatorial election?

“…Pensions are bankrupting our state and crowding out our ability to fund safety net programs for the developmentally disabled or fund education with more state dollars in place of ever increasing property taxes. Without pension reform our state will continue to decline as unfunded... liabilities are expected to continue to climb until 2030 and the amount of general revenue dollars going to these unsustainable funds will climb with it” –Rep. Jeanne Ives.

To the Sponsors of House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 18  (Ives, Sosnowski, Morrison, Skillicorn, Long, Spain, Phillips, Wehrli and McDermed), HJRCA 18 is unethical, duplicitous, and illegal. HJRCA 18 would not only destroy the public employees’ and retirees’ financial security, but it would also damage the communities that these people support, serve and protect, and ultimately the state's economy.

Moreover, HJRCA 18 would not reduce the state systems’ current $130+ billion unfunded liability that was largely created by the Illinois General Assemblies and Illinois governors; HJRCA 18 would not address the real fiscal issue caused by the state’s out-sized pension debt—in other words, how to amortize the $130+ billion debt owed to the five state-sponsored retirement systems in a feasible way. It would also take three-fifths of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly.

Read the State and U.S. Constitutions: Article 1, Section 16 of the Illinois Constitution: “No ex post facto law or law impairing the obligation of contracts… shall be passed”;  Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution: “No State shall… pass any… ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…”

To also ignore the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and change laws that protect one group of people is to ignore due process and equal protection of the laws that guarantee contractual agreements. 

It is shameful that a few policymakers are willing to renege on a guaranteed constitutional contract when they are the debtors. It is legally and morally wrong to modify public employees’ contractual rights and benefits prospectively and retroactively when there are legal and ethical ways to address the pension debt problem, such as through pension debt and revenue restructuring. Legal and moral sense dictates that all members of the Illinois General Assembly must align with the U.S. and State Constitutions and sanction the vested rights of its middle-class public employees.

Read the Illinois Supreme Court ruling: docket number 118585, filed on May 8, 2015.

—Glen Brown


What do we know about vouchers and charter schools that Ives, Morrison and Sosnowski will not tell you?

·         Money intended for public schools will go to private schools

·         This money will be in the bank accounts of private investors

·         Voucher proponents prefer selective admission policies that continue the inequality, stratification, and segregation of students (race, religion, and class or income)

·         Voucher proponents “represent the most reactionary elements of our society”

·         Vouchers are not about “saving children” or “improving education.” It is about destroying public education and making profits

·         Vouchers do not increase “Parental choice and control over tax dollars”

·         “Big money” is financing this campaign

·         Voucher advocates are often referred to as “nonpartisan”

·         Koch Brothers, Eli Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and other corporate education reformers are proponents of vouchers and charter schools

·         Private schools have no accountability, especially for children with disabilities 

·         Privatizers do not acknowledge the role of poverty that creates educational disadvantages

·         There are no “reliable data” that prove vouchers and charter schools perform better than public schools; there is evidence to the contrary, however

·         We Ask America poll, commissioned by the Illinois Policy Institute (an organization deeply invested in charter school chains), is questionable

·         There is no separation of church and state in private schools

·         Vouchers have been “declared unconstitutional” in North Carolina and Indiana; other legal debates continue

·         It has been noted there is “rampant fraud and abuse” in many for-profit voucher programs

·         The latest Gallup Poll (2013) found that “70 percent of Americans oppose the use of public funds for religious or private schools”

·         “The Milwaukee voucher schools have never outperformed the public schools on state tests: Read here and here. The only dispute about test scores is whether voucher students are doing the same or worse than their peers in public schools. Read here about some very low-performing schools in Milwaukee that have never been held accountable”

·         “Steve Hinnefeld analyzed Indiana’s growth scores and found that public schools usually showed greater gains than charters or religious schools”

·         “Public school students perform as well as or better than comparable children in private schools” (U.S. Department of Education) Diane Ravitch, Death and Life of the Great American School System)

·         Some charter operators are opened by “hedge-fund managers, for-profit firms, and get-rich-quick schemers” (Ravitch)

·         Some charter schools (of choice) have been under “federal criminal investigation for nepotism, conflicts of interest, and financial mismanagement” (Ravitch)

·         “Enthusiasm for charter schools far outstripped research evidence for their efficacy… Too many promises that are only, at best, weakly supported by evidence” (Ravitch)

·         “The rhetoric of many charter school advocates has come to sound uncannily similar to the rhetoric of voucher proponents and of the most rabid haters of public schooling. They often sound as though they want public schools to fail; they want to convert entire districts to charter schools, each with its own curriculum and methods, each with its own private management, all competing for students and public dollars” (Ravitch)
·      “The charter movement is now part of the growing privatization of public education and Wall Street sees an emerging market.   Take a look at this piece published last fall on ‘…dozens of bankers, hedge fund types and private equity investors…’ gathered to discuss ‘…investing in for-profit education companies…’ There’s a potential gold rush here. Public education from kindergarten through high school pulls in more than $500 billion in taxpayer revenues every year, and crony capitalists and politicians alike are cashing in…” (Bill Moyers). 

Please read Public Schools for Sale? (An Interview with Bill Moyers and Diane Ravitch):Click Here.
—Glen Brown


HB 3160
 Jeanne Ives

Synopsis As Introduced
Creates the Workers Rights Act. Provides that no person shall be required as a condition of obtaining or continuing public-sector or private-sector employment to (1) resign or refrain from membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of, a labor organization; (2) become or remain a member of a labor organization; (3) pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount, or provide anything else of value, to a labor organization; or (4) pay to any charity or other third party an amount equivalent to, or a portion of, dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization. Authorizes a person who suffers an injury or a threatened injury as a result of a violation of the Act to bring a civil action for damages, injunctive relief, or both and, if he or she prevails, to be awarded attorneys' fees and costs. Amends the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act to make conforming changes. Effective immediately.

Re-referred to Rules Committee March 22, 2013

HB 3161 Jeanne Ives

Synopsis As Introduced
Creates the Political Funding Reform Act. Prohibits a public employer from collecting, deducting, or transmitting political funds. Provides that if a person or organization (i) has used as political funds any of the funds collected or deducted for it by any public employer, (ii) has commingled funds collected or deducted by any public employer with political funds, or (iii) has deducted or collected funds from multiple levels of an organization and transmitted those funds to a single recipient who has used those funds as political funds, then, for a period of 2 years, no public employer shall collect, deduct, or assist in the collection or deduction of funds for any purpose for that person or organization. Voids existing contracts and agreements that violate the Act. Makes the provisions of the Act severable. Effective immediately.

Re-referred to Rules Committee March 22, 2013

HB 2689 Jeanne Ives & Tom Morrison

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. Provides that, once an agreement is reached between a public or educational employer and its employees regarding the terms of a collective bargaining agreement, the agreement shall be reduced to writing and published on the website of the public or educational employer. Requires the public or educational employer, not less than 14 days after publishing such an agreement, to hold an open public meeting on the ratification of that agreement. Makes conforming changes in the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. Effective immediately.
Tabled Pursuant to Rule 22 (g) March 20, 2013

HB 182 Jeanne Ives

Synopsis As Introduced
Amends the Open Meetings Act, the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. Eliminates the open meetings exemption for collective bargaining in all three Acts. Effective immediately.
Rule 19(a) Re-referred to Rules Committee March 22, 2013

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Thinking about voting for Daniel Biss in the next Illinois gubernatorial election?

A few of my favorite quotations from political opportunist, Daniel Biss:

“…The debate over Biss' [pension reform] bill seemed to turn on the question of constitutionality because the bill imposed a reduced COLA as well as increased employee contributions and raising the retirement age incrementally for any employee younger than 45. Biss admitted he was ‘pinning his hopes on the fact that the courts would take Illinois' fiscal crisis into account and balance the pension protection language in the Illinois Constitution against the other obligations of state government under the constitution…’” (IASA Capitol Watch, March 20, 2013).

I’m interested in pension reform because the first two years of my service in the Illinois General Assembly were years that followed a very significant tax increase and yet saw extremely deep cuts in discretionary spending to areas of public service that I cared deeply about, the reasons that I entered public service in the first place. The size of our pension payments was so large that if we tried to address our budget problems without looking at pensions, we would be signing ourselves up for deep and never-ending impacts on the rest of state government. I just couldn’t get to a place where that seemed acceptable. I sought out changes to the pension system that ultimately strengthened and preserved it for those who rely on it the most… ” (Daniel Biss, January 2014).

“If you’re close to retirement, moving the retirement age is a lot to ask. If someone is 59 and planning to retire at 60, changing their retirement age is changing their life in a really extreme way. On the other hand, telling someone who’s younger, say 40, just doesn’t seem as much to ask, particularly in a climate where other workers in the private sector are retiring later” (Daniel Biss, January 2014).

“Part of the challenge for a place like Illinois, because we have so much debt, is that an unbelievably large portion of our liability is associated with workers and retirees who are over the age of 60. In other words, the vast majority of our unfunded liability is to retirees. What this means is that changing the retirement age just can’t move the needle significantly enough on the cost side. We were asked, ‘How can you possibly touch retirees?’ but once you realize that two-thirds of our liability is associated with people over the age of 60, it doesn’t seem plausible to make a significant fiscal change while leaving retirees untouched…” (Daniel Biss, January 2014).

"You’ve probably heard me talk about our looming retirement crisis. Half of Illinois' private sector workers — 2.5 million people — lack access to employer sponsored retirement plans. Researchers estimate that nationally our retirement savings deficit is between $6.8 and $14 trillion… This is a huge crisis, approaching us with terrifying speed. If we don’t do something about it, we’ll be facing an epidemic of seniors living in poverty, with horrific human consequences, not to mention huge costs to government. Fortunately, there are common sense ways to address this. That’s why I spent the last two years working to pass the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program in Illinois. It creates an automatic enrollment IRA so that workers without employer sponsored retirement plans still have an easy way to save for retirement using a payroll deduction and benefiting from low fees…” (Daniel Biss, December 2014).

My Commentary to Daniel Biss (December 2014):

One thing we cannot do Daniel Biss “is ignore the Constitution of Illinois… No principle of law permits us to suspend constitutional requirements for economic reasons, no matter how compelling those reasons may seem…” (from Ann B. Jorgensen et al., Appellees, v. Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor, et al., Appellants).]

“[Any] attempt to denigrate the validity of decades of judicial precedents about the binding nature of legislation establishing pension commitments to government employees and to motivate state courts to overturn long-settled premises about these commitments would impose its own, unjustifiable costs. The states and their instrumentalities have promised pension benefits to their employees; those employees have relied on those long-standing promises; and as a result the citizens of the states have benefited from the services provided by those employees. [In short,] there is no sound public policy reason to conclude that these promises – based on the reasonable expectations of the contracting parties – should not be fully protected by the laws prohibiting or limiting the impairment of contracts” (Greenfield, Douglas L., Lahne, Susan G. (2012). How Much Can States Change Existing Retirement Policy? In Defense of State Judicial Decisions Protecting Public Employees’ Pensions. National Council of State Legislatures Legislative Summit).

“[The Pension Protection Clause was approved by the Constitutional Convention and ratified by the people of Illinois. Over the years, the Illinois Supreme Court has had several occasions to interpret the Pension Protection Clause. The Illinois Supreme Court’s decisions have been consistent: ‘[T]his court has consistently invalidated amendments to the Pension Code where the result is to diminish benefits.’ McNamee v. State, 173 Ill. 2d 433, 445 (1996). That is because, under the Pension Protection Clause, the ‘contractual relationship’ between a retirement system member and the State of Illinois is ‘governed by the actual terms of the Pension Code at the time the employee becomes a member of the pension system.’ McNamee, 173 Ill. 2d at 439. 

“[In a strikingly similar context, the Illinois Supreme Court also has warned: ‘No principle of law permits us to suspend constitutional requirements for economic reasons, no matter how compelling those reasons may seem.’” (Jorgensen v. Blagojevich, 211 Ill. 2d 286, 316 (2004) (from the 12-page legal document recently filed by the law firm of Tabet, DiVito & Rothstein on behalf of the plaintiffs named from the IRTA and IASA)].

Your oath of office that you have chosen to ignore, Senator Biss: “Each prospective holder of a State office or other State position created by this Constitution, before taking office, shall take and subscribe to the following oath or affirmation: ‘I do solemnly swear (affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of…to the best of my ability’” (The Constitution of the State of Illinois, Article XIII—Oath or Affirmation of Office, Section 3)].  

Saturday, January 27, 2018

“Trump is violating some of the most fundamental norms of human social interaction and human decency”—Bella DePaulo

“I spent the first two decades of my career as a social scientist studying liars and their lies. I thought I had developed a sense of what to expect from them. Then along came President Donald Trump. His lies are both more frequent and more malicious than ordinary people's.

“In research beginning in the mid-1990s, when I was a professor at the University of Virginia, my colleagues and I asked 77 college students and 70 people from the nearby community to keep diaries of all the lies they told every day for a week. They handed them in to us with no names attached. We calculated participants' rates of lying and categorized each lie as either self-serving (told to advantage the liar or protect the liar from embarrassment, blame or other undesired outcomes) or kind (told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else).
“At The Washington Post, the Fact Checker feature has been tracking every false and misleading claim and flip-flop made by Trump this year. The inclusion of misleading statements and flip-flops is consistent with the definition of lying my colleagues and I gave to our participants: ‘A lie occurs any time you intentionally try to mislead someone.’ In the case of Trump's claims, though, it is possible to ascertain only whether they were false or misleading, and not what the president's intentions were.
“I categorized the most recent 400 lies that The Post had documented through mid-November in the same way my colleagues and I had categorized the lies of the participants in our study. The college students in our research told an average of two lies a day, and the community members told one. (A more recent study of the lies 1,000 U. S. adults told in the previous 24 hours found that people told an average of 1.65 lies per day; the authors noted that 60 percent of the participants said they told no lies at all, while the top 5 percent of liars told nearly half of all the falsehoods in the study.) The most prolific liar among the students told an average of 6.6 lies a day. The biggest liar in the community sample told 4.3 lies in an average day.
“In Trump's first 298 days in office, however, he made 1,628 false or misleading claims or flip-flops, by The Post's tally. That's about six per day, far higher than the average rate in our studies. And of course, reporters have access to only a subset of Trump's false statements — the ones he makes publicly — so unless he never stretches the truth in private, his actual rate of lying is almost certainly higher.
“That rate has been accelerating. Starting in early October, The Post's tracking showed that Trump told a remarkable nine lies a day, outpacing even the biggest liars in our research. But the flood of deceit isn't the most surprising finding about Trump.
“Both the college students and the community members in our study served their own interests with their lies more often than other people's interests. They told lies to try to advantage themselves in the workplace, the marketplace, their personal relationships and just about every other domain of everyday life. For example, a salesperson told a customer that the jeans she was trying on were not too tight, so she could make the sale. The participants also lied to protect themselves psychologically...
“This was not the case for Trump. Close to a quarter of his false statements (24 percent) served several purposes simultaneously. Nearly two-thirds of Trump's lies (65 percent) were self-serving. Examples included: ‘They're big tax cuts — the biggest cuts in the history of our country, actually’ and, about the people who came to see him on a presidential visit to Vietnam last month: ‘They were really lined up in the streets by the tens of thousands.’
“Slightly less than 10 percent of Trump's lies were kind ones, told to advantage, flatter or protect someone else. An example was his statement on Twitter that ‘it is a 'miracle’ how fast the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were able to find the demented shooter and stop him from even more killing!’ In the broadest sense, it is possible to interpret every lie as ultimately self-serving, but I tried to stick to how statements appeared on the surface.
“Trump told 6.6 times as many self-serving lies as kind ones. That's a much higher ratio than we found for our study participants, who told about double the number of self-centered lies compared with kind ones.
“The most stunning way Trump's lies differed from our participants', though, was in their cruelty. An astonishing 50 percent of Trump's lies were hurtful or disparaging. For example, he proclaimed that John Brennan, James Clapper and James Comey, all career intelligence or law enforcement officials, were ‘political hacks.’ He said that ‘the Sloppy Michael Moore Show on Broadway was a TOTAL BOMB and was forced to close.’ He insisted that other ‘countries, they don't put their finest in the lottery system. They put people probably in many cases that they don't want.’ And he claimed that ‘Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities.’
“The Trump lies that could not be coded into just one category were typically told both to belittle others and enhance himself. For example: ‘Senator Bob Corker begged me to endorse him for reelection in Tennessee. I said NO and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).’
“The sheer frequency of Trump's lies appears to be having an effect, and it may not be the one he is going for. A Politico/Morning Consult poll from late October showed that only 35 percent of voters believed that Trump was honest, while 51 percent said he was not honest. (The others said they didn't know or had no opinion.) Results of a Quinnipiac University poll from November were similar: Thirty-seven percent of voters thought Trump was honest, compared with 58 percent who thought he was not.
“For fewer than 40 percent of American voters to see the president as honest is truly remarkable. Most humans, most of the time, believe other people. That's our default setting. Usually, we need a reason to disbelieve.
“Research on the detection of deception consistently documents this ‘truth bias.’ In the typical study, participants observe people making statements and are asked to indicate, each time, whether they think the person is lying or telling the truth. Measuring whether people believe others should be difficult to do accurately, because simply asking the question disrupts the tendency to assume that other people are telling the truth. It gives participants a reason to wonder. And yet, in our statistical summary of more than 200 studies, Charles F. Bond Jr. and I found that participants still believed other people more often than they should have — 58 percent of the time in studies in which only half of the statements were truthful. People are biased toward believing others, even in studies in which they are told explicitly that only half of the statements they will be judging are truths.
“By telling so many lies, and so many that are mean-spirited, Trump is violating some of the most fundamental norms of human social interaction and human decency. Many of the rest of us, in turn, have abandoned a norm of our own — we no longer give Trump the benefit of the doubt that we usually give so readily.”
Washington Post
Bella DePaulo is the author of "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century" and "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After."
For the complete article, click here.
For DSM-IV and DSM-5 Criteria for the Personality Disorders, click here. 


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Morality & Justice

This was a course I designed and taught at Benedictine University for four semesters. For the reasons why my course was discontinued, click here. 

Interdisciplinary Seminar 301: Morality & Justice (2016 - 2017)
3 Credit Hours: Tuesday, Thursday (9:30-10:45am) Birck 002
Instructor: Glen Brown                                      
Office: Kindlon 270  Hours: Tuesday, Thursday 8-9am by apt.

Required Text:               

Shermer, Michael. The Science of Good and Evil. New York: Holt, 2004. ISBN: 978-0-8050-7769-8.
Most of the materials/assignments will be available in the Content folder of D2L

Course Description: When we talk about morality, we are also talking about justice. We are talking about rights, duties, and mutually-agreed principles based on trust. We will explore how and why we should live moral and just lives through an interdisciplinary study of philosophical ethics, social and political psychology, evolutionary biology, and theology to create a framework for an understanding of morality and justice. We will examine and discuss such essential questions as “Why does morality serve an important function in our lives as individuals and in our community? What is the path that maximizes both our own well-being and the well-being of others? What do we claim are moral rights? Is it possible we could arrive at a set of ethical principles that would reconcile self-interest with the common good, promote personal integrity and respect for legitimate rights, and apply to all of us at all times?...”  In this class, we will also discuss problems in ethics through an understanding of several ethical theories: Normative Ethics (Ethical Hedonism, Ethical Pluralism), Meta-ethical Relativism and Subjectivism, Utilitarianism, and Meta-ethical Theories (Naturalism, Intuitionism, and Non-cognitivism), to name just a few. We will also examine historical theories from Greek, medieval, early Modern, 19th century deontological and teleological ethics and their relevance to contemporary ethical thought.

Essential Student Learning Goals for IDS 301-304, Human Dignity/Common Good:

Attainment of the following goals will be measured by students’ participation in discussions and by performance on written analyses.

Information Fluency:
a. Navigate different information formats and media technologies to find pertinent information.
 “Information formats” include traditional print media as well as visual, audio, and digital. This is not a “technology requirement” per se. Media will be chosen as appropriate by programs and faculty.
b. Evaluate sources of information critically to conduct responsible research.

Social Responsibility:
a. Engage ethical problems thoughtfully and actively and contribute to the work of peace and social justice.
b. Understand conflict resolution processes.

Personal Growth:
a. Develop intellectual curiosity and a desire for lifelong learning.

Breadth of Knowledge and Integrative Learning:
b. Recognize relationships among different disciplinary approaches to the study of morality and justice.
c. Integrate learning from different disciplines to illuminate intersecting topics of investigation.
d. Explore connections between classroom knowledge and real world experiences.

Student Outcomes:                                                                    
1)      Understand theoretical knowledge of moral phenomena as a foundation for “practical knowledge about how we ought to live”
2)      Acquire the ability to communicate some general and specific crucial knowledge about good and evil and their relationship to justice
3)      Determine the objective grounds of ethics and show the ability to justify moral beliefs
4)      Make informed ethical decisions that promote personal integrity, the respect for legitimate rights, and the aspirations of individuals and groups, and the common good
5)      Analyze, synthesize, and argue effectively through use of deductive and inductive reasoning
6)      Distinguish between facts and opinions and between relevant and irrelevant claims; determine the factual accuracy of statements and beliefs; detect bias and fallacious reasoning often found in argumentation
7)      Develop a vocabulary used in the philosophy of ethics and morality
8)      Apply rhetorical strategies to appeal to a specific audience: ethos—an appeal to credibility; logos—an appeal to reason; and pathos—an appeal to one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions
9)      Demonstrate an understanding of the writing process by proofreading each essay for errors and omissions of both form and substance; by revising and restructuring where ideas are poorly organized or where evidence is lacking; and by correcting for errors in syntax, usage, punctuation, spelling, and style
10)  Synthesize ideas skillfully through effective organization and emphasis of ideas
11)  Connect ideas logically and clearly through a variety of sentence structures
12)  Develop a complex thesis with thoughtfulness and clarity, using Chicago, MLA, or APA  documentation 
13)  Demonstrate grammatical, syntactical, and stylistic mastery

Classroom Etiquette: As we work together to create a classroom environment that is both conducive to learning and welcoming of all members of the class, students are expected to adhere to appropriate standards of behavior for an academic environment. 

Guidelines for respectful, constructive, and inclusive philosophical discussion by David Chalmers: The guidelines below are intended primarily for oral philosophical discussion in formal settings: colloquia, conferences, seminars, classes, and so on… The specific norms are intended as means of facilitating more general norms of being respectful, constructive, and inclusive…

Norms of respect: 1. Be courteous; 2. Don't interrupt; 3. Don't present objections as flat dismissals (leave open the possibility that there's a response); 4. Don't be incredulous; 5. Don't roll your eyes, make faces, laugh at a participant; 6. Don't start side conversations parallel to the main discussion; 7. Acknowledge your interlocutor's insights; 8. Object to theses, don't object to people…

Norms of inclusiveness: 1. Please don't dominate the discussion; 2. Raise one question per question (follow-ups are OK, but questions on different topics go to the back of the queue); 3. Try not to let your question (or your answer) run on forever; 4. Acknowledge points made by previous questioners; 5. It's OK to ask a question that you think may be unsophisticated or uninformed; 6. Don't use unnecessarily offensive examples…7. Don’t try to impress others… (

Attendance and Participation: Because I believe everyone has something to contribute to our class, I believe that we are all responsible for attending college seminar classes, which are public forums for the exchange of varying beliefs, values, and assumptions. A student’s education is not an isolated and anti-social event. It is a reciprocation of mutual interests and goals. Please take responsibility for your education and learning.  It is a profound opportunity and privilege that many people do not have, and it should never be squandered. Attend our class!  Although I believe that not everything valuable in a class can be assessed through tests, quizzes and essays, or should be; nevertheless, I am not stressing attendance over learning and education. On the contrary, I am emphasizing the values of commitment and the responsibility to that obligation as part of a classroom community of teachers and learners.

Our discussions are dependent upon the contributions of each individual. In any seminar such as our class, a participating audience is indispensable for its success. In this way, we are all participants in one another’s education and opportunity for learning. Thus, partake fully in our seminar discussions. Take notes during discussions and lectures too. They will be valuable for the essays you will write. Note: your ability to articulate your opinions in each class will also determine the difference between borderline grades. Participation in class is an essential requirement for earning an “A” or “B.”  Please understand that if you come to class without your materials and/or reveal that you did not read our assignment, you will be recorded absent.  If you are working on an assignment for another class or surfing the internet on your iPhone or laptop, you will be recorded absent.

Please note that more than four absences (two weeks of classes) will affect your final grade.  Each subsequent absence will lower your final grade one full grade.  If you are seriously ill and a contagion (e.g. you have the flu) or have an emergency, please notify me by e-mail that you will be absent.  It is imperative that you use your absences legitimately and wisely.  Finally, note that three late arrivals (more than five minutes) will also equal one absence.

Technology Requirement: While a laptop can be a useful aide for your education, it can also be a hindrance to discussion.  If you bring a laptop or smart phone to class, please keep them closed unless looking up something specifically related to our discussion. I prefer that you bring paper copies of the essays we are discussing to class.

Grading Guidelines/Rubric: The following descriptions are the basis for evaluation of all student writing and in-class discussions:

The “A” Compositions & Class Discussions are simply outstanding.  They are eloquent, sophisticated, insightful, and emphatic in providing a convincing, arresting argument or reflection that makes your point.  Written and oral discussions juxtapose unlike ideas.  Your analyses are well supported by quotations and paraphrases from the text and from other relevant authors and their claims. The writing and discussions are significant, interesting, supported, informative, penetrating, lucid, original, and surprising. Compositions contain only minor mechanical errors, if any, and no significant lapses in diction or organization.  

The “B” Compositions & Class Discussions do more than fulfill the assignment, though they are not exceptional.  Written and oral discussions of material go beyond a routine response and show evidence of careful thought and planning.  Like the “A” papers, these reflections are also focused, effective, consistently written, and tightly organized.  Moreover, the writing contains no major distracting errors in usage or mechanics and is well developed with good supporting material and transitions.  The writing and discussions are also clear, free of jargon, and appealing.

The “C” Compositions & Class Discussions are acceptable, but they are average responses that complete the assignment in a “routine” way.  In other words, they show evidence of engagement with the topic but make a minimum response to it. The writing contains few distracting errors and few glaring platitude or egregious mistakes in diction.  The reader/listener can follow and understand without difficulty, but the writing and discussions are not vigorous, nor the ideas original and inspiring. [Procrastination is evident].  

The “D” Compositions relate to the assignment but show no evidence of any engagement with the topic.   The writing is marred by enough errors in syntax and mechanics to seriously distract the reader and by vague, ambiguous diction and syntax that make it difficult to understand the content or the direction of the argument.  This reflection may also be a weak because it does not complete the required length or fulfill the requirements of the assignment. [Procrastination is evident].  

The “F” Compositions show little relation to or engagement with the topic.  They show very little thought and are so poorly constructed and carelessly written that the reader/listener cannot follow the sequence of ideas.  Moreover, the paper is marred by so many errors in mechanics and usage that the message is extremely difficult to decipher.  It is evident that these reflections do not complete the required length or fulfill the requirements of the assigned topic. A plagiarized paper, in part or whole, receives an “F” and “0” points.  (See Academic Honesty).

All response essays (and discussions) are also evaluated accordingly:

1.  Content or ideas: their significance, soundness, clarity, development, and relevance to purpose;
2.  Organization (papers only): structure or rhetorical methods used;
3.  Personal style: voice and tone, originality and interest;
4.  Vocabulary and diction: the choice and arrangement of words to convey meaning;
5.  Mechanics (papers only): usage, syntax, punctuation, and spelling.

A 90-100%, B 80-89%, C 70-79%, D 60-69%, F -59% 

Course Requirements & Distribution of Earned Points:

Responses to six selected texts:                                      600 (100 pts. each)
Formal Exam Essay                                                        120

Except for “anomalous circumstances!”

Academic Honesty:  The search for truth and the dissemination of knowledge are the central missions of a university.  Benedictine University pursues these missions in an environment guided by the Roman Catholic tradition and Benedictine heritage.  Integrity and honesty are, therefore, expected of all members of the University community, including students, faculty members, administration, and staff.  Actions such as cheating, plagiarism, collusion, fabrication, forgery, falsification, destruction, multiple submission, solicitation, and misrepresentation are violations of these expectations and constitute unacceptable behavior in the University community.  The penalties for such actions can range from a private verbal warning to expulsion from the University.  Violations will be reported to the Provost, and a permanent record of this infraction will be noted.  The University’s Academic Honesty Policy is available at http:/, and all students are expected to read and understand it.

Plagiarism is defined as the act of stealing ideas and/or the expressions from another person or source and representing them as your own work.  This includes quotations, paraphrasing, and the summarizing of another person’s ideas without proper MLA documentation.  Furthermore, unless you have the explicit permission of the instructor, reusing your own work from other courses is considered self-plagiarism.  Plagiarism is a form of cheating and academic misconduct that can jeopardize your course grade and college career.  Remember to clearly distinguish between your own ideas and those you have read or heard elsewhere.  Be sure to include a works cited page with any paper in which you consult outside sources.  All typed assignments submitted for evaluation will be graded with the assumption that the student has read and understands the plagiarism statements and guidelines. Committing any form of plagiarism will result in a grade of “0” on the assignment in question and is grounds for failure of the course or further action by the University.  If there are any questions or concerns regarding plagiarism and the documentation of sources, it is your responsibility to consult the instructor.  It is required that your formal essay be submitted to D2L plagiarism software (Dropbox in D2L).

Conferences:  You are strongly encouraged to meet with me during my office hours and to discuss your compositions in progress, to receive help with the course material, to address questions and discussions raised in class, or to talk about any other concerns.  

Writing Zone: Besides your Peers who help students in the Writing Zone, the Student Success Center offers tutorial services in writing.  For further information, please visit the Student Success Center in Krasa Center, Room 012. 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): If you have a documented learning, psychological or physical disability, you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations or services.  To request accommodations or services, please contact Michelle Schaefer in the Academic and Career Enrichment Center, Goodwin Hall 214 at 630-829-6041. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements.  The University will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Academic Accommodations for Religious Obligations (AAFRO): A student whose religious obligation conflicts with a course requirement may request an academic accommodation from the instructor.  Students must make such requests in writing by the end of the first week of the class.

The student is responsible for the information in this syllabus and should ask for clarification for anything in this syllabus of which he or she is unsure. Students are expected to be partners in their educational experience and to periodically monitor their progress in the course. Students may check grade status through D2L course site Gradebook. Student grades will be posted in D2L in a reasonable amount of time, usually within one week of turning them in. The Add/Drop Deadline is September 3rd; the Withdrawal Deadline is November 19th.

Directions for your Response Essays:

ü  They are two-four full pages in length, 12-pt., typed, and double-spaced.
ü  Each essay should show a thoughtful response to at least two salient issues raised in the article.
ü  Provide quotations and paraphrasing from the text and substantiate them through your insightful commentary.
ü  Use 3rd person point of view.
ü  Use proper documentation of sources throughout your essay.
ü  Include a works cited page. 
ü  The best essays will use additional, relevant resources besides the assigned article.
ü  Carefully revise and proofread the essay before submitting it for an evaluation.
ü  To enhance your weekly commentaries, look at the Ancillary Questions List in the syllabus, find one or two questions that you believe are also relevant to the essay you are reading and develop an insightful response to them within the body of the essay as well.
ü  Remember: one of the objectives for our class is Information Fluency or the navigation of different information formats and media technologies to find pertinent information.
ü  Read “Grading Guidelines/Rubric” in this syllabus. As with any assignment, avoid plagiarism!  The purpose of these assignments is to begin thinking about the reading for class in order to contribute to our in-class discussions.
Among other objectives (as you develop them in our class) that are also relevant for writing your essays:

ü  Show understanding of theoretical knowledge of moral phenomena as a foundation for “practical knowledge about how we ought to live.”
ü  Show the ability to communicate some general and specific crucial knowledge about good and evil and their relationship to morality and justice.
ü  Determine the objective grounds of ethics and show the ability to justify moral beliefs.
ü  Show the ability to analyze, synthesize, and argue effectively through use of deductive or inductive reasoning.
ü  Show the ability to distinguish between facts and opinions and between relevant and irrelevant claims of the authors we read; detect bias and fallacious reasoning often found in argumentation; determine empirically the factual accuracy of your own statements and beliefs.
ü  Develop and reveal a vocabulary used in the philosophy of ethics and morality based upon class discussions and lectures.

Prompts for Your Six Response Essays:

1. Evil by Lance Morrow: Our attempt to define evil is our attempt to understand evil. 1. How does essayist Lance Morrow define evil? 2. Do you believe evil exists as a force in the universe? In other words, would evil exist without mankind’s existence? Explain. Your evidence or support should include quotations and allusions to the primary text. Include and use at least two secondary sources in your essay. Use either MLA, APA or Chicago style documentation. Include Works Cited.

2. The Perils of Indifference by Elie Wiesel: 1. Do you agree with Nobel Laureate and political activist Elie Wiesel’s extended metaphor definition regarding indifference. Discuss. 2. Do we have a moral responsibility to prevent violence towards another human being? Explain. Consider the relevance of history and your newly acquired understanding of morality thus far when responding to this question. Your evidence or support should include quotations and allusions to the primary text. Include and use at least two secondary sources in your essay. Use either MLA, APA or Chicago style documentation. Include Works Cited.

3. Letter from a Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.: Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) once said: “Jurists, when speaking of rights and claims, distinguish in a legal action the question of right (quid juris) from the question of fact (quid facti); they demand that both be proved. Proof of the former, which has to state the right or the legal claim, they entitle deduction” (Critique of Pure Reason).  Analyze civil rights leader and Baptist minister Martin Luther King’s argumentative effectiveness according to the following questions: 1.What is the difference between moral and legal rights? 2. Can both legal and moral rights be rooted in the same claim? Explain. 3. Furthermore, how do we justify moral principles that are used to validate claims? In other words, how does King hold that people have any sort of “rights,” especially since others would be obligated to guarantee them? Include and use at least two secondary sources in your essay in addition to the primary source. Use either MLA, APA or Chicago style documentation. Include Works Cited.

4. Michael Shermer’s The Science of Good and Evil: Chapters 1 – 2: There are two questions to consider in your essay: 1. According to science writer and historian Michael Shermer, how have we obtained our moral sensibilities? In other words, how does evolution ennoble ethics? 2. Why does morality serve an important function in people’s lives and in their communities? In other words, why are we moral? Provide your own insightful commentary for each question. Use quotations from The Science of Good and Evil to substantiate your proof of argument. Include at least two secondary sources in your essay. You might consider using Steven Pinker’s “The Moral Instinct” and Edward Wilson’s “The Biological Basis of Morality.”

5. Michael Shermer’s The Science of Good and Evil: Chapters 3 – 4: There are two questions to consider in your essay: 1. Why are we “immoral”? In other words, in light of the evidence Shermer provides, that “violence, aggression, and warfare are part of the behavioral repertoire of most primate species,” is it truly “in the heart of every human” to commit “evil deeds”? Discuss. 2. Is it critical for us to believe in free will in order to sustain moral behavior and our sense of responsibility for our actions? Provide your own insightful commentary for each question. Use quotations from The Science of Good and Evil to substantiate your proof of argument. Include at least two secondary sources in your essay. You might consider using Steven Pinker’s “The Moral Instinct” and Edward Wilson’s “The Biological Basis of Morality” and/or Lance Morrow’s “Evil” in your commentary.

6. Michael Shermer’s The Science of Good and Evil: Chapters 5 – 7: There are three questions to consider in your essay: 1. “Is a belief in God necessary to right the wrongs of immoral behavior?” In other words, “can we be good without God?” 2. What does Shermer mean by provisional morality and justice? 3. Examine and discuss the following notions by Shermer: “Ask,” “Happiness,” and “Liberty” principles and whether they are effective ways to address the dilemma of knowing “right from wrong.” Provide your own insightful commentary for each question. Use quotations from The Science of Good and Evil to substantiate your proof of argument. Include at least two secondary sources in your essay.

Directions for your Formal Exam Essay:

Research and develop an insightful response to one of the five following questions:

1. Is there any such method of ethical reasoning that can be expected in principle to show, when there is a conflict of values or ethical principles, that one and only one solution is correct in some important and relevant sense of the word ‘correct’?

2. Is it possible we could arrive at a set of ethical principles that would reconcile self-interest with the common good, promote personal integrity and respect for legitimate rights, and apply to all of us at all times?

3. Is it unreasonable to require the wealthy to sacrifice the freedom to meet some of their luxury desires so that the poor can have the liberty to meet their basic needs?

4. Can we meaningfully speak of future generations as having rights against us or of our having corresponding obligations to them?

5. Your Choice (with Approval).

Your essay should be typed, double-spaced, 12 point, and 4-5 pages in length. There should be at least five scholarly sources, each cited more than once in the essay and properly documented (using MLA, APA, or Chicago documentation styles).  It is required that your essay be submitted to D2L plagiarism software (Dropbox) to obtain credit. Please remember: Late papers are not accepted!

It is expected that you will also allude to any of the following theories and/or concepts that you may find relevant in the development of your essay: Ethical naturalism, ethical objectivism, ethical relativism, ethical subjectivism, teleological ethics, deontological ethics, egoism and altruism, utilitarianism, intuitionism, existentialism, linguistic non-cognitivism, emotive ethics, normative ethics, meta-ethics…

Aug. 29            Welcome to Our Class on Morality & Justice
Assignment for next class: please read Plato’s “Crito” (access dialogue in Content on D2L); be prepared to discuss the dialogue.

Aug. 31            Plato: “Crito,” Greek Ethics (Lecture/Discussion): Socrates, Plato, Aristotle (Virtue Ethics, Normative Ethics, and Deontological Ethics)

Sept. 5             Plato: “Crito,” continued
Steven Pinker. “The Moral Instinct” (access article in Content on D2L)

Sept. 7             Steven Pinker. “The Moral Instinct” continued

Sept. 12           Roger Shattuck. “When Evil Is Cool” (access article in Content D2L)

Sept. 14       Medieval Ethics (Lecture/Discussion): Aquinas, Augustine
First writing assignment for next class: Read and write a response to “Evil” (read prompt); be prepared to discuss the essay.

Sept. 19           Lance Morrow. “Evil” (access article in Content on D2L) 1st Essay Response Due

Sept. 21           Early Modern Ethics (Lecture/Discussion): Thomas Hobbes (Ethical Egoism, Ethical Naturalism, and Subjectivism); Problems in Ethics: Normative Ethics (Ethical Hedonism, Ethical Pluralism)
“Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem” (handout)  

Sept. 26     Erich Fromm. “Disobedience as a Psychological and Moral Problem”

Sept. 28           Early Modern Ethics (Lecture/Discussion): David Hume (Relativism & Subjectivism), Immanuel Kant (Deontology); Second writing assignment for next class: Read and write a response to “The Perils of Indifference” (read prompt); be prepared to discuss the speech.
Oct. 3              Moral Reasoning and Indifference/ Elie Wiesel. “The Perils of Indifference” (access speech in Content on D2L) 2nd Essay Response Due “The Perils of Obedience” (handout)  

Oct. 5              Stanley Milgram. “The Perils of Obedience” and Philip Zimbardo. “The Stanford Prison Experiment”

Oct. 10            (TBA)

Oct. 12            19th Century Ethics (Lecture/Discussion): Jeremy Bentham, J.S. Mill (Utilitarianism); Problems in Ethics: Meta-ethical Theories (Naturalism, Intuitionism, Non-cognitivism) Third writing assignment for next class: Read and write a response to “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (read prompt); be prepared to discuss the letter.

Oct. 17            Moral Reasoning and Racism/ Martin Luther King’s Argumentative technique: “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” (access letter in Content on D2L) 3rd Essay Response Due  

Oct. 19            Moral Reasoning and Racism/ Martin Luther King. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” cont.

Oct. 24            Address by Cesar Chavez, President of the United Farm Workers of America, March 1989 (access address in News Item Link on D2L)

Oct. 26            Edward Wilson. “The Biological Basis of Morality” (access article in Content on D2L)

Oct. 31            Edward Wilson. “The Biological Basis of Morality” Fourth writing assignment for next class: Read and write a response for the first two chapters of the Shermer’s book (read prompt).

Nov. 2             Shermer, Michael. The Science of Good and Evil:  Prologue, Chaps. 1 – 2 4th Essay Response Due 

Nov. 7             The Science of Good and Evil:  Chap. 3

Nov. 9             The Science of Good and Evil: Chap. 4 Fifth writing assignment for next class: Read and write a response for chapters 3-4 of Shermer’s book (read prompt).

Nov. 14           The Science of Good and Evil: Chaps. 5/ 5th Essay Response Due
Nov. 16           The Science of Good and Evil: Chaps. 6

Nov. 21           The Science of Good and Evil: Chap. 7 Sixth writing assignment for next class: Read and write a response for chapters 5-7 of Shermer’s book (read prompt).

Nov. 28           The Science of Good and Evil: Chap. 8/ 6th Essay Response Due “On the Morality of War: A Preliminary Inquiry” (handout)

Nov. 30           Morality of War/ Nationalism/ “Just War Theory”

Dec. 5              Illinois Politics v. Ethics

Dec. 7              Formal Essay Due/ Discussion of Your Essays
Final Exams: Dec. 11-15