Questionable character

It is easy to embrace pessimism when Suntan University seems to boast an abundance of dumb rules, moral repugnance, and unsung heroes.

After all, unfairness is nothing new to the world.

However, the consequences of mass indifference to injustice should alarm you.

Especially since our world is characterized by an unprecedented combination of sheer materialism, global poverty, unending violence, and anomalously free-floating chunks of Antarctica.

Academic dishonesty may seem disconnectedly trivial when compared to the foregoing phenomena, but I contend that morally bankrupt individuals unwittingly contribute to the ills of the world, as drops of sludge contribute to the contents of septic tanks.

Little good will come out of the well-publicized summertime suspension of a plagiarist so long as most students are woefully deprived of a thorough grounding in ethics.

Until kids of all ages are consistently made aware of the practical importance of morality, breaches of that august institution will continue to induce in most people either a brief sigh or a dispassionate yawn.

Collective yawning is partly to blame for the ills of society.

Some public elementary schools whose sites I visited on the Internet appear to have instituted character education programs, emphasizing honesty, self-discipline, and other similarly unobjectionable values.

Considering that many children come from homes that are devoid of role models (by which I mean “people of character”), the idea of secular character education seems at least intuitively promising. Maybe the next batch of college students will include fewer cheaters.

At issue is the kind of world we wish to live in. Courses in theoretical ethics belong to philosophy departments, but elements of practical morality ought to be inseparable from all other disciplines, including athletics.

By the way, if an honor council’s decision is ever overruled pursuant to the unwritten rule upholding the subordination of academics to athletics, then the relevant appeals committee obviously does not act impartially.

I naively imagine such a thing as an athlete-statesman: Someone who is of unquestionable integrity, who is both a scholar and a competitor, and who is equally adept at football and the classics.

I challenge this university to produce a team comprised of such individuals. Never mind that such a prospect seems unrealistic. The caliber of unsung scholars at the University of Miami is abundantly sufficient to help produce such a team, if only the administration and student body would enthusiastically pursue this noble end.

Is this asking too much?

Raj Singh is a junior majoring in philosophy.

March 26, 2002


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