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Ethics of Meritocracy in Education and The American Dream: “Why I Hate School but Love Education”

As a millennial and current college student, I understand the struggle of endless nights in the library, clinging to your coffee, dreaming about sleep, and wondering “what is all of this studying worth?”  While what you are studying is well worth something, what you are studying for (i.e. an exam) may not seem to be. The problem in today’s society is that our intellectual growth is largely measured by exams and grades that are supposed to reveal our academic worth.  Is it possible that we are no longer studying for the pursuit of knowledge, but rather to earn passing marks and receive a degree that ‘qualifies’ us to fulfill a certain career?  Has our education system become so institutionalized that it is now a meritocracy of grades with little regard to the humanity that comes with acquiring new knowledge? If so, what are the moral implications?

YouTuber and Spoken Word artist Suli Breaks spurred my interest in this idea with his videos “Why I Hate School but Love Education” and “American’t Dream.” In the first video, he details the flaws of the current education system by acknowledging the misled emphasis that society places on education – that society says we need an education to get a job, that education equals success, and to become successful you must pass exams.  Breaks argues that education is much richer and satisfying than what society has created it to be, and we should take a step back and examine what a true education is versus what we currently receive in school.

In his second video, Mr. Breaks questions his audience on why they are actually working. He recounts the industrial revolution and how the consequences of advancing technologically have redefined how we work for a living. He recalls, “the industrial revolution was beneficial technologically, but it coerced a lot of people into factories for ridiculous salaries to benefit their families, and that shaped people’s mentalities exponentially, and essentially it became the norm.” Mr. Breaks paints a Marxist criticism of capitalism in today’s society as he urges us to “not become a slave to a paycheck.”  He ultimately defines the “American’t Dream” to represent “the ideal of people striving for success by working an unsatisfactory job, rather than a fulfilling career that feeds into their own success or passion. It propagates that rather than chasing the ‘American Dream’ they are chasing the ‘American’t Dream’ by allowing their own dream to be stifled by another person.”

This notion of grades equating to merit lacks the capability to measure the true potential and talent of an individual. So why do we still use them as standard of merit? It is easy to say that there needs to be some set standard by which we measure merit in order to compare one another. This had led to the development of standardized testing that supposedly puts everyone on an equal playing field. But what happens when those who are playing on this “equal” field are not actually equal? What happens when a student’s GPA or test score does not represent the potential of that individual, simply because of their socioeconomic disadvantages? This is where our system is flawed.  This student becomes automatically denied of a range of opportunities simply because he or she fell short of the standard bar that we set for merit. So then, how does this affect our society and does our society provide a fair place for these people? Will it ever be possible for these people to move up the economic ladder and prevail despite the adversities that social mobility places?

Are we living in an age of the American’t Dream?  Could it be that our society is structured in a way that prevents some from succeeding while giving others the upper hand? If so, is it ethically sound for us to simply be bystanders to this problem? The systematic method we have for marginalizing our youth should not impress blame upon them for what our system has done. It is our prima facie duty to ensure that we, as millennials, put forth the effort to stand up against the cyclical injustice of education, poverty, and lack of social mobility that have resulted from the facade of the American Dream.

Are Legal Study Drugs still an Ethical Issue?

The rampant use of study drugs on college campuses has been the cause of extensive debate for some time now. It has become increasingly easy to acquire a prescription, and to then sell it cheaply to other students. Study drugs such as Adderall and Vyvanse have become hard to regulate and as a result, the industry has become largely student-run. Because it has become so easy to access certain study drugs, the ethics of this issue do not lie in its legality, but rather in its affordability and effects.

One of the greatest arguments against the widespread use of study drugs is the unfair advantage that those with higher economic statuses enjoy because they can afford to illegally buy the drugs and/or they have a greater chance of acquiring a prescription from a private family doctor, for instance. Money greatly unevens the playing field by making the study drugs more accessible to some than others. This angers many people who claim that those that can afford to acquire performance enhancers in any way also already have a better chance of being accepted into their college of choice, so they’re in fact two steps ahead rather than just one. Additionally, those who are willing to experiment with “mind-altering” drugs are also much more likely to take them and benefit from them than those that choose to be responsible, or can’t take them due to health risks.

The issue of cheating is also a big concern because rather than putting in time, effort, and dedication to finish an assignment, one can just take the pill, sit down, and power through. In a society where hard work is highly regarded, the option to achieve the result without really earning it is appalling to some. But the race for college acceptances and scholarships has become so competitive that for some it’s unrealistic to attempt to finish all their work and do it well without aid. But don’t tutors also increase one’s performance at an even higher cost than most study drugs? And what about the SAT prep classes that can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand dollars? If the issue is that some are able to afford performance enhancers and some aren’t, then doesn’t this issue spread beyond prescription pills to tutoring and access to technology?

An interesting counter to these arguments is the claim that Adderall actually helps level the playing field. By doing away with procrastination and distraction, the students are left with their best study selves. If everyone in a room took the same drug in comparable doses according to their neurochemistry, then after taking the drugs, those that still excel past others are doing so because they are ultimately more intelligent or more capable in that area than everyone else. One is not “altered” on the drug, and so is not capable of doing something while using the drug that they are incapable of while not using the drug, sans being able to focus.

A new, legal study drug called Neurofuse has recently hit the market and offers all the benefits of Adderall but with naturals ingredients. The legality of the supplement and its low cost make it much more accessible to all, and it claims to also diminish any health risks posed by Adderall because it does not increase your heart rate. Is this a more ethical option than the abuse of study drugs? While checking the boxes of safety and accessibility, Neurofuse still offers a great advantage to those willing to try it who are not afraid of the risks a new drug can pose to one’s health.

Which argument do you agree with? Does Neurofuse offer all the benefits of Adderall but in an ethical manner? And is Neurofuse the equivalent of an energy drink or is it just as unethical as the illegal use of prescribed study drugs?

The Deterioration of TV News

This Guest Author post by Dr. Jeff McCall was originally published in The Indy Star on April 24, 2015.

NBC’s high-profile anchor, Brian Williams, has been suspended for telling tall tales. ABC’s highest-profile news personality, Diane Sawyer, has gone super-hype with her two-hour, prime-time interview of Bruce Jenner. CNN has redefined news to include travel and cooking shows, and multi-hour reports on marijuana. Reporters sprint like groupies to catch up with Hillary Clinton’s van in a remote part of Iowa, even though the presidential election is still 18 months away.

Somewhere, Edward R. Murrow is saying, “I warned you this would happen.”

This month (April 27) marks 50 years since the godfather of broadcast news died. Murrow is often considered the standard setter for professionalism in electronic news. Murrow’s influence is remarkable, given that he spent little time in administration at CBS, and he was never a lead anchor for radio or television. Still, he established himself as the model for how to use audio and video to report real news. His reports from London in World War II riveted the nation. His prime-time television documentaries in the 1950s took on the tough issues of the day, including McCarthyism.

He identified and hired dedicated reporters who reflected his passion and dedication to serving the public interest. He hired intellects who could think critically and fearlessly. His World War II hires for CBS – Eric Sevareid, Charles Collingwood, Howard K. Smith, Richard C. Hottelet and others – became known as the Murrow Boys. Collingwood and Smith were Rhodes Scholars. All were seasoned reporters hired away from major wire services or newspapers.

He told CBS executives he was hiring reporters, not merely announcers. After the war, Murrow was put in charge of CBS News, and he hired Walter Cronkite, Daniel Schorr and Robert Pierpoint. One must wonder if any of the Murrow Boys could get hired in the glamorama that is television news today.

Murrow’s visionary speech in 1958 to the Radio Television News Directors Association warned of the growing influence of corporate power in news reporting. He said the public interest could not be served when news was only “a commodity” to be sold for advertisers. He said electronic news was “an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news.” Journalism has been the loser in this combination ever since.

Broadcast news in the Murrow era was not a profit center for the networks, nor was it intended to be. His prime-time documentaries were produced at a financial deficit for CBS, but Murrow’s clout got them produced anyway. That would be unthinkable today. Imagine how the quality of television news could be improved if Disney, the parent company of ABC, steered the profits of ABC News back into the news division to underwrite real journalism. The mega media giant Comcast can surely afford to use some of NBC’s news profits to better serve the information needs of the nation.

What exists now in television news is a lowest-common-denominator approach in which serious journalism is too often absent. Morning news shows produced by network news divisions are journalistically vacuous. At ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the anchor lineup includes a former sportscaster, retired football player, partisan political operative, weather ornament and super-excited pop culture observer who can’t stop laughing. Murrow hires these are not.

Murrow was not perfect. He caved for a time and did prime-time personality interviews. He was an inefficient administrator in the CBS corporate office and got out of those duties quickly. After leaving CBS in the early 1960s, he abandoned objective journalism, going to work for the Kennedy administration as head of the U.S. Information Agency, the organization charged with getting America’s spin on the news distributed around the world. He was a chain smoker and died from cancer at age 57.

Beyond his war reporting, hiring practices or documentaries, Murrow’s greatest contribution to the electronic news industry was a moral compass. His grounded view of the world was gained through blue-collar work as a youth in logging camps in the American northwest. He insisted that journalism be based on facts and that those facts be analyzed with fairness. He knew then that the speed of communication often led to the distribution of false information.

Fifty years after his death, the electronic news industry has no person or organization that can provide a professional conscience as Murrow once did. The nation suffers for this lack.

Ethical Dilemma: Iran’s “Signing Bonus”

Photograph of a group of diverse DePauw University students who make up the current Hillman intern cohort

There has been much debate recently over the potential Iran nuclear deal. The US and Iran have a long and complicated history and this diplomatic move is certainly a continuation of this. For more info on the deal itself and the potential benefits and consequences, take a look at this Prindle Post article on the subject. The topic being addressed in this post goes a little bit beyond the deal itself, but it helps to have a good idea of what is going on. Recently, there was a Wall Street Journal article, which has spawned a great deal of speculation about a possible “signing bonus” that has been offered up if Iran agrees to the deal.

Just like in professional sports, this would be a “bonus” given to Iran, on top of the lifting of the strict economic sanctions the country is currently under in the form of $50 billion, a pretty big deal to a country with a GDP of only $406 billion. Those people who disagree with the current Iran deal in the first place are obviously very unhappy about the possibility of this happening. However, even for those who fully agree with the deal, there is a moral issue involved. First off, Iran is designated by the US as a “terrorist state” meaning that they have “repeatedly provided support for international acts of terrorism,” which is one of the reasons they are economically sanctioned, and why we are so concerned about their potential of becoming a nuclear power in the first place?

So it isn’t a stretch that the signing bonus, in addition to aiding the struggling economy and providing aid to impoverished Iranians, might be used to fund terrorism. Ironically enough, terrorism is what we are trying to prevent. Other people may have qualms simply because acts like this look suspiciously like bribery, which invokes a host of negative connotations. Those who support this action believe that the ends justify the means, and that striking a historic deal between these two opposing countries could keep a nuclear weapon out of the hands of terrorists, prevent a war between Iran and Israel, and in the long term would do more good for the world than doing nothing would.

Is pursuing the Iran deal the right thing to do? Are “signing bonuses” (or bribery, for that matter) sometimes ethical when the stakes are high? If the US gives Iran the $50 billion, and Iran later performs or bankrolls an act of terrorism, are we culpable? Vice versa: if we don’t offer the bonus, and there is more hostility between the US/Iran, and Iran finally does develop a nuclear weapon and uses it, are we partially to blame? What do you think?

The Present Status of Genetic Engineering

The term “designer babies” is becoming more and more common around the world today as genetic engineering continues to revolutionize how we think about human development.  China has some of the most in depth research on genetic engineering, which is putting its researchers under scrutiny from those who question the ethical implications of this field of study.  As genetic engineering becomes increasingly realistic and practical for the population at large, important concerns must be addressed about the ethical soundness of these practices.

Even as genetic engineering continues to develop, the costs associated with these types of procedures are very high and daunting for many people.  One of the main arguments against this research is that only the wealthiest individuals will be able to afford to have their potential children genetically modified in whichever way they choose.  These modifications vary widely and at this point are unclear in the particular effects they would have on children.  Sarah Knapton discusses China’s developing research on genetically engineered embryos and what implications would come along with the practicality of these procedures in her recent article for The Telegraph.  The research presented in this article was on the genetic modifications made in order to combat the fatal blood disorder thalassaemia.  As research continues to create more advanced and effective modes of genetic alteration, these modifications could help fight many types of diseases and disorders.  It could also make “designer babies” more realistic and confirm critics’ concerns about the ethical soundness of this issue.

With the correct genetic modifications, parents could potentially create their own unique and specialized children based on their own preferences.   Because these changes are happening at the embryonic level, the changes made would be passed down through family lines, creating potential complications and concerns for future generations.  The genetic modification technique used in the study discussed by Knapton created many unintentional mutations that could be potentially harmful to the individual’s development.  Because of these complications, many argue that this research should be stopped until a general consensus is reached about the safety and ethical implications that would come with the use of this technique.

Is genetic engineering an ethically sound field of study in which research should continue to be done?  How might researchers go about finding ways to make genetic modifications more ethical and safe?

Obama, Drones, and Hostages

On Thursday, President Obama announced that a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed one American and one Italian hostage in January. Both men were aid workers who had been held captive for a couple of years. Mr. Obama took the blame for the deaths as commander in chief, but officials stated that they did not know the hostages were present when the attacks were carried out on the al-Qaeda compound. Another American citizen, an al-Qaeda senior ranking member, was killed the same attack, and another American citizen in the senior ranks of the organization was killed in a separate attack in the same region. Officials also did not know of the presence of either American citizens at the targeted sites, and the accuracy of drone strikes is only as good as the accuracy of the intelligence. The information had remained classified until Mr. Obama ordered it to go public; Mr. Obama also has launched an investigation into the deaths of the hostages.

These killings raise numerous ethical concerns. While I have written about the ethics of drone strikes before, this specific instance raises some other concerns. Should the United States conduct drone strikes when there is the potential for hostages? Even though officials have claimed that bad intelligence resulted in their deaths, which may well be true, should the government assure with 100% certainty that no innocents are present before conducting drone strikes? Is it right to then keep the information classified from families for four months? Another angle is whether or not American citizens being involved in terrorist activities gives the United States license to kill them in drone strikes – intentional targets or not – without due process. While their alleged crimes certainly open them up to that type of retaliation, is it an ethical act of the state? There have been concerns and critiques about the Obama administration’s drone and counterterrorism policy for years, but does the accidental death of these hostages show that a policy reevaluation or shift is in order?


Discovering Biotecture: What are Earthships and Why Should We Care?

This post was written by Ayo Animashaun, a 2014 graduate of DePauw University. Ayo was an Economics major, Management Fellow, and Bonner Scholar. This article details his post-grad experience integrating sustainability and business with Earthships Biotecture Academy as well as his ambitions to bring the Earthship model to his home country of Ghana.

Graduating presented me with the opportunity to pursue ideologies that I had been obsessing over since the first semester of my senior year. A few months after graduation, I was accepted into Earthship Biotecture Academy in Taos, New Mexico. Earthships are radically sustainable buildings that were thought up by Michael Reynolds in the 1970s, and perfected in the last decade. Earthship design hinges on 6 principles: 1) Thermal/Solar Heating & Cooling; 2) Solar & Wind Electricity; 3) Contained Sewage; 4) Building with natural & recycled materials; 5)Water Harvesting; 6) Food Production.  Essentially what you find with Earthships is the personification of a man-made ecosystem, with closed loop energy and material cycles, minimal waste, and sustainability in the long term. The principles come together into a home that takes care of its off-grid inhabitants indefinitely without any utility bills or reliance on the grid.

The possibility of learning how to build an eternal off-grid house with all modern conveniences initially drew me to this esoteric knowledge hidden in the Taos desert mesa plateau 7,500 feet above sea level. My academy session was  six weeks long with eight hour days split evenly in the classroom and on the construction site. During this time, I was able to learn more about the Earthship design principles, philosophy, history, and systems. I decided after the academy to volunteer with the construction crew at Earthship Biotecture and learned everything from installing a roof, framing a greenhouse, stonework finishes, plastering, tiling, electrical wiring layout, and installing a greywater planter during the eight months I spent volunteering. I learnt enough to actually get paid doing some sidework for an African-American family building their very own Earthship 12 miles away from the biotecture headquarters. I had no construction experience prior to enrolling at the academy.

Although I can now confidently say that I have enough experience to enable me to build my very own off-grid Earthship-inspired house, I came away from the experience learning more than that. I came away learning more about sustainable living than the buildings themselves. Living in an Earthship is astoundingly serene, and also makes you quite observant and aware about being a burden to your immediate surroundings. For instance, the south-facing greenhouse in the front of earthships not only keeps the building warm as a passive solar home, but also helps you grow food. The food grown in the greenhouse is cultivated in a greywater planter bed which basically sits in your waste water from the shower and faucets. Whatever waste water that isn’t absorbed by plants, is then pumped back into your toilets to avoid using fresh water to flush your toilet. Unlike in modern architecture, this biotecture reminds you of the intimate relationship humans should have with plants. In order to be able to eat the produce you grow in a greywater planter bed, you have to become more conscious about what you put down the drain, the cleaning/hygiene products you use, and even the food/medicine you put in your body. This is largely because the energy the human body wastes in an Earthship is immediately passed down to the plant. Also on the isolated desert mesa you become conscious about your trash. We often repurpose aluminum cans, cardboard, and glass bottles for building, and are less likely to use plastic bags.

During my time at the Earthship headquarters, I met some amazing people from all over the world doing incredible things to change and challenge norms in their parts of the world. Learning from all these people empowered me to share the knowledge I had gained about biotecture with people back home in Ghana. As a result, I will be moving back home this summer not only to share my knowledge, but also to re-learn sustainable practices in more rural parts of Ghana and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. I also have a prototype roof design that I am developing that would help existing homes in what I call Middle Earth (15°0′N to 15°0′S) be cooler, and more comfortable. The roof design will inevitably reduce the need for energy consuming fans and air conditioners. After graduating, I have found that I’m dedicated not only to cultivation of intellect, and the continual pursuit of knowledge, but also to helping others learn about how they can live more sustainably. Although I haven’t used my Economics degree in a conventional sense, I hope to make an impact where it’s need. I’m really excited about the work I’m involved with now and what is to come in the future. I hope to keep finding inspiration in unusual places. This summer I will be an instructor and particpant for a rammed earth workshop in Abetenim in Kumasi, Ghana. We will be leveraging pre-existing knowledge about earth building in the local village from local craftsmen and natural resources such as laterite and bamboo for the build. As a proud DePauw alum, I would love to see some DePauw input in this exciting project. Hopefully some cool students have an interest in volunteering.

Click here to contribute to Ayo’s Kickstarter campaign.

Ethics in 5: Printerns on Advertising Ethics

Every week, the Prindle Intern team weighs in on an ethical issue together. Each intern is challenged to keep their response to five sentences – Ethics in 5. Click on an intern’s name to check out their previous posts on The Prindle Post!
This week’s question: Advertising
Advertising is frequently in the ethical hotseat. From body shaming to false information to glorification, producers often go about getting customers in a way many consider unethical. Recently, the use of an AI bot to advertise the movie Ex Machina was used on Tinder (making matches with people and asking them questions, and eventually linking them to an instagram advertising the movie) stirred up controversy (here). Many said this manipulated people’s emotions. Another ongoing debate in the advertising world is the use of photoshop to change the images presented to consumers. The photos are unrealistic at times, making consumers think they should look a way that is almost impossible and unrealistic. This also manipulates people’s emotions to get them to purchase certain products. Is it ever ethical to manipulate emotions in advertising? Is there a way to ethically advertise?
Corby Burger: Emotional manipulation permeates human relationships, so to call it outright unethical would be to lessen the normative weight that comes along with stigmatizing an action as truly unethical. In the case of the Ex Machina, advertisement, neither the magnitude of the emotional control on the part of the AI system nor the intentions of the marketing team warrants labeling this clever stunt as unethical. However, in utilizing Photoshop to break through the limits of aesthetic human “perfection,” there is an argument to be made that this is unethical in that the practitioners of these marketing techniques know that these sorts of images have negative effects on the psychological and physical health of the audience they are seeking to impact; yet they continue to unrealistically sensualize images through Photoshop. Now, what if the AI system was to continue its charade to a point where the subsequent emotional injuries were impactful enough to warrant calling them unethical. Would the moral responsibility fall on the creators of the device or the machine itself?
Natalie WeilandtYes, there are ways to ethically advertise because emotional manipulation (including that through advertising) isn’t inherently unethical. Everything is emotional manipulation: art, teaching, business…even simple conversations. It becomes unethical when advertisers are aware of the adverse effects that their actions have on people. We cannot change the fact that advertisers will always chase money (it’s their job, and this is a capitalist society), and they’ll find ways to do it in increasingly deceptive ways, especially given the rate at which technology presents new creative opportunities. All we can do is regulate and educate: if people expect advertisers to have evolving technology-enabled capabilities, the adverse psychological and sociological effects of their manipulation– like those displayed in the Ex Machina case– won’t be as severe or common.
Rachel HanebuttAdvertising has become the ultimate forum for deception, especially when tied to a profit. As consumers, we make active choices to buy into and accept this type of marketing strategy, therefore, it is not inherently wrong for companies to use various advertising strategies to their advantage. In regards to Ex Machina’s trickster account on Tinder, it seems like this advertisement has gone too far, however, if we are going to hold glorified ads accountable, we need to hold consumers to the same accountability. Some call Ex Machina’s sexy robot deception; I call it strategic marketing.
Amy Brown: I don’t find emotional manipulation inherently unethical, but it can certainly become unethical if taken too far. Using an ad to manipulate someone’s emotions into saying that they want to buy that makeup look or clothes, or go eat at a certain restaurant isn’t inherently bad; it becomes bad when emotions are manipulated to make someone feel extremely bad about themselves and distort perceptions in the long-term, like with unrealistic beauty expectations that stem from photoshop. It may be a stretch to call that inherently unethical, it I think that it does toe the line. If advertising manipulates emotion for positive long-term change, like an actual healthy lifestyle or such, then the manipulation may not be as unethical or wrong.
Noelle WitwerAlthough I can understand why Tinder users might have felt dismayed, betrayed, or simply annoyed when they discovered that Ava was not a real person but rather an advertising bot for a new movie, I do not think this use of deception in advertising is unethical. The type of deception used was similar to a plot twist in a novel, a surprising punch line to a joke, or the unexpected language of satire–in all of these examples, people use deception as a tool to bring attention to something and to  impact the deceived. And, in all of these examples, the range of emotions felt when the deception is revealed can be variable depending on the consumer. Deception becomes unethical in advertising when we are deceived about the nature or effectiveness of the product that is being advertised. Emotional manipulation in advertising is unethical when, as Corby mentioned, the advertisements leave a harmful negative psychological impact on the viewer and those designing advertisements are aware of this effect.
Caroline ZadinaAdvertising that appeals to the emotion of consumers is not inherently unethical from my point of view. However, advertisment that psychologically harms a person is unethical, which Amy alludes to above. The goal of advertisement is to attract, entice, and lure people in, which is only possible by pinpointing clever avenues to connect with consumers. While this example from, Tinder is definitely a new “attempt” at this made possible with our ever expanding technological world, I think that as a society we need to be more aware and cognizant of advertising and the motive behind it, in order to protect ourselves. Advertising is not going away anytime soon, and while we can not directly control what reaches us, we can control what we let in and attend to.
Cheney Hagerup: The use of Tinder in advertising Ex Machina draws me back to the movie, Her, in which the protagonist falls in love with a mechanized female persona, as transmitted through an app he downloaded. Both of these scenarios suggest an ever-increasing societal dependence on technology for social interaction in place of human interaction. I think that the advertisement exploits this dependence in a conscious effort to create controversy and, consequentially, publicity for the film. The advertisement, likewise, makes us all uncomfortably aware of this dependence, sparking important discussions.
Conner Gordon:  While the idea of emotional manipulation is a scary one, I don’t see it as being inherently wrong. One could say that a protest manipulates emotions to motivate onlookers and make a positive change, for example. The distinction between ethical and unethical emotional manipulation, then, would be the means and consequences of such manipulation. This is particularly relevant for the body image example, as it uses deceitful standards that create real, long-term emotional and physical damage for many viewers. The example of the Tinder bot is more complicated, since it is deceitful and produces negative emotions, but also creates these emotions for artistic effect (in this case, as a tie-in to the themes of the film), and ultimately operates on revealing its own deception.
Eleanor PriceAs Conner, Amy, and Corby have said, I don’t think I can say emotional manipulation in and of itself is inherently wrong — to call all forms of it wrong would then lead to whether literature, music, or any art  that one finds affecting is also unethical. However, intentionally stirring negative emotions within people to coerce them to buy a product (see a movie, donate money, etc) is unfair to those possible consumers, and the source of that discomfort can be traced to the creators of the advertisement. It seems unethical to me to deliberately cause such a drastic reaction in potential consumers.
How do you feel about this week’s question? Have something you want to share with an intern or a question about their stance? Leave a comment below on what you think of advertising ethics!

Cultural Appropriation in Entertainment

Cultural appropriation is when a dominant group adapts the customs of a minority group and tries to trademark them as their own in an effort to be edgy and/or to use them to propagate stereotypes about that minority group. A popular example of this is Miley Cyrus’s infamous use of the dance style “twerking”, which has origins in many traditional African dances but is now commercialized to be part of her image. Because of this, it is now popularly conceived to be sexual, “ghetto”, and trashy, when initially it was “a cultural expression of joy”.

Hunger Games’ star Amandla Steinberg recently released a video titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows” that tackled the issue of cultural appropriation and the line between this and cultural exchange. This video has been the topic of much debate, particularly concerning why cultural appropriation is offensive to those whose cultures are being adopted. Steinberg discusses many examples where white rappers and performers (here she references Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus, and Katy Perry) have adopted elements of black culture into their own image. She ties her argument together by asking “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”

Steinberg’s frustration does not come from the fact that certain cultural customs are becoming more widespread and are being adopted into the mainstream media culture. Rather, it is due to the lack of knowledge and attention given to the origin of the trend and the importance it holds to the culture by which it was created. If everyone were to consider the cultural significance of certain styles of dance, dress, hair, language, etc. before incorporating them into one’s own image, cultural appropriation would be less unchecked. This respect for other cultures creates an atmosphere that encourages cultural exchange, where customs are shared with knowledge of the significance behind them. Hopefully this would create an awareness of how to appropriately adopt a style without mocking it, or demeaning it, especially at a time when everything published online is fair game to comedic interpretation.

This is such a difficult discussion because in a “melting pot” like the United States, it is nearly impossible to create an image that doesn’t draw on elements from the various cultures we were surrounded by growing up, and are now surrounded by online. And there is nothing inherently wrong with appreciating or identifying with another culture and wanting to emulate it in some way. However, exchange becomes appropriation when it is done in jest or for the sake of branding. It does not seem ethical to dismiss another culture’s custom until it is made mainstream, and then to only accept the new, twisted version of that cultural feature.

Head Transplants: HEAVEN or Hell?

Photograph of Hillman intern Brandon Collins

Doctor Sergio Canavero has been interested in performing head transplants since learning about Doctor Robert White’s experiment in 1970, which involved switching the heads of two different monkeys. 45 years later,  Canavero is ready to emulate the experiment using two humans instead. The procedure planned for 2017 is called head anastomosis venture, or HEAVEN and involves severing the spinal cords of one individual with a diseased body and one brain dead individual and reconnecting the spinal cords of the healthy head to the healthy body. The surgery may be more aptly described as a body transplant.

After hearing about Canavero’s idea, a terminally ill Russian man has stepped forward as a volunteer for the surgery. Suffering from a type of muscle atrophy called Werdnig-Hoffman, Valery Spiridonov sees HEAVEN as his only chance for a better and longer life. Spiridonov and Canavero speak often about the upcoming procedure and will be attending a conference this summer to speak about the plans for the groundbreaking surgery. Although both doctor and patient are excited about HEAVEN, other doctors describe the procedure as more hellish. Doctor Hunt Batjer likens the potential outcomes as “worse than death”. Because this procedure has never been done before, there are obviously risks, however; Spiridonov and Canavero remain confident.

The work of Canavero  has already become a source of controversy within the field of neuroscience and now within the greater world population. HEAVEN raises many ethical questions: is it worth it to save one person with a whole new body or distribute the organs to many others? Will major transplants be used in cosmetic procedures (ex. an overnight individual requesting a whole new body)? Does a new body change the identity of the individual?

Where are you now?

“Apps track users once every three minutes, “ Emily Dwoskin reports in The Wall Street Journal. Personally, this was a shocking, and quite alarming statistic considering how many apps I currently have on my phone. To make matters worse, I am the person who readily accepts the message, allowing sites like Google to “find my current location” when I am trying to find a certain store or restaurant, or when I just have no idea where I am driving and need directions fast. Dwoskin’s article covered a recent experiment conducted at Carnegie Mellon University that concluded, “a dozen or so popular Android apps collected device location—GPS coordinates accurate to within 50 meters—an average 6,200 times, or roughly every three minutes, per participant over a two-week study period.”

The ethical issue here is not necessarily the fact that these apps have the ability to track your location, although that alone may be unsettling for some. However, it is instead the fact that these apps are not just tracking your location at a given moment, like one would expect, but are constantly tracking you. This is something that app trackers don’t tell you. This presents a huge safety issue when considering the grave consequences if this tracking information ever got into the hands of the wrong person.

There is definitely room for improvement here. I believe that app providers ought to be more upfront and clear with what “tracking” actually means, as well as offering users more reminders that their information is being tracked and more opportunities to opt out. Usually, the initial op-out message is confusing, not providing much information to users as to what is being asked of them, and after clicking, it becomes almost impossible to figure out how to change privacy settings. App providers should make a greater effort to provide users with enough information to understand what they are actually allowing companies to access, so that people are fully aware of what information they are giving companies.

Part of the responsibility also falls on users to be more conscious in their decision-making. Apps are fun, enticing, and helpful. Yet, in today’s day and age, you are in charge of protecting yourself. Although it may seem like your phone is your lifeline, without proper use and caution, your phone may be what actually gets you into trouble, not out of it.

Are you aware that your apps are tracking your every move?  What privacy settings do you have to ensure your information is protected?

Apple’s Proposed Conservation Effort Raises Questions

With a record-setting net worth of over $700 billion, Apple has become the largest U.S. company and produces some of the most widely used technological devices in the world.  As the number of Apple product consumers increases, the need for packaging and assembly of these devices also increases.  Many people do not consider the amount of paper and land that is needed for this amount of production to occur and what implications this paper and land use has on the environment.

In a recent article by Alexander J Martin, Apple’s proposed plan to buy and cut down 36,000 acres of U.S. forest while teaming up with the Conservation Fund is under intense scrutiny.  Along with cutting down the forests covering this land, Apple proposes that it will work to protect the land from being further disturbed after it is used, recycle more of its paper used, and use its paper products in a more sustainable way.  The Conservation Fund is therefore in support of this effort because of these proposed conservation efforts.  There are many more questions that have been proposed by skeptics of this plan that raise reasonable concerns.

It is questionable whether Apple will follow through with its proposed plan to reforest the land it has bought in order to combat climate change or whether it will continue to use the land for its own paper production.  With an increasing consumer source, will Apple need this land for further product production in the future?  There are some essential details that many skeptics would like to know about in order to fully develop opinions on the topic.  The harvesting and deforestation of 36,000 acres of land will be devastating for countless numbers of organisms that use these forests for habitat and food sources.  Although reforestation could arguable help combat climate change by providing more vegetation to sequester carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is unlikely that these forests will be able to fully reestablish into the original, completely functioning habitats.

As the largest company in the U.S., Apple provides our country with a considerable amount of revenue.  Would inhibiting Apple’s use of these forested lands cause a large decrease in the amount of product the company would be able to produce and sell?  How might this effect the U.S. economy?  As conservation efforts, climate change, as well as technological advancement become increasingly important aspects of our daily lives, these issues should be discussed in much more detail.

In what ways might Apple be able to ensure the positive environmental impacts of this purchase?  Is the continuing development of technology as important as the conservation of U.S. forests and forests world-wide?

Depressed about Zoloft?

Oil painting of a sunny landscape scene with trees, a shrub, grasses dappled with leaf shadows and a bit of blue sky in the background. The brushstrokes are small dots and dashes, which makes the shapes a little hazy and active.

Pfizer, a drug-making company that manufactures many well-known and commonly used drugs such as Lyrica, Viagra, Lipitor, and Zoloft  in court over the controversy stemming from the drug Zoloft. 

It is a drug designed to treat depression, which costs an estimated $30.4 billion a year and debilitates 17.5 million Americans with feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing, loss of interest in normal activities, and lack of energy as well as suicidal thoughts and actions in severe cases. Sertraline hydrochloride, brand name Zoloft, in the 90s. It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, meaning that it prevents “happy chemicals” (serotonin) from being reabsorbed by neurotransmitters in the brain, thus allowing the serotonin already present in the brain to be in the system longer than normal, with the hopes of allowing those accompanying feelings of happiness and well-being to linger.

However, like most medications, it does have some side effects. One of the most concerning, and the subject of the current lawsuit, is the possible danger to pregnant women. There have been a number of birth defects, the most severe being major heart problems . A number of women who took Zoloft have sued Pfizer, claiming that the company marketed their product to pregnant women, (or potentially being unaware themselves) of the risks involved.

In the recently decided case, lawyers for the plaintiffs argued that there was no warning about the danger of birth defects on Zoloft labels and cited a number of studies linking the two, whereas the defense stated that the studies were not credible enough and that their client had adequately warned the public of the risks associated with their product.

that there was not enough evidence to blame Zoloft for the heart defects of the St. Louis boy whom the case was centered around. Although there is a large number of Zoloft cases in various courts across the country that still need to be settled, the first case in a mass-tort scenario such as this one, often sets the tone for the remaining ones.

How much responsibility does a company have to warn consumers about the dangers of using their products? Should pregnant women ever consider taking a drug for their own well-being that could potentially harm their fetus? If Pfizer was unaware of the risks, would it make them less culpable, or they be equally guilty through their negligence? Does the outcome of the trial prove that Pfizer acted morally in the Zoloft situation? Do mass-tort cases such as this help people by punishing irresponsible companies, or do more harm than good by making companies more leery of releasing products that could drastically improve lives, but that have considerable risk involved?

Ignorance is Bliss?: Cultural Sensitivity while Abroad

Four and half months ago, I left Indianapolis, Indiana, United States of America for the bonnie land of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom. With only eight weeks of my semester long adventure left, I can say that I did not expect to run into any ethical dilemmas while abroad. Yet being in another country has forced me to encounter more than I did back home.

At the Eiffel Tower, London Eye, or the Opera House in Vienna, you are expected to act like a tourist. Taking photos, oohing and ahhing, talking loudly, and blatantly acting like a tourist are not abnormal behaviors to locals because they are facilitating your tourist experience. But when you are in a small restaurant in Prague, is it disrespectful to do the same? As a tourist, should you change behavior based on your situation? Is ethical tourism even a possibility and what does it look like? One of the things that I struggle with is how to be respectful of other cultures while trying to experience them in a short amount of time. This internal battle between wanting to take my photos and then not wanting to offend those who live there has marked my traveling.

Another stamp of my travels is the amount of other tourists who seem not to care about the local culture in the least. From chanting “USA” in a Dublin bar to singing loudly on a tour bus with 35 other people on it, I have been shocked by how little concern some tourists show for the people around them. I love my country, I love my hometown, and I love my school; but I did not go abroad to talk about that love across the pond. Instead, I went abroad to learn something new about myself in a different place and to try and grow. This is not to say that I am not a tourist, but its hard to embrace a culture and truly immerse yourself it in when you are just there to snapchat or pose in front of a monument. Traveling should be about discovering parts of your soul in another place and setting, not how many likes you can get on an Instagram. As a 21 year old, its pretty hard to not care about social media, but making a conscious effort to take in the culture has given me more happiness than hitting 200 likes has. I wonder if travelling ethically means we have to give up a little part of who we were back home in order to fully participate in the present.

Being abroad has made me miss Greencastle, Indiana more than anyone should ever miss a small Indiana town, but I have loved every minute of this journey. They say that adventure is good for the soul, and I would have to agree. But adventuring for a couple days at a time does present the dilemma of how to do so respectfully. From the people in my program to the trips that I have been on, cross-culture communication has become a part of my daily life. The ideas of cross-culture communication and cultural sensitivity expand beyond my abroad experience and those experiences of the other DePauw University students abroad this semester. International communities exist both in governments, like the UN, or in industries, like NATO or OPEC. Cultural sensitivity and figuring out how to communicate across boundaries should be at the core of these organizations, and yet, that is not exactly what we see in practice. How does that change? Or should it change? How can individuals and communities work on interacting with each other in a more respectful manner? Does this topic even matter?

Electronic Empathy: Video Games as Media

The conflict in Syria is a humanitarian catastrophe on a massive scale, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions of others forced to flee their homes. Recently, the BBC has attempted to expand the impact of the Syrian narrative by tapping into an intimate intersection between humans and technology: the video game. Journalist Mamdouh Akbiek and researcher Eloise Dicker have created an interactive, storybook-style game in which users make choices for their virtual family of refuges as they attempt the journey from Damascus to Europe.

The game, entitled Syrian Journey: Choose your own escape route, has come under fire from critics who say that it trivializes the horrors faced by refugees everyday. One expert on the Middle East suggests in the Daily Mail that “the decision of the BBC to transform the human suffering of literally millions into a children’s game beggars belief.” Is it morally permissible to construct a video game around a narrative of human suffering? Does connecting to these characters via digital interaction foster empathy, or belittle the reality of these experiences?

In an article by Keith Stuart, he argues that these interactive dialogues are nothing new, and in fact may be the next big development in news media. He insists that video games have matured over the last 40 years into a truly artistic medium, and criticism from conventional news sources is nothing more than, “old-fashioned moral panic.”

I agree that video games could offer a unique opportunity for user engagement within certain contexts. In the case of Syrian Journey, the game is not marketed to children, nor presented as pure entertainment. It is designed as an informational experience, meant to connect the user to a minimal understanding of the harsh decisions that Syrian refugees are forced to make. Mass media in the 21st century has become increasingly pervasive, utilizing technology to wedge itself more deeply into the cracks between culture, society, and politics. Video games may be the next step in this process.

People are no longer satisfied with static media, but seek sources of information that allow a two-way dialogue. The ability of video games to escape linear narratives could allow for more nuanced story telling, and plugging-in could force engagement on a deeper and more intimate level. Making decisions within the confines of virtual reality could lead to a more complete understanding of the human side of the story. As stated by Stuart, “Games offer a range of ways of taking on a topic that linear forms can’t – putting you in the shoes of another person…”

However, moral problems may arise from the selfishness of the user. Eventually players may demand less engagement with the topic and more entertainment, skewing the integrity of the interaction as a whole. Developers may come to exploit these narratives of suffering, as those privileged enough to have access to these technologies demand their next virtual challenge.

Submit Coursework for Prindle Prize, Win $ Prizes!

The Prindle Institute for Ethics formally invites all DePauw students to submit coursework relating to ethics or of ethical concern. The Prindle Prize Program is an annual competition, which gives students the opportunity to win monetary prizes for their involvement with Prindle and dedication to including ethics in their academics. Submission categories for coursework from the current semester include Humanities, Natural Science Research, Social Science Research, Visual Performing and Literary Art, and Technology. 15 Prizes of $300 each will be awarded (3 per category). Continue reading “Submit Coursework for Prindle Prize, Win $ Prizes!”

A New Life: Worth the Risk?

In recent years, immigration to Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East has increased significantly. Immigrants are determined as ever as they choose to endure the possible threats of treacherous conditions, poorly contracted boats, pirates, and on-ship conflict for the chance at a better life in Europe. Migrant ships have been a source of discussion lately as one ship capsized off the coast of Libya on Monday, while yet another another ship faced deadly fighting onboard. However, even though the potential dangers of migrant ships have been highlighted, the inflow of immigrants to Italy has not slowed.

Although weather conditions were ideal for boating on Monday, even the calm waters could not prevent an over-crowded migrant boat from sinking. Ironically, the sight of a rescue boat is what eventually caused the boat to capsize as hundreds of migrants clambered to one side-throwing the boat off balance- to get a better look. Italy’s coast guard was able to ensure the survival of a small number of migrants, but as many as 400 bodies have yet to be found. Although the Italian coast guard is doing their best to ensure the safety of migrants, they are calling on the European Union to increase their efforts of in both patrolling and search and rescue after accidents.

Although the EU may be able to further assist in patrolling and searching to decrease migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, they may not be able to help with internal conflicts onboard the ships. A recent religious altercation onboard a migrant ship resulted in the deaths of 12 Christians thrown overboard by opposing Muslim migrants. Luckily, others on the boat were able to form a human barrier to protect themselves from the same fate.

Although some risks could possibly be alleviated by EU intervention, migration through the Mediterranean Sea continues to endanger migrants. For many migrants, the prospect of a new life outweighs the possible challenges involved. Migration to Italy and the Mediterranean only continues to grow as the potential dangers increase. Will the European Union be able to ensure more successful migrations through increased involvement? How can on board conditions and climate be improved for migrant passengers?

Ethics in 5: Printerns on Water

Every week, the Prindle Intern team weighs in on an ethical issue together. Each intern is challenged to keep their response to five sentences – Ethics in 5. Click on an intern’s name to check out their previous posts on The Prindle Post!

This week’s question: Water and California

California is, and has been, experiencing an extreme drought for the past few years. Water rations have gone into effect as water authorities say that the state only has one year of water saved up. The rations include requesting restaurants to not serve water unless requested, car washing and landscape watering is restricted, and water may be rationed for agriculture as well, which accounts for 80% of the state’s water usage. In the midst of all this, Nestle is currently bottling water from California and then selling it back in the local market. In fact, numerous bottled water companies actually source their water from drought-ridden regions of the country. Some argue that since this is where the brand is stationed, it’s okay to draw from California; others argue that companies should not bottle water from areas that are running out. Should companies be allowed to bottle and sell water from drought-ridden areas? Is it ethical business practices to do so? Should agricultural companies be allowed to draw 80% of the water when people are running out?

Corby Burger: From an economic perspective, the argument could be made that in times of drought the most important use of water is consumption, and allowing market forces to distribute drinking water through private entities such as Nestlé may actually lead to the most efficient outcomes for both consumers and producers. However, in examining this proposal we must take into account the externalities that Nestlé’s continued production places on surrounding communities. The continued extraction of spring water from the area in which the Nestlé plant is located is inhibiting the natural recharge of aquifers located in the drought stricken communities that rely on this groundwater runoff. In the case of agricultural consumption, California farmers should be more practical in the types of plants they choose to cultivate, as the ever popular almonds trees and alfalfa sprouts require incredible amounts of water to grow in the desert ecosystems of California. People in California (which by law includes corporations), and the public sector alike should work together to more effectively manage water resources in the state, and to ignore this responsibility is a dangerous moral failure.

Natalie WeilandtUnless bottling the water is the most efficient way to extract it, and drinking it bottled is the best way to put these scarce resources to use, I would argue that Nestle’s actions are unethical and should be stopped, or at least regulated and limited. Drawing bottled water from a drought-ridden area is not sustainable from a business standpoint, nor an environmental one. Even when considering the issue from Nestle’s perspective as an economically-driven entity (read: corporation), is it worth the bad press to pursue something with a shrinking market and a limited supply anyway? Nestle isn’t just a corporation; it is a huge corporation with many products other than bottled water. It is therefore unnecessary for them to be bottling water, given the scarcity of the resource, and taking into consideration that complete deprivation of this resource means a loss greater than profit: it means a loss of human life.

Rachel HanebuttI personally do not think it is ethical for companies to draw water from drought-ridden areas. Water bottle companies, such as Nestle, are not exempt from the increasing restrictions on water usage, even though they are selling back into the local Californian market. In the case of agriculture, however, I think that farmers should be allowed to use water, as needed, in order to continue to produce food for the state, but only if they are making attempts towards proactive adaptation in agriculture. If, however, it becomes necessary to restrict the usage of water for agricultural purposes as well, I think that California will need to resort to importing water and food from other states because the state as a whole did not proactively adapt to these drought conditions as they should have.

Amy Brown: I find it completely unethical to draw water from drought-ridden regions; that perpetuates numerous environmental issues and takes water from people who really need it, even when it’s being sold back into that market. It will be at a higher price, which is unfair to consumers; I also find it morally wrong to sell a necessary, life-sustaining good for a high price knowing that people have little choice but to buy it. While I think 80% of the water usage seems a bit high, if the farmers are not wasting water and using just what they need and every citizen still has enough water, there’s nothing wrong with using that water. If the agricultural companies are being wasteful and taking water that could be for people and essentially throwing it away, that is unethical.

Noelle WitwerAlthough I know that this is a complicated issue both ethically and economically, my first instinct is to say that bottling water and selling it back into the drought-ridden economy of California is unethical. Firstly, it seems to be manipulative by increasing the scarcity of an already scarce resource in order to drive up prices for water even more. Secondly, I would argue that both selling and buying excessive amounts of disposable water bottles is, in a way, unethical in itself due to the harmful effects of water bottles on the environment. A related ethical issue is the question of who is responsible for stopping the harmful activity of bottling water from drought areas, or bottling water in general? Is it the consumers’, the companies’ or the government’s responsibility?

Vanessa Freije: Yes, it is unethical. Even from a Marxist stance, the fact that Nestle is bottling up water from a drought-stricken region and selling it for capital gain just seems wrong. Water is an inelastic good, something that humans need. Nestle does not need to be taking water from California. Despite the possible economic gain from Nestle’s activities, it is critical to consider the trade-off and the potential losses in terms of human quality of life.  In this case, it is a simple cost- benefit analysis and a question of what we believe is more important –a greater quality of life or economic gain? MOREOVER, NESTLE’S CALIFORNIA WATER PERMIT EXPIRED 27 YEARS AGO. I think that speaks for itself. To read more about it, check here.

Caroline ZadinaWater is necessary to human life and existence. With that said, I believe that bottling up water from drought ridden California is unethical because as the drought continues and worsens, it has the potential to put many human lives at risk. People in California need their water. However, I also realize the difficult position Nestle currently finds itself in from a business perspective. I think that Natalie brought up a terrific point in that Nestle is a huge corporation with a ton of different products besides bottled water, so it will survive even if they cut back a little. I also believe that Nestle has a corporate responsibility to its 25,000 employees, many of whom live in California, and are experiencing this drought first hand. Eventually, at this rate, water will run out, preventing further business and putting their people in danger at the same time. I think that Nestle has a lot to gain in this situation. If they stand up and choose to do something to make this situation better, their brand name will be the catalyst to change and may trickle down to encourage  other companies to do the same.

How do you feel about this week’s question? Have something you want to share with an intern or a question about their stance? Leave a comment below on what you think of this issue!

Fatal realities of medical experimentation: the case of Guatemala

Illustrated book cover for Pat Mora's The Rainbow Tulip. Three girls in multi-colored tulip-shaped dresses frolic in a circle.

According to a recent report by The Guardian,  John Hopkins University is being accused of carrying out lethal experiments on over 800 Guatemalan research participants in the 1940s and 1950s. Claimants are now suing the university for over a billion dollars in damages.

Allegedly, the John Hopkins School of Medicine intentionally selected highly vulnerable research participants, such as orphans, prisoners, mental health patients and sex workers. Participants were then unknowingly infected with sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and gonorrhea, in an attempt to discover whether the drug, penicillin, could prevent the diseases. The experiments were kept secret until discovered by a university professor in 2010. While those responsible for carrying out the experiments, along with the majority of the participants, are no longer alive, the lawsuit raises grave ethical concerns over medicine’s role in determining the value of human life.

Without any knowledge of the diseases, or treatment available for that matter, most participants did not survive the diseases’ long-term effects. Only 60 survivors of the program remain. Although a separate suit was filed in 2012 under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the judge denied responsibility of the state over actions taken outside of the US.

This case prompts us to question how a potential for profit may sway the experimental ethic of pharmaceutical giants? What do cases of the like say about the way human life is valued, or devalued, by such enterprises… especially when the lives lost are beyond US borders in the global south?

Adderall Aftermath: The Implications of James Stewart’s Supercross Ban

The motorcycle racing community was in uproar for months following the decision handed down by the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme/International Motorcycle Federation) to ban pro Supercross/Motocross racer James Stewart for one year for an anti-doping violation. Stewart tested positive for amphetamines at the Seattle Supercross last June. It was later determined that these came from a drug called Adderall, commonly used to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Adderall is banned by a large number of world and national sports organizations, because in addition to its ability to aid those who suffer from ADHD, it can increase alertness, aggression and arousal, enhance hand-eye coordination and reaction time, mask pain and fatigue, and potentially improve speed, strength, and power – all things that could certainly benefit a Supercross racer, or virtually any other athlete.

A decision was finally reached in late December to suspend Stewart for the period of one year from the date of the failed test. Another interesting fact to consider in this situation was the role of the different sanctioning bodies involved. The AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) is a member of the FIM, but there was great deal of disagreement between the two sanctioning bodies. In a rather heated letter to the president of the FIM, the AMA president states that he was greatly dissatisfied with the way the FIM handled the case for a number of reasons, and that since the International Medical Commission later granted him an exemption, his “transgression was largely a failure to fill out the appropriate paperwork rather than seeking out a competitive advantage.” Stewart and his team, Yoshimura Suzuki, sent out a press release that runs much in the same vein, saying that he plans to appeal his case, and that he has gotten several approvals that proves he wasn’t cheating (but not until quite awhile after he had already tested positive and been given a temporary suspension), and this approval would presumably allow him to take the drug next year without penalty.

To many people, this makes it appear that Stewart’s punishment is unfair and excessive, since the drug was prescribed by a doctor for an actual medical condition, especially if James was unaware that his medications could result in a positive drug test. Other people think that it is a bit too convenient that Stewart just happened to be taking the one ADHD medicine that has performance-enhancing effects when there are numerous other options available, and furthermore, any athlete, especially at the professional level, should be responsible for making sure that they are in compliance with all regulations.

• Should lack of knowledge or awareness of the rules be a mitigating factor for rule violations?
• Is it discriminatory to ban drugs as performance enhancers when they actually treat legitimate medical issues?
• What responsibility do doctors of professional athletes have to avoid prescribing drugs like Adderall? Do they have any obligation or is it solely the responsibility of the athletes?
• Should ex post facto (after the fact) approval result in a reduced penalty.
• Is it wrong for an athlete to use a medically-required drug with performance enhancing side effects, such as Adderall, when there are other proven options available?
• Did the FIM take the correct approach, or was there potentially a better way of handling the situation?     What ought to be done if there are cases similar to this one in the future?