Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Martha Stewart and Ethics

I have just read that Martha Stewart will be hosting a new Apprentice show with the full blessings of NBC, the TV network who is broadcasting it. This is a woman who has been found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and two counts of making false statements. Oh well, I guess no one is perfect. Of course she should be honored by getting her own Apprentice program.

What is the message this sends to our young people about ethics?

If you think about that question very long the answer is obvious. It tells our young people that whether or not you are ethical doesn't matter as long as you have enough money, power or at the very least, friends in high places. In the general sense, it makes us appear hypocritical if we advise them not to lie or cheat. I agree that anyone who serves their time for a crime they committed should not be hounded for the rest of their life for it. On the other hand, they should not be glorified as a shining example of womanhood right after they get out of prison either.

I admire what Martha Stewart did in building her business and achieving great financial success. That is what makes her crime so stupid, she didn't need the money. I don't admire Martha Stewart for sitting on the Board of Directors for the New York Stock Exchange and then engaging in illegal activities to try to keep from losing some money. She knew better and did it anyway.

A recent study showed that 75% of high school children had cheated on their exams in school. This was up from 25% in the sixties and 50% in the eighties. The trend is certainly not going in the right direction. We encourage children and young people to lie, steal and cheat because when certain adults do it we either rationalize their behavior or say it is no big deal. Until we change our treatment of those in high places who are unethical, our own message of ethics will be diluted to the point of being ineffective.

Unless we start showing that we take ethical behavior seriously and that it does have long-term negative consequences, our young people will continue to cheat to get ahead. The message we definitely should not be sending them is that if they are unethical enough, they may get their own national TV show.

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