My next door neighbor came out of his house and was talking to me about the paper that he has to write for a law course that he is taking. He is at the tag end of law school and is already working in the field. I asked him if he was going to take the bar exam next February. He told me that he was probably not going to do that because of the current pressure of his job. He would have to take off some time to take a course to prepare for the test. He told me casually that if he took it this February, he would probably fail. He was mollified by this professor who told him that it was not important to pass the first time, after all Hillary Clinton had taken the test five times before she passed.
I was not aware of the passing rate of the bar exam and had no understanding of what it took to study for it and pass. I was kind of shocked to hear the Hillary Clinton had taken it five times. I thought she was a pretty bright person and would do well on such a test. So . . . I went on the web and discovered, after ploughing through the anti-Hillary Clinton websites, that she actually took it twice and passed it the second time.
The era of truth telling has passed me by. I am not on a moral high horse. I have lied during my lifetime, sometimes without even knowing it. I am prone to hyperbolic rants to make a point. However, my grandmother taught me that one should never lie, even if bad things accrue to you as a result. I did take her seriously, I am sure that those of my generation, just regular people, were taught the same thing in school, church and at home.
There appears to be a wave of non-truth telling that is sweeping our civilization. I am not just talking about Ahmadinejad of Iran, or the propaganda put out by governments is a purposeful way ( the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the Zimmerman Telegram). I am talking about the desensitization of all of us to the many falsehoods that we are bombarded with every day. We are so bombarded that we need a Snopes.com to help us.
We now accept, in our daily lives, that everyone lies- government, industry, media, insternet, economists, educators, and historians. I have been a history person for most of my life. I majored in history at Queens College and taught history. I kind of pride myself on my understanding of education history. When the Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was accused of plagiarism, I was really thrown for a loop. Not only was she caught red handed, but her response was shaggy and she mischaracterized her withdrawal of the book. It was her publisher who pulled it.
It all falls into the same category as Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and so on. We seem to accept that these national figures don’t tell the truth. We even wind up giving these people second and then third chances. We seem to use the word “forgiveness” and “second chance” almost gratuitously. So he used a corked bat, so what.
Funny thing, that in certain cases, we are unforgiving. Why is Pete Rose such a hanger on in hatred. Why did we crush Milli Vanilli when we found out that they were lip synching, when there were so many other who have done the same thing.
Why did we not forgive Shoeless Joe Jackson and put him in the Hall of Fame. He was actually not found guilty in the Black Sox Scandal.
We hate Bernie Madoff, but the folks at Bear Stearns and Lehman, get a free pass? How inconsistent are we? I once tried an experiment. I was sick and tired of people lying about public education. It has plenty of problems, but why lie about them
( see latest article about that in the New Yorker mag). In the 1990’s I was going around the state and sometimes the nation talking about equity in education. I was on a bunch of radio talk shows, tv shows and had many speaking engagements. I could hardly believe what was being said in the media, both local and national about schools. I decided that I would do the same thing. I would lie, except I would tell the people I was speaking to that I would be lying.
At one of my soirees I began with my usual rant about equity in education and then veered off into the world of pro public education. I told the audience that I would now be lying. “ The majority of identified American serial killers either went to private schools or were home schooled.” I was expecting a big laugh. I got no mirth. What I got was lots of requests to repeat the information, “Dr. Hillman could you please say that again, we did not get it the first time.”