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MLB and Fifth-Grade Level Ethics

Analyzing an ethical double standard in relation to MLB and a fifth-grade teacher's controversial behavior program.


Up to this point, I've been extremely hesitant to comment on the Biogenesis saga, because the realm of law is one of which I have little familiarity. And thus, little to no qualification to criticize.

Also, there's the whole push-and-pull of homerism given the connection to Ryan Braun. I want to believe he is innocent, but I don't want to be that obnoxious Brewers follower that allows hero worship to cloud judgement. So, I cop out by remaining silent.

However, I recently ran across a news story which felt so relevant to MLB's negotiations with Tony Bosch I can't help but draw the parallels.

A teacher in Cypress, Texas was recently kicked out of her classroom and banned from her students' graduation due to a controversial program she instituted in her fifth-grade class to reward well-behaving children. From KHOU News in Houston:

"[Asha] Hooda, a fifth-grade teacher at Postma Elementary in Cy-Fair ISD, introduced a behavior program that allowed students to choose who would be eligible for points that would allow them perks like extra recess.

Hooda asked each student to anonymously write down the names of classmates with bad behavior.

"I thought I was empowering them to make a decision instead of me deciding who should be a part of the rewards system," Hooda said.

Hooda told KHOU 11 News that the students insisted she read the names aloud. That is when classmates said it felt like bullying."

The article doesn't do that great of a job explaining how Hooda's "behavior program" works specifically. If the submissions are anonymous, how does she know who gets the "perks"? We can only presume that those not listed as "classmates with bad behavior" are their binary opposite, classmates with "good" behavior. Of course, "good" and "bad" are not truly binary antonyms, but law on a child's level doesn't typically leave much room for gradability.

When my 10-month old nephew starts playing with outlets, I think that perhaps the best way for him to learn to stay away from them is . . . you know, get a little jolt. Learn the hard way. But when he starts sticking his little fingernails in there, I don't say "maybe not". I say No! - then, I frantically pull him away manually, because he doesn't really grasp "no" yet. Plus, I'm pretty sure that's killed people before. Building character is only worth so much.

Anyway - no matter the specifics, the system the teacher created is pretty simple. It is an incentive program meant to reward "good" students - those not named anonymously - with "perks", while simultaneously threatening those who behave "badly" with public humiliation (without perks). The teacher gets what she wants - discipline without having to actually issue it herself, and so do her students. At least those who supposedly deserve it.

The most interesting statement from the article is that it was the students who insisted the names be read aloud. Now, why would that be? To shame their fellow classmates? Maybe. Or, to perhaps indirectly implicate themselves as the party submitting the name(s), therefore giving them qualification for perks?

And what's stopping a "bad" student from implicating a "good" one because, well . . . they're "bad"? How does the teacher deal with that? Trusting a peer-confirmed "bad" student with information about those who ratted him or her out is precarious.

ESPN dream team Pedro Gomez, T. J. Quinn, and Mike Fish released this breaking news on Wednesday that Tony Bosch is now "willing to cooperate" with MLB officials, which could lead to multiple suspensions.

I wondered what "willing to cooperate" means. Since there's yet no specifics about potential damning documents/evidence against these players, we're forced to speculate.

It appears to me that "willing to cooperate" is explained perfectly in these two adjoining paragraphs:

"Sources did not say what other materials, such as receipts and phone records, Bosch might provide, but said he has pledged to provide anything in his possession that could help MLB build cases against the players. Sources said MLB officials were not sure how many players might end up being pulled into the scandal; the 20 or so they know of have been identified through paperwork, but Bosch is expected to provide more. (Because some players are listed by their names and some by code names, officials are not yet certain whether some are redundant.)

The development is a major break for MLB, which has pursued the case vigorously since Bosch's name was brought to MLB's attention last summer. In exchange for Bosch's full cooperation, sources said, Major League Baseball will drop the lawsuit it filed against Bosch in March, indemnify him for any liability arising from his cooperation, provide personal security for him and even put in a good word with any law enforcement agency that might bring charges against him. Sources said negotiations over the agreement, which lasted several weeks, stalled over the last point, as Bosch wanted the strongest assurances he could get that MLB would help mitigate any prosecution."

ESPN reports that MLB is providing incentive to Tony Bosch to provide "anything in his possession" that they can use, not for the legitimacy of the case itself, but against the players. It could be irresponsible journalism, but according to these three via the first bolded statement, MLB is not interested in justice. Only punishment.

In exchange for MLB's version of "justice", MLB is offering Bosch a tremendous incentive package. Like extra recess. So we're back where we left off, wondering what's stopping a "bad" student from implicating a "good" one when they're offered perks in exchange?

But the names on the paper (ahem) aren't really the point, are they? The teacher is simply trying to encourage the children to behave well. I don't believe there was anything truly nefarious about the teacher's intent. But, she created a system in which a gray area formulates naturally, and ultimately, it's on her to determine what shade it is. When she creates a system ripe for corruption, it's up to her to either live by it strictly or tinker with it selectively.

MLB wants baseball players to behave well. They want performance enhancing drugs out of the game. There's nothing wrong with that. But now Bosch, Braun, A-Rod, and several others are in the gray area, and at this point it's on MLB to decide who is "good" and who is "bad" while keeping within the constraints of the law. The sad part is that apparently MLB already has preconceived notions of the players involved, and are using bargaining power to cement them.

For her actions, Hooda is booted from class, banned from graduation, and gives a tear-ridden interview to the local news.

Meanwhile, Ryan Braun and several others are bombarded with scrutiny and subliminal implication, and guilty in the court of public opinion. MLB is applauded for their ruthless vigilance against even their most profitable assets.

Funny how that works.