The Eraser Law vs The Golden Rule


“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Albert Einstein


Alexander McCall Smith is a favorite author of mine, although it is hard to say why. He is a series writer, “The #1 Ladies Detective Agency” being his best well-known. I am currently reading “The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds,” one of “The Isabel Dalhousie Novels.”

The composer Mozart is the subject in the first page of the book, and compared to Srivinase Ramaniyan, another child prodigy, in the next few. Not a page turner since I have little interest or knowledge of classical music, and never heard of  Ramaniyan. Yet, I am compelled to keep reading, fascinated by McCall Smith’s ability to make the mundane important.

The story unfolds slowly as Isabel Dalhousie, the protagonist, shares her wisdom and concerns as a philosopher and editor of “The Review of Applied Ethics.” It is dull, but I am entertained by her thoughts.

It is Isabel’s description of another character as offensive, minus social clues and lacking social judgment, that reminds me of my third grade teacher, Miss Pendergrass and The Golden Rule.

Isabel feels badly when she offends another, even a stranger and strives to change her behavior.

 The first day of school, a Tuesday after Labor day, Miss Pendergrass instructed us to open our composition notebooks and on the inside cover write, “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” Fake orange and yellow leaves decorated the bulletin board and the eraser monitor’s name was written on the black board. A class discussion on the matter followed. 

 Now jump ahead to the year 2015, when the “Eraser Law” will take effect in the state of California. The law will protect minors by giving them the right to delete comments on social media. There is debate about the message; say or do what you want, you can erase it, without consequences.  There is no provision for treating others the way you would want to be treated.

The Eraser Law evolved in reaction to a court decision not to protect the public from their own stupidity, but to coddle the young, in lieu of teaching them the Golden Rule.

In November of 2009, the disgruntled staff of B.J. Roberts, sheriff of Hampton, Virginia liked the Facebook account of his opponent during the election. Despite his staff’s lack of support, Roberts won reelection, and decided not to employ his detractors. These actions became a court matter when the unemployed protested, and claimed firing on grounds of a “Facebook Like” was a violation of their First Amendment Rights.

The court said, you don’t quite get it, grow up!

They were forced to look for new jobs.

I think about Miss Pendergrass and wonder what she would tell third graders about the Eraser Law, while she has the misbehaving write 500 times; “I will not talk in class.”

. . . . just saying

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