Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Taking opportunities" from less qualified people is not unjust.

Randy Cohen, author of the New York Times's "The Ethicist," all too often gives the wrong answer to reasonable questions. This week, though, he gives the right answer to an astonishingly stupid question:
At 55, after a satisfying career as an English teacher, I am considering nursing as a second career. The local community college offers programs leading to the R.N. degree, but these are oversubscribed. As a Yale magna with several prerequisites already satisfied, I could be a strong candidate. My family does not need the extra income. Should I worry about taking opportunity from someone who might use it to earn a living?
The alleged ethical dilemma here is ridiculous in the extreme. (Where was all this hair-tearing liberal guilt about taking up scarce slots in competitive programs when I was in law school? At least this person plans to use the degree.) If you would be a superior nurse, go forth and change bedpans (although whether or not a Yale magna who probably last took chemistry in 1970 would be a better nurse than someone younger is debatable, especially since nursing can be a physically demanding job). I love how it's implied that someone's financial need might make them more worthy of a slot even if they would be a worse nurse.

Those who disagree with me get to have the dumb but poor nurses stick them for blood.
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