I hope nobody will take me the wrong way when I say that this is not exactly cruel, abusive, or evil of the father. The son looks like he understands what his father is trying to do, and has taken what he perceives as 'just punishment,' without much apparent torment or pain.
I'm not sure what "the wrong way" is but this is exactly cruel, abusive, and evil.
I mentioned not taking me the 'wrong way' just to say that I don't endorse this act as a proper or desirable way of improving his son's grades. I acknowledged that it's stupid and ineffective, but was questioning the interpretation of the action's (im)morality and the father's motives.
Yeah, this father, he really made something of himself.
He doesn't have to be successful in order to want his son to succeed, does he?
Merely because the boy has internalized the shame does not make the infliction of shame remotely moral.
Reverse the players and ask yourself how you feel about it. What if the son forced the father to wear a sign listing his failures and walk the street? If I did that to you, under duress of some threat, would you consider that to be immoral? If a husband did that to his wife? That's what UPB means -- universality of moral principles, even in the context of parent-child relationships.
What is it about father-son relationships that makes people think that "parenting" includes forcing the son to do anything?
I have a son. It is not difficult to get him to listen to me. He's actually devoted to me in a way I sometimes find overwhelming. My opinion of him means virtually everything to him. It is easy to become frustrated and lash out, but I have to constantly remind myself how he will learn 99% of what I teach him by example. The content of my yak-yak at him means nothing. What I do means everything.
Applying that idea here, what is the meta-message being sent from father to son? Ignore the content of the sign. The message is, "I tell you what level of self-respect and social respect you will have." Or, "I control you." There are a lot of non-verbal interpretations one could draw. But none of them is morally defensible.
Thanks for putting forth the standard of UPB. I tend to judge whether parenting is immoral by looking for signs of the child's pain and humiliation; if none is present, then the act of parenting is not cruel or evil, but merely unwise. UPB, however, seems to ignore any of these emotional markers, and considers an action from the perspective of, "will most (emotionally healthy and rational) people prefer this action, if done onto them?" It sounds like an act (in the realm of interpersonal relationships) can be judged as immoral by UPB standards, even when all parties affected do not experience emotional/physical hurt or sense "foul play." Let me know if this is accurate.
...And also for sharing about your relationship with your son. Like many others on these boards, I was treated somewhat the opposite way to how you treat your son, insofar as lecturing (or "yak yak," as you call it): I faced, on average, a two-hour long lecture a month, about something or other that I did or thought 'wrong.' I have mixed feelings about these and the other questionable parts of my childhood, and I'm still trying to parse out the moral/immoral and the aeshetically preferable/unpreferable parts of my upbringing (which is probably what motivated me to post in this thread). Despite mixed feelings about my own childhood, I think that your child is very lucky to have a father who cares enough to effortfully apply UPB and the "lead by example" principle to your relationship with him (and also to discuss them in an internet forum). :]
However, despite a sound UPB argument and the insightful psychological interpretations, I'm still inclined to believe that the father genuinely valued and desired a good future for his son, though his methods of correction were grossly misguided (to say the least). It's hard for me to jump from the argument that bringing his son out in public with a sign like that was objectively immoral--which I'm now willing to accept--to the conclusion that the father was motivated by a desire for cruelty or sadism (i.e., that he is evil himself). Let me know if I put up a straw man here, or if anybody thinks this is true; it just seems too extreme and unreasonable to say that the father is blind, cold-hearted, and only motivated by his own insecurities--which he's now projecting onto his son, and looking for external vindication--without acknowledging that the father may actually be trying to show his son the potentially negative consequences of not being accountable for his actions, which he probably had to learn the hard way throughout his life.
"It's way too dangerous to follow the advice of people who aren't empathetic, even if they are right."