Because One (or More) Bad Apples Can Spoil the Whole Bunch

Contrary to the Jackson Five song, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, girl. And if you don’t know that when you go apple picking, you risk losing all that you worked for.

The same goes for many professions, too—if you don’t root out the bad ones in your field, everything is diminished. Police officers, teachers, doctors, even clergy—if you look the other way when something is rotten, everyone suffers.

As a Chicagolander, I am seeing this right before my very eyes with Chicago’s police force. Since it’s made the national news, you may very well have heard of the protests over the handling of the shooting of Jaquan McDonald by a police officer who already had 20 complaints filed against him during his time on CPD. Dash cam video showing the officer—Jason Van Dyke—shooting McDonald sixteen times while several other officers looked on was held for over a year before it was released last week—right after he was (finally) charged with murder. He has not had his day in court yet, so all is “alleged,” though nothing about how the administration handled this feels right.

Mainly because it’s wrong.

The culture of police cover-up is wrong all over the place, but one of the biggest impacts is on the police force itself. I know there are many, many honorable, brave, courageous police officers—I think it’s safe to say the overwhelming majority of officers are doing a great job of serving and protecting us. But the minority of cops that aren’t acting honorably? That let prejudice stand in the way of justice? That are dirty and on the take? They damage the entire profession. Letting them stick around and operate without consequence sends a message from the entire force—and it is not one that builds the public trust.

How hard is that to see?

I believe in unions, but I also believe that they are not perfect—and not seeing to it that the incompetents or criminals aren’t properly dealt with is one of the biggest negatives of union life.

I was a union member when I taught public high school, and I saw how the one or two that needed to be handed their hats were dealt with by looking the other way. All that does is weaken the profession. Teachers are already not esteemed as they should be by some…and keeping less than capable teachers gives them more reason to disparage the vocation—not to mention how it impacts the students who are the whole reason the school system exists!

How hard is that to see?


apples 1


If you can’t trust your doctor, then who can you trust? But…doctors are also guilty of sheltering deficient colleagues with a code of silence. Fear of retribution or losing referrals can unfortunately color whether or not a doctor points out another doctor’s errors—even though they have an ethical duty to do so. Granted, this is a complex issue, but…boy…if there was a version of the “neighborhood watch” in medicine, I think there’d be a good chance that the number of people—nearly 100,000 a year—who die in hospitals due to mistakes would decrease…which is the goal, right?

How hard is that to see?

Clergy is yet another profession that is tarnished by the culture of cover up. Whether it’s the tragedy of known pedophilic priests being assigned to other parishes or pastors abusing their power in other ways—a house of religion is no place to let wrongdoers go unchecked—especially those in authority. Forgiveness isn’t the same as acting oblivious to offences that are occurring. This not only damages those in the profession—it can cause people to disown their church and fall away from God—the very opposite of what is at the heart of the ecclesiastical calling.

How hard is that to see? 

I mean…really? How hard??

Protecting the bad apples only helps…the bad apples. When they are ignored rather than dealt with properly because it’s easier, it hurts credibility…trust…excellence…faith—and too often it damages people’s lives.

Maybe it’s easier to think about this way: if you wouldn’t want a certain teacher/doctor/officer/pastor/whomever dealing with your child (or any someone you love)…then it is time to act. We need to speak up.

But does it even have to be your child? How about the golden rule or even plain old common sense?

We must push for a culture that removes the bad apples before they do any more damage to the bunch. We should demand it of each other and for each other.

Isn’t it time?


All photos are my own.
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2 thoughts on “Because One (or More) Bad Apples Can Spoil the Whole Bunch

  1. This is a really well written analogy. Police officers, teachers, doctors and clergy are all people in authority. Protecting the bad apples does undermine our trust in those professions. I myself know many WONDERFUL people working in all those professions. It is the bad apples that ruin it for everyone.
    Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Carl! Agreed that the overwhelming majority in these professions are doing a great job…and suffer because of the minority that aren’t. It’s time to go rotten-apple picking!

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