Ken Osmond and the “Eddie Haskell Effect” A Not-So-Stellar Hollywood Career But Stunning Validation

Ken Osmond, the actor-turned-police-officer who played Wally Cleaver’s best friend on the TV series, “Leave It to Beaver,” died at age 76. The series ran from 1957-1963. The character Mr. Osmond played, an obsequious, duplicitous snake, Eddie Haskell, was so memorably etched that Mr. Osmond could escape the typecasting. He became part of the thin blue line.

Eddie was a charmer, offering, “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver,” but that was quickly followed by his day-to-day demeaning chatter to the Cleaver boys, “Look Sam, if you can make the other guy feel like a goon first, then you don’t feel like so much of a goon.” Sometimes Wally was “Gertrude,” or “Chief.”

Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver were on to Eddie: “Your father gave me a funny look when I came in… like I’m a teenage werewolf or something.” In answering Wally as to why he believed Ward Cleaver did not like him, Eddie offered, “On account of the way he looks at me when he opens the door. Sometimes I think he’d be happier to see Khrushchev standing there.”

We laughed at Eddie’s pseudo-charms and behind-the-back barbs because we know Eddie Haskell is alive and well. We went to school with Eddie Haskells. In their book, “Developing and Reporting Systems for Student Learning,” Thomas R. Guskey and Jane M. Bailey discuss the “Eddie Haskell effect” in describing the manipulative students who earn “brownie points” (from the junior Girl Scout organization called “Brownies) with teachers in order to earn a good grade. Today’s generation has a far harsher phrase than “brownie points,” but you get the idea. The brownie points are, in the experts’ words, “crucial in the grade commodity market.” (p. 19) We sloggers just studied, too shy or too respectful of authority to work the system.

We work with Eddie Haskells. They brag. They create the appearance of being loyal, hard-working employees. We are on to them; the boss is not. They come in and leave a jacket or sweater on their chairs and then disappear for hours. We do hear from them in their extended absences. They call in or text to have us go into their offices to re-activate the motion-sensor lights. When they are not dodging, they are doing the brownie-point thing. Or taking credit for others’ ideas.

Some of us have had Eddie Haskell children. Angels at home and hellions at school. There is even a checklist for determining whether you are dating an “Eddie Haskell.” “ Who has not listened to an obsequious politician with flattering words only to find them voting the opposite of those promises and compliments once in office? If you are really looking for duplicity, study foreign relations.

It is the duplicity. And duplicity’s heart is dishonesty. A CEO once commented that the greatest test of integrity is whether a person behaves the same way around everyone. Officers in a board meeting are not the same people as those officers in a meeting sans the board The language is different, the bottomline is different, and the deference is gone. How those officers treat their staff members is yet another story.

One of the great challenges in life is learning to treat everyone the same way as you would treat Ward and June. Ken Osmond, thanks for bringing us one of TV’s most memorable characters, thanks for teaching us to be on the lookout for the duplicitous and obsequious, and thank you for dedicating your life to honorable public service. You did escape the typecasting after all. You, sir, are no Eddie Haskell, RIP.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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2 Responses to Ken Osmond and the “Eddie Haskell Effect” A Not-So-Stellar Hollywood Career But Stunning Validation

  1. John Corrigan says:

    You never fail to educate while dispensing praise (or disappointment) when due, and you do it in a most dignified, dare I say Ladylike, manner.

  2. mmjdiary says:

    What a lovely comment! Thank you!

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