Category Archives: The Measure of Our Success

The Measure of Our Success: Educators or Criminals?

The ultimate measure of our educational system’s success is not who our students are or what they do in our schools but who they are and what they do in the world.

I’m at a charter school orientation offered by the state, and I just listened to a presentation by two agents from the United States Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General.

They talked about the importance of running charter schools ethically, and they shared several examples of school district and charter school fraud.

Honestly, it makes me sick to my stomach to think about school secretaries and charter school principals funneling money away from the public schools, so they can have a personal shopping spree at Victoria’s Secret. And then there are the superintendents and district employees convening on yachts to dole out multi-million dollar contracts.

One of the agents said about half the people he prosecutes go into their endeavors with ill intentions. The other half goes in with good intentions and then gets derailed by their own greed and the opportunity to satiate it.

When I hear about adults sullying the world with their actions, it reminds me again that our education system has to do more than teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. We live in a complex, capitalistic society. We live in a world that elevates profit and often justifies the ends despite the means. We need to help our children develop an ethical sense of self. We need to help them develop an internal code of ethics that pushes them to distinguish right from wrong, even when they aren’t being directly supervised.

If we accept responsibility for educating our children to be ethical people, we will set them up to be ethical leaders in their 21st century workforces and communities.

The Measure of Our Success: Greed & Deception on Wall Street

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I believe in backwards-planning. I believe that starting with a vision, figuring out how to measure that vision, and then planning all the smaller steps that align with the end vision is the most effective and efficient way to achieve a goal.

In the field of education, we are sorely missing a vision. Some states attempt to create a vision through their standards, but every coherent strand of knowledge, skills, and mindsets is diced and chopped into tiny bits and scattered over 13 years of education.

Even worse, the state tests do not comprehensively assess the standards. As a result, educators begin to focus narrowly on the knowledge and skills that are assessed.

The ultimate measure of our educational system’s success is not who our students are or what they do in our schools but who they are and what they do in the world.

In this New York Times article entitled, “On Wall Street, Bonuses, Not Profits, Were Real,” we see that our educational system failed to teach these former students that integrity is more important than money.

One Merrill Lynch employee, Dow Kim,–with a base salary of $350,000–earned an additional $35 million in bonuses in 2006. The wealth wasn’t just concentrated at the upper echelons. A 20-something analyst added $250,000 in bonuses to a base salary of $130,000, while a 30-something trader with a $180,000 salary walked away with an additional $5 million.

To earn bigger bonuses, many traders ignored or played down the risks they took until their bonuses were paid. Their bosses often turned a blind eye because it was in their interest as well.“That’s a call that senior management or risk management should question, but of course their pay was tied to it too,” said Brian Lin, a former mortgage trader at Merrill Lynch.

Many of these companies are still planning to dole out bonuses this year, despite being rescued with tax payers’ dollars.

Why weren’t more people stepping back and saying, “This is wrong”? Why were so many people content to collect so much money that they didn’t actually earn–money that now comes from the taxes collected from people who find themselves losing their jobs because of the financial crisis?

We must teach our students that their actions create the world, for better or worse. Greed and deception may create gains in the short-term, but they often lead to more negative outcomes in the long-run.