Does good character really matter? Is telling the truth important when a lie will avert punishment or help you gain status and wealth? Are personal ethics a benefit or impediment for those trying to climb the corporate ladder? In the real world, does the end justify the means?
These are questions that humans have asked for centuries, but they’re especially significant today as many wonder whether the values and morals that have historically governed human behavior are still relevant in a cutthroat society.
A review of historical figures might suggest that character — the set of morals and beliefs that influence how we interact with others and feel about ourselves — seems to have little effect on people’s ability to gain fame, wealth, or power. In fact, quite the opposite is sometimes true:
Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Ayatullah Khomeini have all appeared on the cover of Time magazine as “Person of the Year,” despite causing millions of deaths and unfathomable hardship for their countrymen.
Political leaders regularly lie to their constituents and pad their wallets by selling their votes to the highest bidder.
Corporate CEOs eliminate or reduce benefits that affect thousands of workers to add an extra dime to quarterly earnings per share while boosting their own income to historically high levels.
Yet while a lack of character might allow the rise of despots, egotists, and ruthless men and women from time to time, history has proved time and again that such leaders ultimately fail. As Harvard Business Review puts it, “Hubris and greed have a way of catching up with people, who then lose the power and wealth they’ve so fervently pursued.”
What is your opinion of America’s elementary and secondary schools? A 2018 Pew Research poll found that improving the nation’s educational system was ranked second on the priorities of the American public, slightly behind defending against terrorism and ahead of strengthening the economy. The angst represented in the poll findings reflects the perception that public schools are failing, threatening the prosperity and security of the nation.
The American public school system has been under attack since the mid-1970s and the emergence of the Back to Basics education movement. Critics of the schools advocated that a return to a focus on the three “Rs”— reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic — would restore public education to its historical standing as “the best schools in the world.” In the years since, school administrators, teachers, and students have experienced numerous attempts to improve education results and save money.
One approach — allowing students to transfer from public to private schools with public financial assistance — has become the battleground over the future of the traditional public school systems in the country. The war is being fought in media, public meetings, and state legislatures by opposing coalitions:
Dissatisfied Parents, Fiscal Conservatives, Over-Taxed Homeowners, and Employers. These groups often assert that introducing free market options in education through choice will produce better outcomes.
Parents who Favor Public Schools and the Education Community. Teachers, administrators, educational policy leaders typically claim with equal fervor that allowing school choice will destroy public education, ending the opportunity for middle- and low-income students to compete against a favored white, upper-class minority successfully.
Both sides are guilty of half-truths, misrepresentations, and exaggeration in the pursuit of their objectives. Choosing the right solutions to improve the education of the nation’s young requires an understanding and agreement about the current state of the educational system, and of the better alternatives to improve its outcomes.
America’s Public School System
Federal and State Roles
The authors of the U.S. Constitution left the responsibility of regulating public education to each of the individual states. Accordingly, each state maintains the public school system within its borders establishing attendance requirements, curriculum, teaching methods, textbook materials, and graduation requirements. Excluding Hawaii and its single, statewide school district, the states share power and implement their education policies through local school boards in geographically-distinct school districts.
A friend of mine, a big fan of the Harry Potter series, recently planned to launch an initial coin offering (ICO) to fund a new Quidditch sports league. His new “Quidcoins,” valued at 0.009 bitcoins (BTC), would be exchangeable for discounted admission and food at select National Quidditch games around the country. He hoped to raise a maximum of 2,000 BTC ($11,000,000) over a 28-day offering period.
Unfortunately, before my friend could organize his company and raise money, he discovered that a group in Britain was in the midst of offering their own QuidCoins, named after the slang word for the British pound. While my friend was disappointed to find the name taken, perhaps it was for the best; despite sponsors’ hopes, QuidCoins traded for less than three months in 2014, according to CoinMarketCap.
ICOs promise big profits to investors, but with a failure like QuidCoin’s possible at any time, are they worth the risk? If you’ve been considering participating in an ICO, here’s what you need to know.
What Is an ICO Financing?
Entrepreneurs have historically financed their ideas by offering equity interests — or investment securities — in their ventures to external investors. Due to the abuses and corruption of financiers in the 1920s, Congress passed the Securities Act of 1933 and created the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) the following year to enforce the Act.
In the decades since, the process of raising money from the public through an initial public offering, or IPO, has become well-established. Regulations dictate how the offering process must proceed, who is eligible to participate, when an offeror must provide information to potential investors, and what information they must provide. Failure to follow regulations can result in severe financial liability for the sponsors of an offering, including civil and criminal penalties.
An ICO is a similar fundraising tool in which an offeror sells futures in a cryptocurrency that does not yet exist. ICOs are designed to avoid the regulations that protect investors when buying or selling traditional investment securities. While an IPO must include an extensive prospectus, there are no regulations outlining what information must be provided to prospective investors in an ICO. Each offeror determines what, if any, details will be delivered and when.
Most ICOs have a website or white paper justifying the benefits of the investment, but they do not have an existing product. Offerers are startup operations, and the funds raised through the ICO will finance the development of the product — in this case, the cryptocurrency.
When I was a child, my mother and I rode a bus to and from the downtown Wichita Falls, Texas library every Wednesday and Saturday morning. I can still see it now: a brick, three-story building with floor-to-ceiling windows and the children’s section tucked away in the basement. The librarian, a kindly woman with gray-streaked hair, was always there to help me find the three books I could check out with my library card.
Polished wooden benches were scattered across the linoleum floors, each filled with boys and girls looking through books as their parents made their selections from the stacks on the upper floors. Returning home, Mother and I would hurry to sit on the daybed that served as our sofa, where she would read aloud one of my treasures, each filled with colorful pictures and illustrations to enhance the excitement of the narrative.
Those early years of being read to by my mother, father, aunt, and grandmother spawned a voracious appetite for reading that has remained constant for threescore and seven years. In my experience, a love of literature of all types is perhaps the greatest gift any parent could give their child, a passport to distant lands and a time machine to other eras. It can also give your child many advantages in the years to come.
Here’s how reading can help your child succeed, and how to introduce them to the joys of reading.
Literacy vs. Reading
Stories have been a primary medium of communication since the first family clans. Storytellers capture our imaginations, link us to the past, and establish the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Myths and legends passed from one generation to the next explain the unexplainable and remind us of the human values considered essential and ethical, both now and in the past.
In the ancient Western world, only those wealthy enough to afford a life of leisure or those in religious positions had the opportunity to learn to read. With the advent of the printing press, which made reading materials widely available, as well as improvements in public education, literacy became the norm rather than the exception for the common man.
However, the ability to read and write does not necessarily equate to a love of the written word. Many people assume “literacy” and “reading” are the same thing, but the former refers to the ability to read and write, while the latter refers to the act of interpreting printed words. And while most people today have the ability to read, fewer and fewer are doing so for enjoyment.
The State of Reading Today
The percentage of American adults who read any work of literature declined from 56.9% in 1982 to 43.1% in 2015, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. This is even though the percentage of college graduates in the population more than doubled in the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Pew Research reports that one-quarter of Americans did not read a single book, in whole or in part, in 2017.