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.
Taking an annual vacation is important. Excessive work hours and days lead to burnout, reduced employee engagement, higher absenteeism, lower production, and higher costs. A 2016 Harvard Business Review article notes that employees who took more than 10 vacation days per year were almost twice as likely to receive a raise or bonus within three years.
Yet despite the benefits, nearly one-half of Americans did not take a vacation in 2017, often citing the high cost of travel as the primary reason. Recognizing the need for an affordable vacation, managers of many destination resorts have added an “all-inclusive” option to their offerings, allowing visitors to pay a single price for a room, meals, and other amenities while at the resort.
Are these packages really a good deal? Here’s a closer look.
The Rise of the All-Inclusive Resort
Cruise ships have long offered all-inclusive options. Cruise travelers can choose the size and location of their cabin and meal options to fit their budgets and pay a single fare for accommodations, meals, and access to the ship’s physical, cultural, and entertainment offerings. It’s no doubt one of the reasons cruise ship vacations are“the fastest growing part of the vacation industry,” according to PR Newswire. Resorts are following suit, increasingly using an all-inclusive price strategy, hoping that its simplicity and convenience will boost their sales.
For years, resorts predominately offered a-la-carte pricing — what many call a “European Plan” — in which rooms, meals, and recreation activities were separately available at the option of the guests. The first step to a single basic rate for everything was the introduction of the “American Plan,” which combined room and meals but did not include recreational activities or entertainment.
Club Med pioneered one flat price for everything in 1950 with the opening of its first resort at Palinuro, Salerno Italy. Designed to appeal to young people, guests stayed in straw huts on the beach, sharing communal meals and showers. In the 1990s, the company upgraded their offerings in meals and recreational activities, especially for families. For example, children could attend a circus school run by Cirque de Soleil or take snow skiing lessons from a professional ski instructor while their parents relaxed in a luxurious spa. The company continues to offer all-inclusive prices, albeit at significantly higher rates.
The success of Club Med and similar resorts encouraged the use of all-inclusive pricing by other vacation properties. By the mid-2000s, most luxury resorts had embraced a single-price option for guests. For one price, guests could stay in high-end facilities that included state-of-the-art spas, award-winning food, alcohol, and luxurious rooms with ocean views. At the end of 2016, U.S. News & World Reports estimates, there were at least 300 all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico with facilities ranging from modest to high-end. Some (such as Sandals) cater to an adult crowd, while others (such as Viva Wyndham) focus on families.
Having a private cinema in your home was once considered the ultimate luxury, available only to movie moguls, film stars, and industry titans with access to restricted film libraries. Joseph Cali, a theater designer and installer for actors George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Tom Cruise, estimates that the minimum cost for a top-of-the-line home theater is upwards of $500,000 — and it can reach millions of dollars depending on amenities.
While such extravagance is beyond the desires and checkbooks of most people, advances in technology have expanded opportunities for middle-income Americans to enjoy the experience of a private video and audio entertainment space.
Today, private media rooms are designed and constructed to replicate the experience of viewing movies and TV shows in a commercial theater in a smaller, more comfortable environment. Most have viewing screens of 16 to 18 feet long with elaborate sound systems and comfortable seating. If you have gamers in your family, a media room can also enable them to play their video games on the big screen.
Is it time for you to consider adding a media room to your home? Let’s take a look at what it entails and how to decide if it’s right for you.
Benefits of a Media Room
The decision to add a media room is rarely based on financial benefits, such as its expected financial return when the house is sold. While these things are a consideration, the real benefit of a media room is the pleasure that you and your family will receive from it.
Of course, this can be difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. A four-member family spends almost 1,785 hours annually watching television; is the additional comfort and control of a home media room worth $1 per hour or $5? It’s hard to say for sure.
What we do know is that for most people, viewing films, playing video games, or listening to music is more pleasurable in their own homes than in a public venue. Poll after poll indicates that the majority of Americans prefer video entertainment in their homes due to their control over the following factors.
A home media room allows the viewer to pick what to watch and when to watch it, including giving them the ability to pause content for bathroom breaks or rewind if they missed something. The plethora of available content providers means that viewers can select from a wide variety of content, including old and new domestic and foreign films, TV shows, sporting events, and documentaries.
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