Center for Ethics and Leadership

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama and Educational Reform

President Obama has given his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wide berth is allocating more than $4 billion in federal aid to states. The hook is that he wants regulations limiting charter schools relaxed and teachers' pay linked to student performance. The two largest teachers unions, National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, are on board with those concepts and acknowledge the need to improve public schools. They remained concerned about pay.

I don't think we have heard enough from the teachers about the difficulty with the pay issue. Clearly, teachers are not the only factors in learning. How can a pay plan be devised that allows for the generally better performance of students who are winners in the social lottery, and, more important, for the poorer performance of those who have not been so lucky?

Add to that the manner in which many states fund schools through local real estate taxes. The matter becomes more complicated still when the unusually high number of school districts in certain states (Pennsylvania and New Jersey are chief offenders) is taken into account.

There is a broad debate on charter schools necessary as well. Many claim higher performance, but there have also been scandals.

The president pointed to the serious issues in education. Our schoolchildren cannot continue to lag behind as seriously as they do, and the particular problem of poor schools serving poor children is a matter of basic fairness.

There does not seem to be a simple answer or a magic bullet, however. The problem of K-12 education in the U.S. may be as complex as the problem of healthcare.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Kobe May be Right

There is one regular commentator to this blog who goes by the name of kobe2. This respondent had some sharp words for my previous post about Bernard Madoff, the most important of which was the claim that Madoff's was a token prosecution of white-collar criminals. Politician Vincent Fumo's very light sentence this week, 55 months when federal guidelines recommended much more, suggests that kobe2 has a point.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

White Collar Crime Gets Paid Big Time

Long ago in 1949, one of America's great sociologists and founders of criminology, Edwin H. Sutherland, wrote White Collar Crime. His work set standards in recognizing that the wealthy and powerful were susceptible to a sort of criminality to be distinguished from what was called "street crime."

Nonetheless, our popular images of criminality rarely include multimillionaire brokers.

Until this week.

Bernard Madoff got the maximum -- 150 years. The sentence was ten times longer than his defense attorneys suggested and 3 times longer than the federal probation office recommended.

Worse, no one submitted letters to Judge Denny Chin vouching for Madoff's strength of character or previous good deeds.

Worst, no member of his immediate family was present for the sentencing.

It's a long way down.

The sentence is interesting in another way. It suggests that America is taking white-collar crime much more seriously nowadays. Criminals can ruin others' lives in many ways.