In Massive Cheating Scandal, 35 Atlanta Educators Are Indicted On Racketeering & Corruption Charges
Beverly Hall is the former superintendent of the Atlanta school district. Ms. Hall was declared the 2009 "Superintendent of the Year," after a dramatic turn around in test scores. Unfortunately, it turns out that the improved test scores may be a result of alleged cheating by the administrators. The allegations are that students were provided with answers, and answers were erased and changed. The allegations date back to 2005. At this point Hall and a host of other educators have been indicted. If found guilty Hall could face 45 years in prison. Bail has been set at 7.5 million dollars. This has been described as exorbitant and overreactive. My first thought was to jump on the band wagon and conclude that the sentence seems a bit much when compared to those handed down to murderers, rapists, and child abusers. After a bit more thought, I think that is a rather cliche line of thought, and that there are other ways to measure the severity of a crime besides a quantity of human life lost. Lets think about just what may have been perpetrated here, and the possible consequences.
First off, let's consider the disservice done to the students who "benefited" from the cheating. Have their scores allowed them entrance into colleges that would have otherwise been beyond their reach? If the answer is yes, I would wonder how they are faring. College courses have prerequisites for a reason. For instance, If you can't do algebra and trigonometry, you don't have much of a chance of doing calculus. If this has resulted in dropping out of college courses or even entire programs, that could mean that someone more deserving of acceptance into the university of their choice was denied a seat. We also must consider the life lesson that has been taught to these students. Do they now believe that this is the way to get ahead in life? If so, perhaps someday they will be the one facing 45 years in prison. Young minds today are bombarded with the philosophy that winning is all that matters (Tiger Woods?), and these administrators have only reinforced that notion. A disservice has also been done to employers who are looking for people with real talent and aptitude that can be used to provide goods and services that people want and need, and so by extension society in general is a little worse off. Let's also not forget that the improved test scores resulted in the awarding of federal dollars to be spent either in the classroom or on teacher bonuses. That's our hard-earned tax dollars being misappropriated. Nobody likes to pay taxes, but you would at least like to think they are going for the betterment of society, not the further moral decay of society. The articles on this story report that the school district created an atmosphere of fear for potential whistle blowers. My faith teaches me that I am to respect those whom God has placed in a position of authority over me, regardless of whether I like them or agree with their philosophies, and that I am to obey the laws of man up to the point that they cross His laws. This is all pretty easy to say, but if your job is on the line and you have a family to take care of, well that's where the rubber really meats the road. I shudder to think how difficult life may have been for anyone who was forced to go along with this that really didn't want to. For me it may have been the spiritual battle of a lifetime.
In short I believe the Atlanta school district is guilty of theft of services, and that the consequences are quite far reaching. If allowed to go free Ms. Hall is probably not going to do anything like this again, so I suppose she isn't the imminent threat to society that a serial murderer is, but she has done a great deal of damage to society and her behavior needs to be punished somehow, and it's not like she can repay all of those tax dollars. I would be open to more creative senticing. I used to work with someone who thought that for crimes like these, where nobody has been killed but the accused is just a real jerk, that they should bring back the stocks. You know, those things where you have to bend over at the waist and stick you arms and head into some sort of restrainment device while people walk by and throw rotten produce at your face? I like it.
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