Moral development of politicians

gwbush“So, who do you like in the presidential election this year?” A coworker cornered me with that zinger last week. My friends and my family know what I think of the election this year, but a pointed question from someone who has only a common employer and professional courtesy in common with you is an invitation into a minefield.

Since I was asked at the school where I teach, I wanted to answer in terms of education. Everyone is familiar with President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind,” a very detailed plan. Looking over at Senator Kerry’s plan on education, you see a mishmash of sound bites: Make sure schools get the funding they need…how much do they need? Doesn’t say. Make sure good teachers are in classrooms…don’t local schools have a better idea about who is effective in the classroom? No specifics. Keep schools open until 6:00 PM…after all, the more time kids spend away from their parents and in government-run education, the better, right?

I’m not a one-issue voter by any means, though. I wanted to answer the question across the board. I thought about what makes a good leader. What distinguishes good presidents from ineffective ones are the decisions they make. A good president must have a rock solid decision-making process. The more advanced, the better.

Lawrence Kohlberg studied the moral development of humans. Moral development is the framework that we use to make decisions of right and wrong. If we apply Kohlberg’s work to the two presidential candidates, we may find some interesting patterns.   Continue reading Moral development of politicians

Good decisions require good information

Can anyone make good decisions without good information? On the verge of writing a piece in favor of a particular candidate for president, I realize that information quoted is only as good as its source. Never has this been more clear to me in the wake of Rathergate.

I recently had an online chat with an old friend as we debated the value of television news programs. I’ve been so frustrated with all of them that I advocated going the extra mile and shunning all secondary sources. “Look at the record” was my mantra in the discussion.

What frustrates me most isn’t media bias, although that’s right up there. It’s media laziness. Nearly every story on television and radio news goes like this:

Senator Smith blasted Representative Jones today on the issue of abortion (insert sound bite here), while Representative Jones spoke to crowds about Senator Smith’s record on the environment (another sound bite).

No checking of the record. No verifying the veracity of what was said. Just repeating what was said. Here’s a real example that has been getting a lot of superficial play on the “news” lately. John Kerry has been hitting George W. Bush on the issue of health care using the flu vaccination shortage, taunting, “Sounds just like [Bush’s] health care plan: Hope and pray you do not get sick.”   Continue reading Good decisions require good information

Followups & updates

Things are still very busy here. With first quarter winding down, I’m pleased by what I’ve been able to accomplish with my students this year. Time away from school has been divided between my software project, a couple of computer hobbies, and a narrow social life. As the holidays approach, I expect the latter to ramp up.

I’m also trying to work on exactly what I need to get my dad’s notebook computer to wirelessly connect to his dialup Internet service. He needs to not be tethered to a cord, and broadband is not available where he lives. All I’ve come across on the web have been vague references to certain wireless routers with COM ports to hook up with certain external modems. All theory, no concrete brands and models. If you know something about this, please drop me a line.

Cassini continues to make fascinating observations of Saturn. Here’s one of many such stories.

Saturn’s Perfect Storms (Astrobiology Magazine) – Saturn is the windiest planet in the solar system, which is one mystery of the ringed giant. Imagine not what qualifies as a terrestrial hurricane with category five status assigned beyond one hundred miles-per-hour. On Saturn the superstorms can produce a thousand mph wind.

I wrote my Rathergate entry immediately after Dan Rather “apologized” for running his political attack piece. Since then, CBS seems to want to proceed as if nothing happened. I’ve chosen a couple of slightly different viewpoints that have appeared since my first story.

All eyes are on Rather’s future (Variety). Variety – NEW YORK — The morning after Dan Rather admitted the biggest mistake of his career, he agreed to go on Larry King’s primetime show and talk about the worst crisis ever to strike a network news anchor.   Continue reading Followups & updates