A survey of American schoolchildren found that ninety-six percent could identify Ronald McDonald. The only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition was Santa Claus.
-- Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
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A New Way to "Cook the Books"
October 19, 2003 - With all the financial scandals lately, we've all come to know the phrase "cook the books" only too well. The latest corporate scandal involves HealthSouth corporation and the former CEO Richard Scrushy. Allegations have been made that HealthSouth overstated earnings estimates to meet Wallstreet expectations to prop up the stock price and that Scrushy cashed out $99 million in stock options shortly before the bottom fell out.
But I'm not talking about that right now. :)
No, the new kind of cooking the books I'm talking about is in the education system. Specifically, allegations that have been made about schools in Houston, Texas under the watch of superintendent Rod Paige, the man chosen by President Bush to be the Secretary of Education. Paige's focus on quantification of results became known as the "Houston Miracle." There was a dramatic decline in dropout rates and an increase in test scores.
But critics have alleged that these results that sound to good to be true were, in fact, completely fabricated. Houston schools claimed a dropout rate of 1.5% when in fact the actual dropout rate is estimated to have been higher than 50%. This incredible discrepancy, some critics say, was deliberately done through false student transfers and other means to cover up for students who had dropped out. Some former students were surprised to learn that they had been "transferred" to schools they had never even heard of before.
At the same time, test scores were directly manipulated through a sinister process that hurt the very kids the school system was supposed to be educating. The plan was simple: educators evaluated students potential to pass required standardized tests. Those who were judged as potentially failing the tests were reclassified as "special" and therefore, no longer required to take the tests. Only students who were predicted to achieve passing grades were allowed to participate. This scam was brought to light when parents became angry and questioned why their children were reclassified.
Thus, the "Houston Miracle" is now becoming known as another notorious example of "cooking the books" and the alleged architect behind it all has been chosen by our president to be the highest educator in our country.
What Would YOU Do for Money?
July 27, 2003 - These last few years, the curtain has been pulled back on some of the world's biggest corporations. Now, MCI has been exposed ... again.
A question has been nagging at me for quite some time.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO FOR MONEY?
Would you pose nude on the internet? Lie? Cheat? Steal? KILL? Sell your own children? What, I ask, is your personal limit?!?
Or, would you be TOTALLY and COMPLETELY honest in EVERY way, willing to accept the financial gains (or lack thereof) that come by following a higher moral standard?
Unless you are Ghandi or Mother Theresa, you probably fall somewhere in between. I would hope that most of us, as individuals, would be more likely to do the right thing.
How about companies? Big companies, perhaps like Worldcom/MCI? Do they do the right thing? Sadly, no.
It is being alleged that Worldcom/MCI, already known for the largest accounting scandal in U.S. history, improperly rerouted long-distance calls to make them appear as if they were local calls. It is estimated that Worldcom/MCI has been doing this since 1994/1995, and that they may have stolen "multiple billions of dollars" in telephone network access charges. Additionally, Worldcom/MCI may have been aided in this conspiracy by smaller, local phone companies, thereby making the scam possible.
For companies like Worldcom/MCI, the answer to my question seems to be, "Whatever you can get away with."
Message Board is Open!
July 20, 2003 - The message board is now open again. The link on the left menu takes you there.
June 18, 2003 - No need to be so mysterious. I'm talking about Coca-Cola. The company has admitted that tests conducted at Burger King restaurants three years ago were rigged. The tests involved something known as "Frozen Coke." (Whatever that is.)
Apparently the product failed the tests or they wouldn't have had to rig the results. :)
Oh, and by the way, the company also said it had "improperly valued some equipment" so the company will take a pre-tax writedown of $9 million to properly reflect the equipment's value.
Finally, a self-audit by the company said there is no evidence the company discriminates against minorities or women.
I just hope that the people who ran the audit aren't the same people who ran the taste tests.
It's Time For An Update!
May 8, 2003 - Wow. It's been what? Something like 17 months since I last updated this web site? As we all know, too much quantity can be bad, but this is ridiculous. A recent flurry of feedback, though, has restarted my creative juices and thoughts of McDonaldization are once again swimming in my head. It's time to start working on the site again.
Let's review some of the events that have occurred in the world since the last update.
Wow. 17 months is a long time!
I am currently re-thinking the web site's overall design and format. Some things, like the bulletin board, need fixing right away. For others, I'm seeking suggestions. I'm considering a headline-style format that will make the site more active and interactive. One new area I'd really like to see is a library of submitted articles and editorials; the site needs more diverse content!
For now, here are some recommended links:
Nov. 25, 2001 - I want to stress that this web site needs to be interactive. Most of this web site features my personal interpretation of George Ritzer's book. As such, it should be taken with a grain of salt. In other words, question everything! If you take issue with something you see on the web site, let me know! Offer a different opinion. That's how I want to see this place work. Also, I have seen some people discount the web site and/or McDonaldization in general as simply "anti-globalization." I think that this is a simplistic criticism. It is my personal goal to present the topic of McDonaldization in a factual and unbiased manner as possible. I have no particular agenda against McDonalds or anyone else. If you were a botanist studying the growth rate of a plant, you might record concrete measurements on a chart. Cold, hard, factual data. I view the study of McDonaldization no differently. It may be an inflammatory subject to some, but is still worthy of open-minded attention.
The term "McDonaldization" was originally coined by George Ritzer, Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland and author of the book The McDonaldization of Society - An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life.
Ritzer defined McDonaldization as "...the process by which the principles of the fast-food restaurant are coming to dominate more and more sectors of American society as well as the rest of the world."
Although there are some benefits of McDonaldization, in general, this process, in my opinion, can overall be viewed as harmful to our society. In fact, Ritzer calls the McDonaldized society a system of "iron cages" in which all institutions come to be dominated by the same principle.
The purpose of this web site is to help spread the word about McDonaldization and explore the wide-ranging impact this process has on our society.