Sunday, November 17, 2019
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Volkswagen admits to cheating on emissions tests

There is, no doubt, a great technology story to tell about how diesel engineers at Volkswagen designed a part or parts that detected when emissions were being monitored and cut them back, only to spew out the nitrous oxide while driving on the open road. What probably happened is that dozens of engineers sweated over every line of computer code to make sure nobody would find out what they were up to. Yes, I’m sure there’s a good story there somewhere.

The Volkswagen Golf was named 2013 World Car of the Year at the New York Auto Show in March 2013, the second consecutive year Volkswagen had won the title. (John Moore / Getty Images)

But that is not the story we have to tell. Rather, this is a story of corporate greed, of a corporate culture that will do whatever it has to—including going around major laws that are designed to protect the air we breathe—in order to make a sale or earn profit for shareholders.

Corporations, unlike what the US Supreme Court seemed to suggest in the Citizens United ruling, don’t have a soul or compassion. They don’t even have compassion for the employees or the CEO; they only care about the shareholders, who know nothing, apparently, about environmental laws, safeguarding our planet, keeping it safe for our children, or even programming the computers. I’m sure those shareholders of Volkswagen were nowhere near the room when this programming took root.

And trust me, folks, programming these devices is no easy task. This wasn’t some hacker working in his basement in the Ukraine. It was instead the concerted effort of several people, maybe hundreds, from the top down, who knew what was up and decided to break the law anyway in the interest of “shareholders.”

(I would make the obvious connection to charter school corporations here and the privatization of the public schools in America, especially in many of our major cities, but if anyone doesn’t get how the kind of corporate greed we witnessed at Volkswagen relates to charter schools, he or she won’t come to an understanding by anything I say in a blog post—at least not if I try to keep it under a thousand words.)

The New York Times points out that only VW’s diesel cars were altered so they would fool emission-monitoring equipment, and the US has a much smaller fleet of diesel vehicles than Europe does. But we all breathe the same air, and emissions in Germany affect the air quality in Japan and in the US.

And people are upset, too. They feel “angry and betrayed,” the article stated. This could shoot a company in the foot just when it was showing promise and trying to make a comeback.

“I feel totally ripped off,” the paper quoted John Decker, 55, a photographer from Sacramento, Calif., who owns a 2013 Jetta SportWagen with the diesel engine, as saying. “It just reeks of fraud and that they intentionally misled the buyers of their vehicles into thinking these were clean diesels, environmentally good cars, that were fun to drive.”

Charter schools, as a theoretical concept, are fine. But when they become corrupt—and it seems even “fun-driving” companies are subject to corruption in the interest of private profit—this is how parents feel and how kids feel. You see, it all looks so good—parent choice, getting rid of bad teachers, and so on.

But even Volkswagen has won major worldwide awards, like “World Car of the Year” twice in a row. Charter schools are going to win some awards, but it is very likely that there are educrats working in back rooms somewhere, keeping their documents out of public view, just so they can trick the buying and tax-paying public into believing they’re actually educating our kids.

Volkswagen diesel cars were putting out between 10 and 40 times the acceptable level of pollution. How much education, such as programs in the fine arts, computer science, environmental science, and the like, do you think the award-winning charter schools are depriving our kids of? We may never know, since the US Department of Education doesn’t have the teeth of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Let’s stop the madness of charter schools. They can’t disappear from the school landscape, but we can’t allow them to get out of control, either.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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