MEDELLÍN — A recurring theme one hears from families coming to school is that, above all, they just want their children to be happy. And when you ask parents what happiness means, they'll say children need more time to play and to have fun — and not be forced to study and think about school all day long.
We need to overhaul the definition of happiness, and I suggest we reconsider three elements here:
1. There is no playing at school - While teaching does happen at the appointed and appropriate hours, as in any learning process, and even while following specific instructions from their teachers, children are constantly playing at being scientists in their science class, writers in language class, engineers during physics and citizens while interacting in groups in the playground. Certainly, schools are a simulation of reality and of life and thus, a place par excellence for all kinds of fun and games.
2. Work goes against fun and formative development - There are indeed absurd examples of school work, like the ones dad ends up doing alone at night, or 100 repetitive exercises that must be done at record speed. Still, we should understand that schoolwork is meant to build the skills and habits of independent work. Developing autonomy and discipline at work is a key to success. In higher education, about 80% of learning is done autonomously, outside classes or seminars. Likewise, later on at work, there will be few occasions when the boss will sit and teach an employee his or her assigned tasks. On the contrary, jobs typically involve being given challenging tasks and being expected to carry them out to meet set objectives. So it is never too early to start working alone, especially when science has shown that habits learned in childhood are excellent forecasts of the adult and professional one may expect to become in the future.
3. Happiness is an objective - Parents' ideas of happiness may differ from their children's, and of course different families imagine happiness differently. But either way, it cannot be thought of as an objective, but rather a consequence of taking good decisions. And we must encourage critical thinking in children that helps enable them to correctly choose their profession, partner and even the next president. Forging this critical thinking needs rigor, constant work and perseverance. Otherwise we shall be teaching children a kind of false happiness, where they do as they please amid a twisted idea freedom. Worse, they may come to expect others to decide for them, in order to avoid suffering.
The current, collective discourse on happiness is disconcerting, for it suggests we are more concerned with immediate well-being and temporary smiles for our children. Instead, education with a purpose, with emphasis on forging autonomy and developing critical thought, should be what unites parents and school. Thus together we can forge an individual and collective future that is sustainable, socially-minded and durable.
It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.
PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.
Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.
Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.
Share capital of one billion
The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).
The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.
Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.
While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.
The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down
Raising Initial Coin Offering
Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.
For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."
What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".
Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.
Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.
Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.
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