Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Accountability Scam

Sean Crowley, my brother blogger from Buffalo, has a great column about how educational leaders are popped into place with no public input. A secondary point he makes is about accountability. This is the word we invariably hear when insane systems are initiated. Why should teachers be judged by test scores? Accountability. Why must every kid, no matter where he or she comes from, get the same test? Accountability. Why is our tenure and union under frontal assault? Accountability.

Reformy politicians love accountability. If you didn't know better, you'd think it warmed the remote nether regions of their ice-cold hearts. You'd think they care about the progress of our poor underprivileged impoverished children. You'd think that because that, in fact, is what they say when they pimp common core, value-added ratings, and firing as many teachers as possible.

But here's the thing--accountability does not, in fact, mean taking responsibility for real problems. It simply means passing the buck. If the problem in the United States is that children are not getting high enough scores on standardized tests (and it isn't, by the way), you can say, "See? Those lazy teachers aren't doing their jobs! They're sitting around and reading the newspaper while our children are suffering and failing!" That's what a whole lot of editorial and op-ed writers would have you believe.

The problem, though, is not in our stars, nor in ourselves. The problem is in our communities. Despite Governor Cuomo's valuable lip service that some workers in NY State will receive $15 an hour in a few years, a whole lot of people are just not making in in this country. When two parents work 200 hours a week each and still can't make ends meet, they don't have a whole lot of time for parenting. Unfortunately, the people who fund reformies like Andrew Cuomo are profiting enormously from low wage workers. Uber-reformy Whitney Tilson of DFER has no problems hyping and profiting from the likes of Walmart and McDonalds.

But the race to the bottom in American employment is in fact a huge factor in why kids don't do well on tests. Parents who haven't got a minute to read with their kids, who haven't got a minute to read themselves, who haven't got a minute to visit schools or teachers have serious problems. And the very reformies who vilify teachers not only contribute to this problem, but also directly profit from it. And as if that weren't enough, they've now got their fat grubby paws in charters, cyber charters, and various other schemes to divert even more money from those of us unimaginative enough to have to work for a living.

In America, we don't need circuses, because they're everywhere. Over a dozen GOP candidates debate and not one addresses minimum wage. They stand there arguing over how to defund Planned Parenthood and feign outrage when Donald Trump makes some juvenile crack about one of Fox's bleached blond talking heads. They present us corporate funded union-busters and rail about President Obama's program to bring health care to more people. You might leave one of those debates outraged over Obamacare rather than the fact that every other industrialized country offers its citizens health care as a matter of course.

Reformies love accountability only because they can dump it on us. By blaming unionized teachers for all the world's woes, they are held totally blameless for their miserable and perpetual failure to help working Americans. And for all the crocodile tears they shed for our children, they will soon grow up to be working Americans, and thus shunned and ignored by those who claim now to be their advocates.

And who is it who actually spends time and energy on these children?

That would be us, the educators. The tinhorn politicians and tone-deaf op-ed writers who vilify and libel us for a living profit off of the misery of those we serve every day. We can't afford to let them make us miserable too. It's our job to tell the truth, no matter how much it hurts Frank Bruni, Andy Cuomo, Arne Duncan, or any of the other demagogues who infect our media.

When any one of them or their ilk wishes to actually be accountable rather than toss the word around, it will be a miracle akin to the one pictured above. 
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